Sunday, 27 January 2008

Sunday Drive To Gibb's Island & The Dufferin Arms

I'm glad we decided to go for a drive today. The weather didn't look too promising at first; however, we set off towards a National Trust property which is just beyond Killyleagh, County Down. It's called Gibb's Island.

The island itself is at the end of a very narrow road, or lane, which is about half a mile in length. It's now really a peninsula because there's a permanent causeway linking it to the mainland. It's very small; you could run around it in less than five minutes I suppose. The grass was mown last autumn and it's still short; however, in the summer months, it is a glorious meadow with wild flowers, butterflies et al. There's a wood at the top of the island, surrounded by a stone wall. Such a picturesque place; heavenly on a warm, summer's day and ideal for picnicking.

On our way there, we passed a few old haunts: namely Lisbarnett Inn and Balloo House. Nevertheless we drove onwards to Gibb's and then re-traced our route to the village of Killyleagh, where I stretched my legs at what remained of the old harbour and is now surrounded by apartments.

We drove on up the main street towards the castle and down another main street, stopping outside the Dufferin Arms. I cannot recall ever having been in the Dufferin Arms, even though I'd heard it mentioned often enough. It was open for lunches, so we ventured in.

It's main entrance is unsuitable for disabled people because there's a set of about four or five tallish steps. We were unsure where the bar snacks were served, so we turned left and into an old-fashioned, quite austere dining-room where there were about ten diners. I enquired if this was the right room for lunch and the waitress replied in the affirmative.

As I said previously, the dining-room is quite plain and austere, perhaps fifteen feet square, with a piano at one corner; about forty-one framed pictures and old notices on the walls; a glass cabinet near the ceiling at one corner with a stuffed weasel or stoat; stuffed ducks in another corner; a log-burner at the fireplace; an old wooden floor, mostly round tables with old-fashioned dining-chairs. The décor was magnolia. Overall, it looked about fifty years old in appearance. It was perhaps reminiscent of an old vernacular farmhouse.

We ordered one prawn open sandwich at £7.50 and one small chowder at £3.95. My prawn open was one of the largest I've ever had! My plate was piled high with lettuce, mixed peppers, scallion (spring onion to non-Ulster readers!), olives, tomato, carrot, redcurrant, coleslaw and, of course, juicy prawns with sauce and unbuttered wheaten bread. I thought it was very good. If I'm being fussy I suppose some of the lettuce could have been swapped for grated cheese and a little hard-boiled egg; however, I enjoyed it.

The Dowager had the chowder. She said she didn't like it; that it was chewy & tough (presumably some of the seafood). I saw it and it looked good: there seemed to be more seafood than soup! It was a meal in itself. I'm not particularly fond of chowders so I can't make a fair judgement. Fresh, crusty bread and butter was included too.

I felt the menu and quality of the food was good. the staff were agreeable and attentive. Our total bill came to £14.65 and a tip of ten per cent.

I invariably prefer traditional establishments to the contemporary variety; however, in this instance I have to confess there was a little indifference with respect to the décor and ambiance. I refer only to this one dining-room; not the others which I don't know about. Perhaps it is an acquired taste.

Anyone else could have been mistaken for thinking that the Dufferin Arms is owned by Guinness, because the staff wore Guinness shirts, there were Guinness beer-mats; lots of Guinness framed posters; and Guinness was writ large on the front door. This establishment is not, sadly, the only bar in the Province which has succumbed to Guinness's blatant marketing, which I detest. A few beer-mats, their name on the bottles and beer taps ought to be enough. Tell companies like Guinness what to do with their advertisements and if they object or refuse to supply you, sue them or bring them before a tribunal. Didn't Weatherspoons pick a fight with them years ago over refusal to supply or whatever? I think they caved in, in the end. Obviously Money plays a part in this, whether it be stout, whisky, gin or any brand. Guinness, however, seems to predominate. They couldn't pay me to put their name on anything I own. Do publicans earn a bonus or a concession if they flaunt such merchandise? Enough: that's my rant for today.

So we're home safely after a pleasant day out.

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