21 October 2019

Why I have to change my
plans for winter walks on
the beach in Ballybunion

Late autumn lights on the beach in Ballybunion on Sunday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

It is sad when a good restaurant, with good food and good wines, finds it has to close its doors.

Since I moved here in early 2017, one of my regular pleasures – once or twice a month – has been a walk on the beaches of Ballybunion, after the Sunday services in Askeaton and Tarbert, and lunch in Daroka on Cliff Road, with its views across to the castle ruins and out across the North Kerry coast to the Atlantic waves.

I had missed those Sunday lunches in Daroka, during the summer months. But when they resumed serving lunch on Sundays two of us returned last month, and we were back again yesterday [20 October 2019].

Sadly, though, Daroka is about to close. Emily Devine O’Brien, the general manager, and Daniel O’Brien, announced recently that they had taken ‘the incredibly hard decision’ to close the restaurant next Monday [28 October].

‘It has been our privilege to be part of a business community in Ballybunion that is unquestionably the hardest working community that we have ever been part of,’ they announced on Facebook. ‘We have had some of the best moments of our lives inside the walls of Daroka and will treasure the memories and friends we have made through its journey.’

They add: ‘Sadly though it’s goodbye from us.’

We have had some of the best moments of our lives inside the walls of Daroka and will treasure the memories and friends we have made through its journey’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Next weekend is their last weekend of in Daroka. Already they are full for Sunday lunch next Sunday, although they still have some places left for either Friday or Saturday evening.

They like to boast: ‘Here at Daroka we try to keep it real. Real food, real simple. Not everything is organic, not everything is local; but everything is the best. The best we can source, procure, prep, cook and serve.’

In the past, I have quoted two of the many humorous quotations on the wine list in Daroka:

‘I can certainly see that you know your wine. Most of the guests who stay here wouldn’t know the difference between Bordeaux and Claret’ – Basil Fawlty, Fawlty Towers.

‘I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food’ – WC Fields, ca 1930s.

They have taken their wines very seriously in Daroka (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

But, humour aside, they have taken their wines very seriously in Daroka, and told their diners: ‘Our wine philosophy is straightforward, in terms of style, we look for wines of balance, wines that are true to type (representative of their origins), and wines that will complement our style of food.’

Although some rare wines were priced in the high triple figures, the wines in Daroka have been sensibly priced, by and large, and the Daroka team has offered guests interesting ways to explore the restaurant’s choice of wines.

They explained: ‘In terms of pricing, our aim is to offer excellent value at each price point. To help select our wines, we work closely with our wine suppliers.’

They went on to say, ‘We have taken much pleasure in creating our wine list and we have a number of wines which we regard as hidden gems, such as our “Wine by the Glass.” We do hope that you enjoy our selection and welcome your comments and feedback.’

The approach has been good-humoured, but these are seriously good world wines. They said on their wine, ‘We are proud to work with small, quality-focused wine producers. In our opinion, not only do smaller producers inevitably offer a superior combination of quality and value for money, many of those that appear in our list are benchmark producers for their region.’

Although we are in the second half of October, it was a bright sunny afternoon yesterday, and after lunch in Daroka two of us we went for a walk on the long, sandy stretch of beaches beneath the cliffs on the north side of Ladies’ Beach as far as the rocks and pebbles on the shore at the south end of the Men’s Beach.

The temperatures were a little higher than normal, reaching 13 or 14 during the afternoon, and the skies were a clear blue.

The extended sunny weather brought some families back to Ballybunion, perhaps to enjoy an unexpected weekend at their holiday homes and mobile homes. A few brave-hearted swimmers and surfboarders even took to the water.

These beach walks are good exercise for my lungs, easing the symptoms of Sarcoidosis, and also help to relieve the tingling or pins and needles at the ends of my toes and fingers that comes with my severe B12 deficiency.

I said last month, ‘I am looking forward to more walks on the beaches of Ballybunion … and Sunday lunches in Daroka.’

Sadly, the closure of Daroka I am going to have to change my plans for Sunday afternoons as autumn fades and I head off for winter walks on the beach.

Sunlight on the beach in Ballybunion on Sunday afternoon(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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