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We were provided with menus in the bar upon arrival in this award-winning-family-run pub/restaurant in the rather picturesque village of Clonbur and after ordering, were escorted to our seats just as our starters arrived. A bar menu is also available and indeed one would be content to soak up the atmosphere here but we took our seats in the restaurant itself to avail of the huge windows overlooking Mount Gable. As there were four of us we decided to share a selection of starters between us which meant that we each had the rather eclectic mix of deep fried brie served with a light salad and an Oxford sauce, some warm goat's cheese on couscous, with an apricot salsa, and the 'ole reliable' garlic mushrooms. The sweetness of the Oxford sauce complemented the brie beautifully, the tartness of the goat's cheese was perfectly balanced by the sharp, pepperly flavours in the apricot salsa and the mushrooms were tasty without being overly garlicky. The lightly-dressed salad comprised a selection of lettuces, tomato, peppers, cucumber, and baby sweetcorn and would actually have been a worthy starter on its own. For the main course I had opted for the monkfish with the garlic crumb coating, which was mouth-wateringly delicious, whilst my companions tucked into a 10oz perfectly cooked sirloin steak, with sautéed onions, mushrooms and chips; pork fillet stuffed with a rather sweet concoction of nuts and dates, and a vegetarian strudel served with a tomato based sauce, respectively.

The accompanying side dishes were a joy to behold - no dollops of pureed carrots and parsnips here - instead we received peppers, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower al dente, with creamed potatoes, cheesy potatoes, and courgette fritters which even won over the non-courgette fans in the group! To physically lick the plates or leave room for dessert was a tough choice - the 'steakeater' left his plate so clean I dare say it could have been used again immediately, whilst we more reserved folk left pickings so we could squeeze in dessert. As the only non-icecream fanatic I left the others to their brown bread, chocolate and vanilla in ginger basket whilst I quite happily gorged my face on a large portion of divine banoffi flan. Including soft drinks, teas, an espresso and a bottle of '97 Wolf Blass Shiraz from their surprisingly varied wine list the bill came to an extremely reasonable £83.90.

It has to be said that as a venue which initially comes across as completely unassuming, Burke's is well worth making the trip to Ireland's lake district for. The staff are efficient and friendly without being intrusive, the ambience is relaxed and the flavours combine well whilst retaining a simplicity of style and presentation where many restaurants nowadays tend to go overboard.

Burke's Restaurant, Clonbur, Co. Galway. 092 46175
Open Mon - Sat, 6:30pm - 9:30pm and for Sunday Lunch
Bar food served daily with live music in the bar Tues to Sun nights.

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The Sunday Times

GUINNESS may be too cool for its own good. Irish stout drinkers, chilled by the ever-decreasing temperatures of their favourite tipple, are resorting to extraordinary measures to warm it up.

Led by Leo Moran of the Saw Doctors, the Tuam band, Guinness drinkers are persuading their barmen to cook pints in a microwave oven or stand them in hot water.

"It looks funny, and it does raise eyebrows," said Moran, who gets his local pub to raise the temperature of his stout. "Warm Guinness is an old-fashioned taste, I suppose, but there is much more flavour to the pint when it is not too cold.

 

In Clonbur Leo Moran shows Tomás Burke how he likes his pint of Guinness to be warmed in a teapot full of hot water

Leo Moran and Tomás Burke

 

Until cooling systems were introduced in Irish pubs in the 1980s, stout drinkers were served pints at room temperature. Now the beer flows out of taps at 6C or cooler. Guinness extra-cold, served at 3C, is available at almost one in five Irish pubs and is often mixed up with its "warmer" equivalent.

Tomás Burke of Burkes Pub, Clonbur, Leo Moran's barman, said: "When I am pulling Leo's pint, I first half-fill the glass and then place it in a teapot of lukewarm water. When it has settled, I put the head on. The procedure is longer, so as soon as he has his first pint, I start pulling the second. He rings the pub 10 minutes in advance, so his first pint is ready when he arrives. "Some fellow came in one night and thought Leo was crazy, but the warmer pint tastes better and the trend has taken off."

John Burns, The Sunday Times, 4th April 1999