Bunratty Castle & Dirty Nelly's
We will be travelling (2 adults & boy-17, girl 15) to Ireland in July of '08.
We've been told by several people that eating at the Bunratty Castles restaurant is a must. Do you agree? Is it too touristy? Not a good value?
Also, we were told for a really fun time, we need to eat at Dirty Nelly's. Again, true?
We were in County Clare this past spring and ate at Durty Nelly's next to Bunratty Castle. It was the worst food we had on our trip by far. If I remember correctly the meat was so tough and dry I could barely chew it. The atmosphere is okay. I just say "okay" because if you are on the west coast of Ireland, there are hundreds of other pubs that have great music, have just as much charm and aren't filled 100% with tourists (and have much better food). If I were you I'd stick to the banquet and go somewhere else for a good pub experience.
I agree with jcoz. We walked in to Durty Nelly's and turned right around and walked out. Packed with tourists it was but beyond that it was, well, dirty. I've eaten in pubs all over Ireland and never saw one that was filthy. We found another one that was right near the Bunratty complex within walking distance that had what we were looking for: locals eating, good service and the typical clean homey atmosphere. I'm sorry I can't remember the name of this particular pub but anywhere would be better than Durty Nelly's.
We use this site : http://www.diningpubs.com/default.asp to help guide our pub choices and this site: http://www.irelandmarkets.com/ to check if farmers markets will be open in towns we pass through. Ask any local where their favorite pub is. Almost every village has a bakery, produce market and butcher where you can stock up on locally made picnic goodies and snacks (Cashel Blue cheese - YUM!). Remember to take a handful of plastic grocery bags with you because you're expected to bring your own. We also took a large lunch size softsided cooler that could be smashed flat and packed in our luggage. Stop in a grocery store or "euro general" and pick up some baggies, paper towels and a cheap paring knife when you get there. The soft sided cooler also doubled as a carry on for us on the way home for books and souvenirs.
Looking at the Bunratty Castle website it appears to provide the "medieval banquet" that you'll find in various guises all over Europe. It will be entirely geared to tourists and, as such, you can anticipate that the food will be indifferent. I see a very medieval chicken breast is the main course).
That is not to say that it will not be fun.
I used to visit such places in Spanish holiday resorts many years ago - the secret to the enjoyment was to have several pints beforehand, drink as much as possible of the free wine that was on offer and then start on the brandy once back at the holiday hotel. That way, you could never be sure the next day if your upset stomach was due to the booze or food poisoning.