Eating Out: The Boathouse has good food and a great view
The Boathouse, Redcastle, Inishowen, Co Donegal
I’D HEARD the expression, but never quite knew what a soft day meant until I started to visit Donegal regularly. I think perhaps this was a soft day. Sun and rain had taken turns during the day. By early evening they’d called it a draw. The air wasn’t heavy exactly, but could have done with losing a few pounds. The greens and golds of the fields were blurred, like they were under smudged glass.
The Boathouse is on the northern edge of Redcastle, tucked out of sight down a narrow lane, across a footbridge from the Redcastle Hotel. Exposed brick, rough plaster, bleached floors, pastel walls, The Boathouse is on the west shore of Lough Foyle, so close you want to reach out and touch the water. The wall facing the lough is almost completely glass, and the interior walls have been designed so that you can see the Foyle from most of the tables.
Our party of four had booked a table for 5.30. It wasn’t long before the restaurant was full, but when we arrived, the place was empty save for one other group, so we had our pick of the tables and chose one by the outer wall with a clear view of the water. The Foyle was empty, surly, and still, and the cloud was low and grey, but even so, it was beautiful. And it made the food taste better, strangely enough.
Not that it needed too much help, to be honest, although some of the dishes were a touch bland. For starters – given it’s the Boathouse, they should really call them oar d’oeuvres – we had the pate, the goats’ cheese salad, the prawns, and the vegetable soup.
The soup was absolutely fine – creamy, tasty, nothing more or less. The prawns were succulent but lacked seasoning. The pate was good – smooth and rich and serious, with sweetly contrasting onion marmalade and delicious toast. I got the best of the bunch – the goats’ cheese salad. This was a riot of textures and flavours and notes. The cheese was gentle, the candied nuts beautifully sweet, the dressing sharp, and the rocket peppery. It’s rare I choose the dish the others envy, but I did this time.
As with the starters, there were one or two issues with the mains. Like the soup, the burger was just fine, but no more. The steak was a little chewy, although such a big portion we took half home in a doggy bag and the next day, bizarrely, it was perfect.
The fish dishes were the winners. The hake broke into melt-in-the-mouth flakes which sat perfectly with the mild curry and crunchy cauliflower, while its brother, my monkfish, was an altogether stronger prospect, not a meal to be pushed around, deliciously meaty chunks with a lovely crisp top.
The chips were fantastic! Seriously, they were the best I’ve had in years – perfectly cooked, crunchy, then smooth, deep and sweet, like the best chips your mum ever cooked.
We ordered three puddings and four spoons for dessert, placed in the middle of the table. Let the quickest spoon win.
We each had one spoonful of the slightly disappointing crème brulee, and then just fought over the others. The apple crumble was lovely. The apple was sweet and smooth with some good chunks of fruit, while the crumble topping had a really interesting sharp, almost biscuitty texture, cooked with real skill until it was nearly too far gone.
Now though, the best dish of the entire meal, in my opinion, was the chocolate cake. It was flourless. I’m still not clear why that’s a thing, but I’ve got to say it made for a great taste in this instance. Deeply chocolatey, with a rich, grown-up salted caramel sauce, lovely, woody hazelnuts, and a fantastic texture halfway between a cake and a mousse.
There are so many reasons to Inishowen. Well, The Boathouse is another one.
Chicken liver pate €2 (as part of Early Bird menu)
Vegetable soup €5.50
Fried prawns €8
Goats cheese salad €7
Monkfish, pea and chive risotto €21.50
Pan-fried hake, curried cauliflower puree, roasted cauliflower €17.95 (as part of Early Bird menu)
Sirloin steak €24
Beef burger €14.95
Side order cauliflower cheese €3
Flourless chocolate cake €5.95
Apple crumble €5.95
Crème brulee €5.95
Glass white wine €5.50
Total: €127.25 (£114.88)