Arriving on Inis Meain in the Aran Islands by boat, you will see Tigh Congaile on the hill above the original harbour. It is a lovely pale primrose painted, green-silled house with a perfectly manicured lawn surrounding it, and it’s just a 3-minute walk from the pier or the beach. If sitting outside on a fine day, the peace and the view make this the best spot on the island.
Vilma Conneely worked in banking in California, met and married Padric, came back home with him and opened Tigh Congaile 1993. Vilma specialises in organic and sea vegetables, and uses as much seafood as she can get locally and from Galway - she is lauded quietly by many of the marine biologists in UCG for her interest in this, and her wonderful Sea Vegetable Soup is a speciality known well beyond the islands.
The large dining room has a wonderful view and is hung with the work of local artists, displayed for sale. An all day/evening menu on the wall is ideal for the non-stop visitors coming on to the island from the various ferries. She also sells homemade biscuits - oat & sultana, chocolate chip, and gluten free peanut butter.
Dinner here is really good and, even though less publicised than some of the restaurants on the islands, Vilma's cooking is on a par with the best.
She has used sea vegetables more than anyone else, and smokes her own freshly caught mackerel. She also makes her own elderflower wine and, in May, she picks wild garlic and freezes it for later. This dedication shows in creative evening menus that may include seared Galway Bay scallops with black pudding and Inis Meain sea urchin cream, and pan-fried cod with lemon butter, served with tempura sea vegetables and island potatoes.
Vegetarians might be offered a beautiful terrine of broccoli with hazelnuts and parmesan cheese and, to finish the meal, there might be a delicious almond and lemon tart - and wonderful coffee. To accompany, a well selected wine list offers three whites and eight reds.
Accommodation is still offered, although it is no longer Failte Ireland Approved.