Sunday, 5 June 2011

Sweeney's V Rivals

I have lost count of the number of publicans who have "had a go" at running Sweeney's bar in Portballintrae, County Antrim. There is no question that the premises have great potential.

As I opined a few months ago, all it needs is some enterprising person with an excellent, imaginative chef and the Midas Touch. The premises themselves, an old coach-house, are charming and full of character.

I had a snack at the Smuggler's Inn, near the Giant's Causeway last night; thence motored back to the Port, where I took the little netbook into the Bay View Hotel for a tonic at the bar.

Be in no doubt: The Bay View has become the established emporium for food and drink in Portballintrae, not to mention accommodation.

It boasts generally a nice, buzzing "in" crowd; families are welcome; even last night there was a peat fire blazing in the bar; they have a decent range of drinks, including Tanqueray gin; it seems to be well run.

I could go on; however, dear readers, you get the drift.

And yet I still prefer the ambiance of the Bushmills Inn, despite my recent criticism of its restaurant. I don't find anything special about the Bay View's menu, other than standard fare; though if that's what the "punters" want, who am I to take exception?

The Bay View was thriving, as usual, last night. To my mind, Sweeney's needs to become more exclusive, or "upmarket", and provide more of a gourmet menu; or transform itself into a so-called gastro-pub. The menu must be selective, with prime Ulster seafood, game and beef; seasonal vegetables from local farmers; home-made chips of an appropriate variety; and good, hearty, classic puddings.

They must offer fine wines, spirits and cuisine , yet remain a lounge-bar for those who simply wish to have a drink. The standard pub fare of burgers and chips isn't adequate enough to beat the rivals.


Anonymous said...

Sweenys is just a pub' - so don't expect much from the food, it's pretty awful; the Bayview, whilst more popular (no doubt due to it's location with good sea views) is not much better. I've always found the Bushmills Inn to be the best for food and drink in the environs.


Timothy Belmont said...

Precisely my point, W: Sweeney's needs to evolve into something else in order to compete with the Bay View.

Many residents can walk to either place from their homes, so they tend to stay in the village, I think.

I was disappointed with the Bushmills Inn at lunch-time a few weeks ago: value for an ordinary venison burger and chips ridiculous, in my opinion. No bread offered etc.

Anonymous said...

Do any of them pass my After Eight Mint test? I might be old fashioned but I like to be offered one with my coffee after a good meal; anywhere which cannot be bothered to fork out 2p(?) to provide them is off my list.

The Wombat

John Self said...

Bushmills Inn is pricey, I agree. Bayview is only so popular as it's the only option in Portballintrae for families!

I do like 1608 in Bushmills town centre. More modern surroundings and menu, but generally good quality.

Timothy Belmont said...

Is the 1608 still open? It looked as if it had closed down the last time I passed. Don't quote me on that, though!

Anonymous said...

1608 has been closed for years; it's now a butcher's shop!


Timothy Belmont said...

Career change from cooking meat to selling it! ;-)

John Self said...

Oops! Admittedly I haven't been there since [*does mental calculation*] - August 2009. Has it really been so long? Ah well.