I stood on the bridge in Tarmonbarry with my old friend Richard Fegen, looking at the flowing Shannon. I hadn't seen Richard for a while; he'd been living in England, where he found fame and fortune writing some well-known comedy shows, such as 'The Brittas Empire'. We were on the road to Westport and hit Tarmonbarry just about lunchtime, so we made a stop. Keenan's is easily found, it's right by the bridge overlooking the mighty river.
Inside, we found the warm-welcome atmosphere that makes Irish pubs so unique and found ourselves a table. Around us were mahogany display cabinets with bric-a-brac, fishing memorabilia, old trade posters, shiny brass objects and, just inside the door, a photo gallery of the good and the great who have stopped here to enjoy the hospitality.
Richard started with the bruschetta, while I started with the homemade vegetable soup. Then Richard fancied a steak, so he ordered the sirloin steak, and I'd seen a lady at a nearby table get a fine piece of battered cod, so I ordered that. A quarter-bottle of Merlot for Richard and couple of bottles of sparkling water made up the drinks order.
With our order taken we relaxed and chatted, remembering the days when we were on the stage together doing revues in Trinity. Funny how much of our later lives were defined by those days. We were interrupted by an abundant plate of bruschetta for Richard and a well-flavoured soup for me. I tasted the bruschetta and found it quite well executed -- the tomatoes had just the right amount of basil and enough garlic to bring out the flavour. I had a simple enough soup, but it was warming and nourishing, just right for a winter's day.
After the starters cleared away, the main courses arrived. Richard's steak looked exactly as it should and came with mushrooms, onions and chips, the kind of combination that traditionally we have always loved. Seeing his I wished I’d ordered the same, but changing then seemed a bad idea and hunger got the better of me and I ate my cod and chips, all the while eyeing Richard's steak and wishing that our order had been reversed.
Despite the rather generous portions that we'd been handed, we still found room for a taste of dessert. There were a few to choose from: various crumbles, apple pie, brownies and, the one that caught both our eyes, profiteroles. There was a time when they were on every restaurant menu, so it was nice to see them again. We had a portion between us.
They arrived as they always did, a little pyramid of choux pastry balls filled with cream and the whole drizzled with chocolate sauce. We made short work of them and ended our meal with a couple of espressos.
Although Paolo ate in Keenan’s at lunchtime, the evening menu is a more complicated affair. Choose from starters that include Thai spiced fish cakes, mussels cooked in white wine and cream or their own seafood chowder. The main courses always give you a choice of steaks, but you may be tempted with fillet of hake with citrus butter, honey roast duck or teriyaki salmon.
I chose the Starter of Kelly’s award winning black pudding, followed by the blackened cjun white haddock. The starter was a generous affair, and as a big fan of fine black pudding it really was very good, sitting atop a bacon and cabbage mash, with a creamy wholegrain mustard sauce on the side. The main course was a perfectly cooked piece of fish, on a bed or pea puree. I had a side order of chips, but really didn’t need them, and a glass of good Sauvignon Blanc accompanied, and I finished with a coffee.
Keenan’s is a fine, family run business in a lovely setting overlooking our greatest river. The food is consistently good, the welcome always friendly and on a warm Summer’s day the riverbank is paradise. The hotel offers great value packages, and the setting makes this an ideal weekend getaway on the Shannon. Check their website for details.