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Readers Recommend: Sol Rio, Westport, Co. Mayo

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sol rioMy great friend Roisin McGarr sends in this gorgeous review of a county Mayo favourite:

Every time I’m vaguely anywhere in the vicinity of Mayo I make up any excuse to detour and take me in to Westport just to go to one of my top favourite restaurants in Ireland, Sol Rio.

Every time I go I try to manage my own expectations in advance. I warn myself that it can’t possibly have maintained the extraordinarily high standard of the last visit. I even convince myself that my memory of how good the last meal was isn’t real, merely nostalgic exaggeration attributable to a happy association with a pleasant holiday. After all, I couldn’t possibly have dissolved into a giggling, tearfully euphoric jelly of a human just because of an apple and raspberry crumble, could I? Could I?

Yes. Yes I could. And I did.

This restaurant’s food is consistently, spectacularly, fabulous. The setting is casual dining where you’ll see couples dressed up for a special date sitting comfortably near a family with smallsers and teens.

Nearly every time we’ve been to Sol Rio we’ve gone for the excellent set menu deals; two courses for €21.95 or three courses for €25.95. Notwithstanding the .5 cent rubbish, which ain’t fooling nobody, this is superb value for food of this quality. Ingredients are obviously sourced with exacting standards; top notch, fresh and seasonal. They’re combined as only an imaginative chef who loves food themselves can do and presented with simple, mouthwatering beauty on the plate.

starter solYou’re not left long wondering if the food will live up to your hopes as a plateful of amazing home made breads are delivered before you’ve even ordered. Ever tasted treacle bread? No, me neither. Be prepared to ruin your dinner by scoffing every scrap of it.

We hedged our bets and shared the Trilogy starter of mozzarella & tomatoes, fish cakes with curry sauce, and Parma ham & melon. Wait, fish cakes with curry sauce?? That can’t be right. Oh my goodness that was so right. I stole as much of the starter as my generous companion would allow me and then deeply regretted being so greedy when my main of braised lamb shank on a bed of creamy mash with rosemary and red wine sauce arrived with a large side of steamed veg and chips arrived. My slightly more abstemious companion gloated just long enough until his huge creamy risotto chorizo arrived and we exchanged guilty looks before resolving to demolish both.

sol mainDespite the enormous portion sizes, you don’t need much resolve. The food and your body come to such a happy arrangement that your brain is almost entirely excused from proceedings, being called upon to merely hit the giant red button that opens the seratonin flood gates and then leave and allow the orgy to continue unfettered by nonsense like stomach capacity warnings.

Dessert was also supposed to be shared but my greed continued unabated and I snaffled three of the four oversized but exquisite profiteroles, pausing only for involuntary orgasmic eye-rolling and exclamations of how perfectly crisp and puffy the pastry was. Watching me scoop up another of his strawberries from the chocolate sauce, my companion comforted himself with a delicious macchiato (I had to taste it for the review!).
As neither of us were drinking, the bill for our excessive pleasure came to just €46.50. For such excellent quality food in Dublin you’d expect to pay at least 50% more. This is how I justify the extra petrol spend on my detour from Galway…

2 Comments

  1. I ate here last year and didn’t like it. The menu choices and the food were very 1980′s, including strange oversized garnishes. Looks like it has improved since…

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more, Peter. We were a large group (12) celebrating a 30th birthday 2 weeks ago. Staff couldn’t have been more helpful and the food was excellent.

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