The Seafood Interview supported by BIM - Tricia Kealy of Kealy's Seafood Bar

BIM Seafood Circle

This month Marilyn Bright talks to Tricia Kealy of Kealy’s Seafood Bar in Greencastle Co Donegal about their 25th anniversary, some of the nostalgic menu dishes that were brought back this summer in honour of the occasion - and some newer items on the menu

Set on Ireland's most northerly point where the wild Atlantic crashes into the depths of Lough Foyle, Kealy's Seafood Bar crowned 25 years of business this summer with a nostalgic return to the menu dishes that first attracted seafood lovers to this tiny harbourside village (see menu below).

John Dory with Anchovy ButterA signature dish of John Dory with anchovy butter, which has never been off the menu, starred alongside fashion-of-yesteryear fanned ogen melon in muscat, smoked salmon surprise which enclosed a stuffing of scrambled egg and chive, and a classic duck à l'orange of happy memory.

Poached fillet of cod with Stilton sauce or mustard crusted salmon with spring greens and bacon were flanked with retro dessert choices of fruit pavlova and crème caramel.

Ultimate indulgence was chocolate truffle gateau with Bailey's creme anglaise, “but we did stop short of Black Forest gateau,” Tricia Kealy laughs.

“We had great fun putting together the anniversary menu,” she remembers, “It made us realise how much people's tastes have changed and they're open now to much greater variety, but there are two original dishes we’d never be allowed to take off the menu - John Dory with anchovy butter and our whitefish and salmon chowder with pink peppercorns, although we eliminated the mussels because of the number of people with shellfish allergies.”

A flurry of refurbishment preceded the celebratory re-opening this spring. “We stripped the floors, revamped seating and put up new blinds,” Tricia explains. “It was stressful, but after 25 years it was needed and we wanted to have a special party to thank the loyal customers who've been coming here over the years, when Greencastle was still a cul-de-sac at the end of the peninsula.”

Kealys, Greencastle, Co DonegalTricia and her late husband James both trained as chefs in the Killybegs Catering college and went on to work in Dublin before returning to Greencastle to re-open the old Kealy family pub that had been closed for several years.

Tricia remembers that they started serving food at five tables set up in the traditional fishermen's bar, “and, with fish being landed just paces from our front door, it made sense to feature seafoods. It's a huge advantage when you can look out of the window and see the fishing boats arriving back with your fresh ingredients.”

News of the delicious fresh food spread by word of mouth and Tricia recalls that competition for the five tables could be fierce - “like a rugby scrum” - especially on Saturday nights in summer. After four years, adjacent space was acquired and the restaurant now seats 60, with food still being served in the bar.

Although business was always seasonal, with an influx of summer visitors, Kealys was given an enormous boost with the return of the Magilligan car ferry which marks the start of the summer season on St Patrick's day, bringing customers from the North across Lough Foyle and landing them a short walk from the restaurant door.

Tricia also credits initiatives like Derry's City of Culture activities and the development of the Wild Atlantic Way bringing vitality to the area, along with improved roads that now bring visitors and summer residents from the South.

Kealy's ChowderKealy's famous chowder is still the top order, with a bar food menu that is served through the day and has adapted to modern trends with tapas plates and sharing platters. Foyle Mor oysters from 20 minutes away are mostly served up au naturel, but James's original “Pearl of the Foyle” is still regarded as a local classic - with oysters flamed in brandy and cream and served en croute with smoked salmon.

Newer additions like monkfish and lime ceviche, nachos with jalapeno dip and deep-fried squid rings with chipotle mayo put a South-of-the-Border swerve on the menu, courtesy of Tricia's adventurous sons who have interspersed work and studies with travel to Mexico and South America. Oisin is back for the summer season, joining Tricia in the kitchen, while Eoghan runs front of house.

Their new ideas keep things interesting, Tricia says, although there isn't much chance of boredom in the busy kitchen where everything from ice cream and relishes to yeasted focaccia is made in-house.

Batches of their special wheaten scones are baked constantly through the day and all fish is boned and filleted on site. “Our fish comes straight from the Greencastle Co-op boats to our door on a fork lift, so we deal with everything - nothing is wasted and we have bones for our own stock.”

Organic vegetables are sourced from White Oaks Rehab farm at Bridgend, including the vast amount of Donegal potatoes that are used to make hand-cut chips and champ, potato cakes, rosemary mash and creamy dauphinoise.

Lobster, crab and shellfish come from Malin Head a few miles away, and Tricia laments the fact that the dozen or so local salmon boats have gone, so she sources the best quality farmed fish to go into dishes like simply grilled salmon with lime and dill butter.

Business reaches a crescendo in August, with cruise liners docking outside the harbour to ferry day visitors ashore, regatta weekends and events like the international clipper race that set off from Derry this year. “September can be busy, but the families disappear and we have more tourists,” Tricia observes. “Even when the ferry stops in October, we'll be busy at week-ends with the loyal Northern customers and locals that keep us going during the winter.”



Smoked Salmon Surprise

Oysters Pearl of the Foyle

Filo parcel of Crab & Smoked Salmon

James’s Greencastle Chowder

Gubbeen fritters with honey & mustard dressing

Dressed Ogen Melon with Muscat, Passion fruit sorbet

In-house sorbet

Grilled fillet of John Dory, anchovy butter

Pan-fried Monkfish Mediterranean style

Poached fillet of Cod, Stilton sauce

Mustard crusted Salmon, spring greens and bacon

Chicken stuffed with Smoked Salmon, whiskey and caper sauce

Duck à l'orange, potato basket

Pan-fried Sirloin Steak Chasseur

(All of the above served with a choice of either vegetables, potatoes, salad or hand-cut chips)

Fruit Pavlova, caramel cage

Crème Caramel

Chocolate Truffle Gâteau, Baileys crème anglaise

Passion fruit Bavoir


Selection of homemade breads included

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