Life

Eating Out: The Singing Pub in Downings – I liked it the moment I walked in

The Singing Pub, a popular family destination in Downings, Co Donegal
Dominic Kearney

The Singing Pub

Clontallagh

Downings

Co Donegal

00353 74 915 5176

WHAT is about swimming that makes you absolutely ravenous? Even if you've just done a couple of lengths and then spent the rest of the time leaning on the side of the pool chatting, you come out ready to eat a horse.

When I was a boy, we'd go to the local baths every Monday night. I'd want to eat the vending machine by going-home time. And I mean the actual machine, not just the contents.

Multiply that by at least 10 if you've been swimming in the sea. Maybe it's the fear of jellyfish that sharpens the appetite, or perhaps the freezing water makes you feel so virtuous you become convinced you deserve a reward. Possibly all that salt inevitably makes you think of chips. That last one might be just me.

Certainly, when I came out of the Atlantic at Sheephaven Bay, I was ready for a mighty feed. (I realise I've made it sound like I'd set off from Newfoundland, so I should say I went into the Atlantic at Sheephaven Bay, too).

Truth be told, I wasn't in for very long, or very far. I contented myself with sitting in the shallows where the water was warmest, although this wasn't without trauma. I have gained a fair bit of weight since I last went to the beach, I know, but I still think it was unnecessary for that woman from Seaworld to keep hosing me down, and there was certainly no need for that camera crew from RTÉ to show up.

I definitely deserved a good lunch and so, leaving a considerable amount of sand between my toes, and telling my wife I'd come back for my bucket and spade, we jumped in the car and headed for a place a neighbour had recommended.

Folks up Downings way call it the Singing Pub. Actually, folks from up any way call it the Singing Pub, because that's its name. Why's that? I asked when we got there. Because people sing in it, came the answer. I suppose I could've guessed.

The pub is up on the hillside between Sheephaven Bay and what I think is Mulroy Bay, although it's so sited that you can't see either from it. The sliding green hills make up for that, mind.

It's long and low, with lots of dark wood and exposed brickwork and comfortable chairs. There's a big TV at one end, a pool table, and maps, cartwheels, and a Honda 50 on the walls. Outside there's a children's play area, with swings and slides, and a table where the grown-ups can sit and sip and keep an eye on the kids.

I liked the Singing Pub the moment I walked in. There's the full range of Kinnegar beers in the fridge behind the bar for one thing, so you know you're on safe ground. Even though I was driving, it was reassuring to know it was there. And also behind the bar was Lydia – brisk, efficient, friendly, and not so busy serving customers that she forgot her promise to give the little one a choc ice as we were leaving.

It's definitely not a dainty menu – burgers, wraps, lots of fish, plenty of chicken. We ordered a chicken wrap and, seeing as I was feeling at one with the ocean, the fish and chips with a portion of mushy peas. And French fried onions, too (onion rings to you and me).

The wrap was absolutely fine, a big tortilla full of chicken and peppers and onions and spicy sauce, hearty and very filling, but nothing out of the ordinary. The fish and chips was really good, though. There were two fine fillets of cod encased in a cracking and crunchy batter, well-cooked with care and attention, alongside a good portion of lovely chips, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

This was our second visit. The first time we went, they weren't serving food because there was a problem with the gas. This time, well, they were cooking on gas. Sometimes what you need is a good, honest, lovely family pub, and the Singing Pub is just that.

THE BILL

Cajun chicken tortilla wrap, chips, salad €12.50

Beer battered Atlantic cod and chips €15.50

French fried onions €4

Mushy peas €3

Diet Coke €2.70

Sparkling water x 2 €5

Total: €42.70

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