Kai and Lee Ronan are doing it right at their lovely fish shop on Wexford Street in New Ross. This spotless shop might have the appearance of being brand new but this is a forty year old business with a history of supplying fish to some of the best restaurants and hotels in the South East: take a trip to the newly Michelin-starred Lady Helen room in Mount Juliet and it's Ronan's fish you'll be eating - the business is one of Mount Juliet's oldest suppliers.
More recently it's the introduction of high quality smoked fish which has brought a spotlight shining on this lovely and hardworking couple, with the naturally smoked haddock winning a rare three stars at the Great Taste Awards. The smokehouse is on site and all the fish is hand cut and packed - no machines here. Looking at great rows of deep copper coloured salmon laid out in boxes in the salmon smoking area I am struck with the sweet smell of toffee and caramel and once again, when shown the haddock smoker (a different smoker is used for each) by the glorious aroma of oak once the door is opened.
Rare among Irish fish smokers, the Ronan's produce a Wild Irish Smoked salmon, buying up as much of the fish as they can get their hands on during the short season allowed, and then freezing it to give continuity of supply. An organic version is also on the cards, sourced from 'sea ponds' along the West Coast. I haven't yet tried the Wild version but the standard smoked salmon (from Norwegian and Scottish fish) is as fine as any I've eaten, wonderfully dry and delicate. All the company's smoked fish is beautifully packaged, an irrelevance you might think but a measure of the respect the couple feel their work deserves, and rightly so.
Back in the shop there's a fine simplicity to the display of fish: salmon (naturally), cod, brill, monkfish, some of that lovely undyed smoked haddock, lemon sole, plaice - all of it looking bright and fresh and with the clean refreshing aroma of the sea. Even on a Tuesday afternoon there's a constant stream of customers coming through the door and Kai tells me that Friday is shoulder room only. I'm given a new recipe to try out with some smoked haddock: as Lee tells me, "we cook a lot of fish". It's a joy to hear of this success, proof yet again, if ever it were needed, that even in difficult times, good people, doing the right thing, succeed.
Duncannon Smokehouse, Wexford Street, New Ross
Tel: 051 421910 www.duncannonsmokehouse.ie
Photographs: Eamon Barrett
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