Carlingford and Fitzpatrick’s

After weeks of talking about it and meaning to do it, I made a long overdue trip to Carlingford this weekend.  My father is from Carlingford, a small village in Louth close to the border, and it holds special memories for me. One of my favourite memories is of excitedly running down the street at least 3 times a day to visit the ‘shop’, just a normal shop but a magical experience for kids from the country who’s nearest shop is three miles away!  Carlingford is a gem of a town, it is quaint and still has a small town vibe – everyone knows each other and is very friendly, but surprisingly enough it’s also become a Mecca for hen and stag parties who come in their throngs every weekend.  I find this especially funny because, having been to the night club, now I use the term ‘night club’ very loosely here – It is the small, oh so small function room of the local hotel that transforms into the ‘club’ or aka an excuse to drink longer with loud music and a smoke machine!  But I know that not all hens and stags are about this (hens anyway) and Carlingford has loads of activities to keep the groups busy during the day, plus it really is a lovey friendly town so I can see the attraction.

I made the trip to visit my 95 year old grandmother Rose or ‘Nurse Toner’ as she is known locally.  She was the public health nurse and midwife in Carlingford for many years and delivered many of my father’s and his siblings contemporaries.  When I visit, Nana tells me stories of life back then which seems like a million miles away from life now.  Like the way they all used to cycle to the dances not a car in sight – Yeah I could imagine a group of Hens on bikes making their way to McKevitts now!

Now to the food, on the way to Carlingford, after you exit the M1 at Dundalk, you pass a pub on the left hand side not far after Ballymacscanlon house.  This pub is called Fitzpatrick’s and is renowned locally.  Surprisingly enough, I’ve never been there before, probably because we are usually anxious to make it to Carlingford before contemplating lunch; but this time it was planned and I was taking several recommendations on board.

The first thing that strikes you is that it’s incredibly kitsch, every inch of every surface is littered with vintage Guinness merchandise and various other bits of pub memorabilia.  Not to mention the ceiling, Ken had a great time trying to identify all the old tools and farm equipment that is nailed to the ceiling!  We were having an early lunch so decided on a soup each then we would share what was called a seafood tempura platter and chicken wings….light lunch ya know!   I had the French onion soup which was, I’m going to say it – a taste explosion in a bowl!  The broth was rich and beefy, the onions tender and the melted cheese a delight, really it was that good, I’m definitely going to attempt a version soon.  Ken had the seafood chowder which was creamy with decent chunks of seafood.  It also with an exquisite aftertaste that was rich and fishy in a good way!  The impressive platter came out and it was presented in a quirky style – the pieces of fish were speared with a fork and help upright in a block of wood.  The fish was fresh and the batter was light, I was a little disappointed by the lack of other types of seafood – I had expected some prawns, mussels and perhaps scallops but the seafood was all of the fish variety – salmon, mackerel and either hake or cod we weren’t sure.  The fish was accompanied by a wasabi mayonnaise that I loved but Ken felt was too overpowering and a simple salad.  The wings were also served in a unique way – wrapped in paper that’s meant to look like newspaper with the Fitzpatrick’s logo on it and inserted into a metal holder.  They were spicy-ish but a little unremarkable; I’d advise stick to the seafood if you’re planning a trip, they seem to do it better.  Lunch came to €38 with a 7up and a glass of Guinness but we did get a lot of food, a return trip is positively on the cards especially with the promise of the lovely town of Carlingford only up the road.

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