Last night was a rare “date night” for hubby and I. Mother-in-law watched the baby so we could escape for a few hours to enjoy dinner and drinks in nearby Killarney.
Killarney is about a 15- or 20-minute drive from hubby’s hometown in Millstreet, and we get over there at least once when we’re visiting to do some shopping or grab a quick meal. It is a tourist mecca with walkable streets full of tea shops, pubs, bed-and-breakfasts and souvenir stores selling all manner of things Irish. On the lookout for an Aran fisherman sweater, a bottle of Jameson whiskey, some Waterford crystal or a lucky shamrock? Killarney’s got you covered. There are also plenty of recreational and sightseeing opportunities nearby, including the Ring of Kerry and Ross Castle. If you’ve never been to Ireland and you’re at all nervous about being in a foreign country, Killarney is a comfortable place to get your feet wet.
Our dining options in Millstreet were few, consisting mainly of (fill-in-the-blank) and chips, an Indian place no one seems to ever have eaten at or know anything about, or run-of-the-mill pub grub. We thought we’d fare better for choices in Killarney. This being a freezing Sunday during low season and the dead of winter, it was not exactly hopping. We thought we’d take a nice romantic stroll through the quiet town, but it was cold as balls and we could only stand a quick jaunt before ducking into a pub for a warm-up.
A friend back home in Indy has always urged us to visit a Killarney pub owned by her cousin’s friend, but she couldn’t remember the name. The only hint we’d gotten from her was that the name was a number. The only place we could find fitting said description was “98,” a small establishment with (gasp) an Indianapolis Motor Speedway banner hanging from the ceiling. (We’d guessed correctly; this was the right spot.) The owner had been to Indy for the Formula 1 race several years ago, and brought back some memorabilia. Needless to say, it made me feel quite at home to see something from Indianapolis in a little pub in the middle of Ireland. It really is a small world.
We stayed at 98 for a quick half-pint, but food was not in the cards there so we hit the streets again in search of dinner. After checking out the menus posted on several windows, we decided to go for another pub meal at a place called the Laurels. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, and we eavesdropped on the French couples occupying the next table over as we waited for our meal. This is the kind of place hubby says he could happily while away a rainy afternoon with a newspaper and slow pint after pint of Guinness.
Again, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of modern Irish pub cuisine. I considered ordering Irish lamb stew or fish and chips, but the server recommended a potato cake dish that sounded intriguing. Hubby ordered some kind of chicken breast stuffed with Parma ham, goat cheese and pesto atop a pile of potatoes gratin and pronounced it tasty.
My potato cakes, on the other hand, were AWESOME. Two huge cakes of savory mashed potatoes generously flecked with bits of chicken, ham and green onion, lightly fried and topped with a creamy mushroom sauce. They were so rich and filling, I could only eat one, but it was delicious. I also got a nice little salad of mixed greens with diced peppers, more green onion and a zingy vinaigrette. (The decor was really too dark to get a decent photo, but I did the best I could.)
I would have loved to try a slice of the sinful-looking banana cream thingy the French girls were sharing next to us, but I just didn’t have the room. We rolled out of there full and happy, hightailed it through the cold to the car and back home to our little man. All in all, a very enjoyable (if short!) date.
The Laurels – http://www.thelaurelspub.com