Johnny Burkes Bar, Armada Hotel

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The great thing about Johnny Burke’s pub, at the Armada Hotel in Spanish Point in West Clare, is that you don’t have to think.
You just pull up a stool, or sit yourself down in the Rebel Snug, and ask Darren, the barman: “What’s good to eat and drink?’
Chances are Darren will steer you towards the The Galleon, their triple tier tasting of seafood, and a glass of Back Beat Witbeer from the Western Herd Brewery, made by Michael and Adam just a few miles up the road in Kilmalley.
This is a very good steer indeed. The Back Beat has just the right edge to match the tower of seafood that arrives at your table. Unlike the traditional seafood platter, where the fish is served cold, the Galleon mixes hot and cold: up on top are two cones of whiting tempura, along with two large fishcakes. In the middle are plump crab claws and mussels.
On the bottom layer there is grilled mackerel, Burren Smokehouse smoked salmon, two little pots of crab salad, two oysters, and fresh prawns. There is a bucket of chips, two sauces, a loaf of their Dooliner brown bread, and a little bowl of periwinkles.
At €24.95 per person, this is probably the best €50 you can spend in County Clare.
But what makes the experience of the Galleon special isn’t just the fact that everything is perfectly cooked, but the fact that this is such a pearl of a bar, and that the staff are such masters of their art. And tending to a bar in the way that Darren does it is just that: an art form. Helpful, funny, chatty, and wise, Darren is the barman of your dreams, as happy to recommend something special from his range of 70 Irish whiskeys as he is to steer you towards a sure bet like the Galleon.