Lough Inagh Lodge overlooks the lake of the same name, framed by the 12 peaks to the front, and behind the Mam Turk mountains rear up and frame this unique hideaway in one of the most beautiful parts of Connemara.
Lough Inagh started life as a fishing lodge, but recessions and expansions has turned it into the country house hotel it is today, albeit one still frequented by anglers and walkers, who come here on semi religious pilgrimages to top up on the splendour and isolation this gem guarantees.
The setting is truly spectacular and while some of its more famous neighbours might grab the column inches, the charm and authenticity of Lough Inagh Lodge is impossible to replicate. A very friendly staff headed by owners Maire and Dominic provide a warm welcome and even my canine companion Rafa would have fitted right in, if his continued presence in Dublin wasn't required by my college bound daughter.
There are two front rooms in which to sit and read, a bar to imbibe and a fine dining room with antique Queen Anne chairs and a very high ceiling in which to enjoy the set dinner menu.
The menu is well put together and offers five courses for a reasonable €46.00. Starters include a selection of James McGeough's air dried pork and beef. James is a local butcher in Oughterard whose produce you will find in some of the best restaurants in the West. Killarney Bay mussels make an almost obligatory appearance, and why wouldn't they, while Aran Islands Goats cheese pops up in the salad. A leek and potato soup and Coonemara smoked salmon make up the other choices.
Main courses offer oven roasted rack of lamb or Connemara salmon with wilted spinach. There's a pan seared duck breast which is served sliced and looks wonderful as it makes its way to a nearby table. A fish of the day and local Roundstone Bay lobster make up the field, while a sweet potato, broccoli and ricotta pie is there for the veggies.
I started with James McGeough’s air dried meats, served stacked atop a ball of crispy leaves, all sitting on a chickpea cake with red onion marmalade and a balsamic reduction. It was very good and light, and the meat as always was wonderful. Next, a mango sorbet did its palate cleansing best, before my main course.
I went with the fish of the day, which were fillets of monkfish with a cannelloni bean, pea and dillisk seaweed cassoulet with a herb salad. Four large fillets arrived, along with a side of potato gratin and mixed vegetables. It was a generous portion and the cassoulet was well flavoured and made a fine light accompaniment to the meaty fish.
Desserts offered an interesting selection of contemporary creations, but a vanilla panna cotta with basil syrup caught my eye and it was with this and some good coffee that I finished a fine meal before taking leave to the parlour next door where some local musicians and a very good Irish dancers entertained the guests.
Lough Inagh is a real gem in this most beautiful of Irish landscapes. The food is very good, the rooms are splendid and the staff are friendly and very good, but even if all this was taken away the view out the window would make the grumpiest of curmudgeons fine solace and comfort in some shabby chic comfort.