Goosers, Ballina, Killaloe, Co. Clare - 15 February, 1997

Valentine's Day came belatedly to the Prendiville household this year. Tsk! Tut!. Anyway, rather than getting involved in all the hearts and flowers malarkey, I decided to take Mary out for a nice romantic meal in Goosers.

This is a pub and restaurant in the village of Ballina, which, though the management claim it is located in Co. Clare, as far as I am concerned, Ballina is in Co. Tipperary. So why did I put "Co. Clare" in the heading? To confuse myself and yourselves, I suppose, I'm not really too sure...

For starters, Mary had a seafood chowder, while I had me old favourite, steamed mussels. Mary's chowder was very hot (temperature-wise) and it contained all the usual fishy suspects. Mary gave it the thumbs-up. My mussels were small enough, but since we're only talking about starters, there was no need for them to be ginormous. Very tasty, with a subtle hint of the sea about them.

For the main course, Mary opted for roast duckling in blueberry sauce with a side order of vegetables (broccoli, mangetout, carrots and not a trace of cauliflower in sight, thank God). Mary was surprised at the amount of meat on the duck, this being usually so fatty. And the blueberry sauce was just right; not too sweet. I had Chicken Supreme Ballina, where I made my first acquaintance with a real, live (well, dead actually) asparagus. Very impressed. The chicken had a beautifully rich mushroom sauce and very dry bacon (just how I like it). We were also served french fries and mashed potatoes. The fries were perfect, but I'm afraid the mash was just a tad too cold and too wet for my taste. I took one or two spoonfuls and passed on the rest (er, maybe I'd better rephrase that...).

For dessert, we both had Gooser's Special, which was walnut ice cream with Bailey's and fresh cream. Formidable! As if the walnut ice cream wasn't enough, to dip into a artesian source of raw Bailey's was to find heaven in a spoon. Deelish!

Mary had an Irish coffee, which she loved, while I had a capuccino, in which I was a little disappointed. Instead of having that almost crusty creamy top, it seemed as if someone had put some warmish Heineken head on a cup of milky Maxwell House. Disappointing.

Our wine for the evening was a half-bottle (well I was driving...) of 1994 Carte Noire Cellier des Dauphins Cote de Rhone-Villages. Quite nice. I'm not a great fan of French wine, but this was very palatable.

My overall verdict of the night? Well, apart from the mashed potatoes and the capuccino, two other things gave me pause for thought:-

That being said, I still enjoyed my meal. My quibbles were of a minor nature, and they certainly wouldn't prevent me from going back to Goosers. Next time, though, we'll take a taxi and make an evening of it. The bar in the restaurant is sooo inviting. And the service was excellent as well. No complaints there.

Overall verdict on Goosers?. I think I'll give it 8/10, and the benefit of a second chance.

Oh, and keep an eye out for the dovecote...

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