The Drift Inn Buncrana is located at the entrance to the Inishowen Peninsula next door to the Inishowen Getaway Hotel. Taken over 11 years ago by the Gill family, it was better known for the bottling company next to the inn and it has really ticked by, probably more so as a pub than a restaurant. Last year Gary Mc Peake and Frank Murphy teamed up with a vision to bring fine food in a casual setting to Buncrana and people have been talking ever since
Gary is better known over the years for his position as head chef in both Redcastle and Sligo Park Hotel. For the past 12 years since coming to Ireland Gary has had his eye on the Drift Inn, seeing it’s potential and at the same time keeping him close to home, so when the opportunity arose he jumped at it. Frank has worked in various hotels over the North West including Redcastle, and together they make a great team.
Totally unassuming from the exterior, there’s a stone façade with two entrances, one to the bar and the other into the restaurant, it is in what was the old train station and dates back to 1864. Once inside the building you will see truly original features from exposed beams and brickwork to solid timber floors. In the bar the main feature is the hull of an old boat. There is also an open turf fire in the main bar and a cast iron wood burning stove in the restaurant. The seating is smart and chic in a bistro style setting. The restaurant is divided into several areas, and you can eat in the bar or on a sunny evening, outside on what would once have been the platform.
The menu is concise and to the point. Eight starters appear on the menu ranging in price from €4.50 for their soup of the day to €8.50 for Donegal Bay mussels. Other choices are Greencastle smoked haddock and leek chowder, Five Mile Town goat’s cheese salad or spiced onion bhaji. I went with their special which was whole smoked Port Na Blaith mackerel served on a slate with pickled fennel, pineapple salsa and sashimi dressing priced at €5.95 while the others chose buffalo chicken wings with hoi sin glaze and Donegal Bay mussels with double cream, chardonnay and a tarragon garlic. All fabulous and noticeably made with the best of produce, however mine definitely stole the show by a mile. Apparently the mackerel is turf smoked cold on the beach locally which makes all the difference keeping the fish moist and full of flavour, and I am pleased to see this fine fish making more appearances on menus.
Main courses offer four salad and vegetarian dishes including a mackerel salad and an original dish of lightly spiced aubergine and chickpea biryani served with naan bread, poppadom, mango chutney and yoghurt. Further choices include old school beer battered North Atlantic cod with mushy peas, a half pound rump steak burger or chicken tenders with a selection of dips or an 8oz beef fillet. All mains are served with a side of your choice
Also appearing were slow cooked belly of Donegal pork with Demerara crackling or tandoori chicken tikka butter masala. Again I was tempted by the special on the board, a fisherman’s feast which included Tory island monk fish, Portarogie scallops & langoustines with Thai curry risotto, lemongrass & dulce buerre blanc at €21.95 while Fred ordered the slow cooked belly of pork and our daughter worked her way through a 10oz sirloin topped with flat cup mushroom and tempura onion served with pepper sauce which came in the dinkiest little chrome saucepan. Again none of the dishes could be faulted and presentation was at a level you’d expect to find in a fine dining restaurant.
Being a bar you have a full selection of wines, drinks and even their very own craft beers from Gills Bottling Company. Wine of the week was Campo Viejo Rioja Tempranillo 2010 and reasonably priced at €16 a bottle
All desserts are homemade and priced at €5.50. You could choose from dark chocolate and pecan brownie with vanilla ice cream, vanilla pod crème brulee with summer berries and shortbread, white chocolate and bailey’s mousse cheesecake, old fashioned Knickerbocker glory or a selection of Irish cheeses served with oatcakes and chutney. We decided to behave and left desserts for someone more deserving and finished with a coffee. There is also a full selection of liquor coffees at €5.50, aperitifs, digestives, whiskeys and cocktails to choose from.
Keep an eye out for their seafood or wine tasting nights which they run regularly over the course of the year. They also do a weekly special of 3-courses for €15 which is proving to be very popular and with courses you’ll never expect but thoroughly enjoy.