Great Days Out – Country Escapes – Country Living 26th June 2010 by Yvonne Kerr.
From the seaboard to the chopping board, much of the high-quality fish caught in Irish waters ends up on five-star dinner tables in Spain and France. As a foodie trip to Connemara proves, most of us are oblivious to the abundance of superior seafood available off our own coast.
Connemara Smokehouse, perched on the ocean’s edge at Bunowen Pier in Ballyconneely, Galway. On a crystal-clear day, it’s difficult to tell where the blue sky ends and the sea begins. You can taste the fish in the salty sea breeze that tickles your face.
Connemara Smokehouse has been smoking fresh, local salmon and tuna for more than 30 years. Owner Graham Roberts like his father before him, is a tireless perfectionist. “Give me a fish and a knife, and I’m happy,” Graham says. “I’ve worked here since I was four years old. I used to wash fish boxes during the summer holidays. I got a penny for every fish box I washed.”
Since he was able to walk, Graham would follow his dad around the smokehouse soaking up knowledge and skills like a sponge. Depending on weather the humidity it may take 12 or 24 hours to smoke fish. “It’s very hands-on,” he says.
“It’s very much look and feel. I can’t explain how I know when the fish is ready. Delegation is difficult.”
Graham’s poetic account of how to prepare smoked Irish tuna and salmon nibbles on warm toast or soda bread with cream cheese, cucumber, fresh dill, lemon or lime and a chilled glass of wine, would convince the staunchest fish-hater to taste his products for themselves.
Four types of local wild, organic and farmed salmon are produced by six full-time workers here: smoked g, gravadlax, roast and honey roast.
Graham warns against cheap imports that are intensively farmed. “It’s fatty and greasy,” he says.”It’s the type of flabby smoked salmon that puts most people off.”
Graham and his wife Saoirse run the business. Mum Bridget helps out in the office and dad John, who prefers to fish these days, is on hand to help out at busy times. Both families – Graham’s four kids included – live a stone’s throw from the Smokehouse.
If it was up to the Roberts family fresh Irish salmon and tuna would be on our kitchen tables as often as it is on theirs. It’s a mouth- watering thought. In the mean-time, we can all do our best to support the flailing Irish fish industry by looking out for locally produced seafood and being mindful of cheap foreign competition.
Next time you think of Connemara, think of fresh, delicious local seafood, It’s right on our doorstep.