Lizzie Gore-Grimes has her heart blown wide open and her tastebuds tantalized on the Aran Islands.
What Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse de Blacam have achieved out on Inis Meáin is remarkable. “Build it and they will come…” the saying goes, and nowhere is this truer than with the Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites. The island itself, all four by two miles of it, is the quietest of the three Aran Islands, boasting a population of just 150 souls. To describe is as remote would be an understatement. The island boasts an austere and awe-inspiring beauty – with its patchwork of tiny green fields, maze of low-lying stone walls and swathes of lunar limestone stretching down to the sea.
And here, in this bare, beautiful setting you will find one of the most unique gastro-retreats in Ireland. The couple have travelled extensively, and Ruairí (an Inis Meáin native) has cheffed all over the world (Italy, Germany and France); something you sense immediately in the confidence of his cooking. The five suites, designed by Marie-Thérèse, would not look out of place in Wallpaper magazine – with a contemporary Scandi-mood set by warm untreated wood, bare textured walls and a sweeping panoramic stretch of window. In the restaurant, Ruairí uses produce grown on site in the vegetable garden and polytunnel outside, and fish and shellfish caught by island fishermen a few hundred metres away. And the result is sublime. I don’t think I have ever tasted scallops as pure in flavour as his marinated scallops in ginger and sesame. On the set four-course menu a dish might sound simple – Jerusalem artichoke with Parmesan – but what arrives is a cloud of umami wonderfulness, a texture akin to risotto but without rice. A dish you could eat forever.
And it doesn’t stop there. Wait until you see what arrives in your breakfast box in the morning to set you up for your island hike or bike (provided for you), with a backpack of hearty soup and home-baked focaccia. Before you finish up, windswept, refreshed and revived in the Island’s only pub for a well-earned pint. Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse call it an ‘elemental travel experience’ – I call it essential.
Dinner €65 per person. Suites from €450 for two nights. Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites, Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, Co. Galway, Ireland. 353 (0) 86 8266026; inismeain.com