North Coast Smokehouse

Archive - all the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

A sense of identity, a sense of place, a sense of culinary brotherhood, is slowly moving across the north coast of Northern Ireland. From 'Derry through to Coleraine, from Portstewart onto Portrush, then from Bushmills to Ballycastle, the region is claiming a just uniqueness.
And it's in Ballycastle that you will find the North Coast Smokehouse. Melanie Brown hails from the town, and has come back home with her partner, Ruairidh Morrison, to start up a smokehouse, as you do. They have brought with them their twin infants, and backgrounds that are shockingly diverse – Melanie has a Master of Laws degree in Environmental Law and Sustainable Development, and is a potter and a musician. When Ruairidh isn't smoking Glenarm salmon and sea salt he makes traditional boats and plays music, and he has a background in fish pathology.
They started by hot-smoking the excellent local Glenarm salmon and bringing it to markets, where the reaction was very positive. Word has spread quickly, and Harry's Shack in Portstewart, for example, serves the salmon with scrambled eggs as a weekend brunch dish. It's no surprise: one taste of this excellent hot-smoked fish will bring you back for more, because the beech smoke gives the fish sweetness and lightness, and it is devoid of fattyness but is delicately moist. “Would I buy this again?” is the big question, and the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
The smoked sea salt, sampled on softly boiled egg, is similarly light and delicate, with the crunchy salt crystals resounding on the teeth and tongue. This is a condiment salt, to be used at the table, where it gives a subtle afternote, just like a good wine. These are fine, true artisan foods: taste them once, and you want them in your life. A bright star for the North Coast.

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