You’ve traveled far and wide for amazing meals. From the Pocantico Hills and Napa Valley to Järpen and Reykjavík to Melbourne and Cape Town, food now rules your travel plans. You seek out interesting dishes, multi-course tasting menus, and fascinating chefs for special occasions. But lately, you’ve been planning entire vacations around foodie destinations. Here’s the spot that should be on your radar for next spring.
Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites is an “elemental travel experience” focused on the surrounding land, island, and sea. The restaurant only serves food from the immediate—very immediate—area: vegetables and herbs grown on the property, homestead-reared meat, shellfish from the coast, and wild Atlantic fish. The stone building, featuring a modern design, is a refuge from real life. Plus stone-walled fields, limestone cliffs, desolate beaches, and unpredictable Galway Bay ring the property.
This unique spot is in the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Inishmaan, the Middle Island, is the least developed and the least populated of the archipelago’s three main islands. It’s home to pre-Christian forts, beehive huts, and ancient burial grounds. A knitting factory, a stained-glass window studio, and a single pub sit in the center of the island. While it’s known as a stronghold for Irish culture. Irish, not English, is the common language here.
You arrive on Inishmaan on a ferry from Rossaveal. The hotel’s owner, who grew up on the island, picks you up at the ferry and gives you a quick tour and lots of suggestions for your visit. Hot tea and flapjacks (think sweet oat bars, not pancakes) are waiting for you at Inis Meáin. Your well-stocked suite is ready, as well. Each of the five suites has a separate outside entrance. The spare space is decorated with a king-sized Iroko bed, Iroko cabinets, and Aran-patterned cashmere cushions in the living area. Binoculars sit by the south-facing windows. An exploration kit features everything—ash walking sticks, baited fishing rods, beach towels, and maps—you could possibly need to explore. Customized Cube bikes sit outside. Plus breakfast boxes are delivered early each morning, and hotpot lunches are ready when you set out to tour the island.
Despite thoroughly enjoying your day on Inishmaan—following the south coast loop, finding the stone forts, and visiting the island’s only church and pub—you can’t wait to return to Inis Meáin for dinner. The restaurant opens at 7:30 pm; dinner begins promptly at 8:00 pm. The dining room features black-and-white photographs, leather seats, and a sea view. Special tasting dishes, presented by the chef—who happens to be the owner you met earlier—begin and end the meal. Tonight, that opening dish is raw urchin. Each of the four courses that follow is composed of two main elements. Lobster tail with wild garlic. Home Guard potatoes with baby onions. Monkfish with sweet peppers. A gooseberry tart with loganberry sorbet.
Every dish—including the carrageen (seaweed) jellies at the end—feel, smell, and taste like the island you spent the day exploring. You’ll be talking about this meal for months.