Despite all of this, I was passing through Westport recently and on a whim decided to ring An Port Mór, a restaurant that I have long wanted to try, to see whether they might have a table free for me. Luckily they were able to squeeze me in and so it was that I found myself dining alone, contrary to my normal inclinations.
Westport is a busy town and a popular destination for those visiting the West of Ireland. It’s not difficult to see why as it is beautifully maintained and always appears so full of life. There is something about Westport that seems to satisfy a romantic sense that we collectively have of what an Irish town should look and feel like and I think that it is this that draws visitors from home and abroad in their droves. It is also unsurprising that Westport is gaining quite a reputation on the dining-out front and that it is developing a vibrant restaurant scene.
I firmly believe that you can tell a lot about a restaurant by the bread it serves and in An Port Mór it did not disappoint. I loved the subtlety of the white bread which was lightly speckled with sultanas and gently flavoured with curry spices. By way of contrast the brown treacle bread was full of deep rich flavours but was equally delicious. Worthy of specific mention was the very moreish Green Olive Tapenade which along with lovely fruity olives also included sun-dried tomatoes and salty anchovies. It was amazing how something so seemingly inconsequential – a mere accompaniment to the bread - could be packed with such well-balanced flavours. I loved it.
For dessert I faced a real dilemma and found it hard to select just one. Being a lover of all things lemon I wanted to try the Baked Lemon Tart but I was also tempted by the Buttermilk Panna Cotta which my waiter claimed would amaze me. In the end I decided that there was no point in stressing myself trying to choose just one so ordered both dishes.
|Buttermilk Panna Cotta|
For what you get, the food in An Port Mór is reasonably priced with most starters on the à la carte menu around the €10 mark, mains priced between €22-€28 and desserts at around €7. What I particularly liked about the food was its lack of pretension. This is honest food, sensitively prepared and cooked. Everything is beautifully presented and also happens to taste wonderful. It takes confidence, a belief in what you are doing and, somewhat ironically, a lot of skill to present food simply.
All too often, in an attempt to show off their abilities or their ‘vision’ chefs present food that is at best, over-complicated and at worst, contrived. One gets the sense that in An Port Mór under Head Chef Frankie Mallon, this would never happen. Frankie is one a new breed of chefs who are breaking down the formality of fine dining without sacrificing the quality of the dining experience itself and this is to be applauded.
Some might say that there is a pre-dominance of seafood on offer but this reflects the restaurant’s location near the coast and Frankie Mallon’s natural talent for cooking seafood. Be assured, there is plenty of choice on the menu with more than enough dishes to satisfy meat-lovers and vegetarians alike! I thoroughly enjoyed my meal in An Port Mór and even though I ate alone, I never once felt self-conscious or conspicuous in my self-imposed dining isolation. The restaurant has an intimate, almost cosy atmosphere which was enhanced by the friendly staff who explained the menu enthusiastically and were keen to ensure I enjoyed my meal.
An Port Mór
1 Brewery Place
1 Brewery Place
This review first appeared in TheTaste.ie