Eating Out: Dramatic headland's hostelry is honest, plain and simple
The Point Bar
107 Point Road
THE week before, I’d been in Inishowen and had looked down from a hill there across Lough Foyle, sparkling like the Mediterranean, to Magilligan Point. The peninsula reached out to Greencastle as if to touch base.
The sun painted everything clear and sharp: a bright, empty, blue sky canopied a land of vivid green and rich brown, fringed with a golden boomerang beach.
This day, though, was different. The sky was concrete, and lowered down on dark waters; the golden sand now felt grey. The land between Binevenagh and Lough Foyle is spirit level flat. Such land lends itself easily to mournfulness, its untroubled plane quick to bend sinister. Quicker here. The drive to Magilligan Point goes past a prison. Fields on either side of the road are marked with signs warning they’re part of a military firing range, and you can only hope the bullets look right and left and right again before crossing.
The tip of the point is marked by a jetty from where the ferry used to run, and by a Martello Tower that’s not as mighty and prominent as you would expect, although it could still probably have given Napoleon a nasty nip on his ankles.
And here, too, is the Point Bar. Behind, there’s a row of determinedly cheery cottages, but the drabness of the day has seeped into the walls of the pub. Inside, the atmosphere is as subdued as you’d expect of a Monday lunchtime, but it’s by no means empty. And it’s not just hardy tourists in from a walk round the nature reserve. There are locals in, too, workers on their lunch break, a retired couple whose faces are familiar to the barman. These are people who’ve enjoyed the food enough to come back again and again. It’s a point of some return.
It’s easy to see why. The menu is extensive – ranging from soup and sandwiches to heartier fare – ready to cope with the demands of birdspotters in from the cold dunes and families in from the sunny beach. It’s not somewhere the interior designers have gone to town on – though there are interesting pictures and maps on the walls – but it’s spacious and functional, and handily positioned.
My brother could see no further than the scampi and chips, while my eye was taken by the lemon sole special. I checked the scampi were fresh, rather than out of a packet in the freezer, and was assured they were. I hope I sounded more knowledgeable than I actually am, because halfway through the question, although I’ve eaten plenty, I realised I didn’t actually know what scampi were, or maybe that should be was.
Either way, they were lovely – fresh, delicate, succulent, encased in a beautifully crisp breadcrumb coating. They maybe could have done with something extra, to bring out their sweetness, but that’s a minor quibble. The coleslaw was a bit gloopy, but the tartar sauce was good and sharp, and the chips were spot on.
I was very impressed by my lemon sole. Disregarding a lack of seasoning, it was delicious, and cooked perfectly. There was a golden top to the fish, and a crisp skin underneath. The lovely white meat was soft and giving, with a gentle, subtle flavour.
The fish is delivered from across the water. You can pretty much see where the fishmonger has his premises, but, since the ferry stopped running, he has to deliver by road, going all the way down to the Foyle Bridge and then up to Magilligan. It’s worth his trouble.
We shared a generous, varied salad. We didn’t share the champ. There’s nothing worse than lumpy mash – not war, not social injustice, not a paper cut – and this champ, served in school dinner scoops, was lumpy. I had no more than a forkful. Such a pity, because the flavour was just right, and the spring onions, so often lost, were crunchy and strong, exactly the way I like them.
Magilligan Point is an intriguing place, able to shift its character according to the weather and season, meriting frequent visits. And so is the bar. It’s not fancy, it’s not elegant, it’s not fine dining. It’s honest, plain, and simple, and that’s the whole point of it.
Breaded Scampi and chips £12.95
Lemon Sole and champ £12.95
Green salad £3
Spring water £1.90
Diet Coke £1.90