“When you come across a gem like Jack’s,
it makes you realise that we really do have a food culture to be proud of.”

A Kerry Culinary Treat – Senior Times, June 9th, 2011

The Kerry lamb – like the Kerry football team is in a league of its own! It was succulent, delicately pink and full of gorgeous flavour. 

Mairead Robinson samples the wonderful fare at Jack’s Cromane

When summer time comes around our diets usually change a little, and even those who regularly like rich meat dishes begin to think of lighter foods and fresh fish is a real summertime favourite. Many people myself included, will eat fish every day of the year, however there is something especially pleasant about heading to the seaside and enjoying fish dishes. Think of holidays in the Algarve, Southern Spain and Coastal Italy – dining al fresco in the evening and feasting on jumbo prawns, sardines, lobster and fresh fish in from the boats. In Ireland we are enjoying that more and more these past few years, and if we get the weather there is nowhere more lovely to be than the west of Ireland and enjoying a meal of freshly caught fish.

I was fortunate to do just that recently and along with my daughter Nessa we travelled to Cromane near Killorglin in Kerry to sample the acclaimed food at Jack’s Coastguard Restaurant. The restaurant is beautifully appointed and takes full advantage of the stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean. It is rather like sitting on the edge of the world and eating fish so fresh that it almost swims up on to your plate! Not however before head chef Jonathan Keary works his magic with a light hand and inspired touches.

We began with a pre-starter of crabmeat infused with citrus flavours which tasted like the freshest crab I have ever come across. We went on to have a Dingle Bay Prawn Salad and a Tempura of Tiger Prawns with Zucchini Salad respectively. We were certainly in a fishy mood and our starters had us on a real high. I went on to have a delectable Black Sole on the Bone and the Beurre Blanc was served on the side which I love, as it gives the freedom to have it as you wish and the fish is not drowned in sauce. Determined to get her teeth into some red meat, Nessa pondered the Char-gilled Sirloin and the Barded Breast of Duck, but settled on the Rack of Kerry Lamb. Now we had Rack of Lamb in a very prestigious restaurant in Dublin the week before and honestly it did not come near what we had at Jack’s. Maybe it is that the Kerry lamb – like the Kerry football team – is in a league of its own!  However, it was succulent, delicately pink and full of gorgeous flavour. 

One of the great pleasures in dining out is to enjoy foods from the immediate locality and here we had fish from the sea on one side of us, and lamb from the mountains on the other side. Provence was carried through to the wine list which appeared to be dominated by some excellent organic wines from Kerry based wine importer Mary Pawle Wines. Starting with organic house wines priced at just €21 most of the wines are in the 20 – 30 euro bracket. We enjoyed a great bottle of Lignum Blanc from Albet I Noya in the Penedes region in Catalonia, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes which is a really clean fruity wine and a perfect foil to our fabulous fish. For the lamb dish it had to be a black fruit and coffee flavoured rich Malbec from Argentina.

Service was delightful, the dining room was packed with locals and visitors alike who all enjoyed the food and ambiance made more magical with the piano playing of resident pianist JP Murphy. While the restaurant is situated at the back of a traditional Irish bar, the standard of food was quite excellent. However, not wishing to drive after such a feast of local food and organic wine, we opted for the short taxi ride to the Olde Glenbeigh Hotel. Once again we enjoyed traditional hospitality with luxury touches and had very fine visit to The Kingdom indeed. With Dublin to the East, and New York to the West, Jack’s Coastguard Restaurant is a delightful spot altogether. Make sure to check it out if you are in Kerry this summer. And wherever you go around Ireland always ask the origin of the food on the menu, make sure it is seasonal and local, and support our local farmers and fishermen. You may well be surprised at the great quality of Irish cheese, meat and fish and the talent of our native chefs. When you come across a gem like Jack’s, it makes you realise that we really do have a food culture to be proud of.
Jacks Coastguard Restaurant, Waters Edge, Cromane, Co Kerry.
Tel: 066 9769102