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Jul 8, 2009 12:52 PM

Best Mussels in Ireland


I will be travelling abroad for the first time in a few weeks to Ireland. My three stops will be Galway, Cork and Dublin. Can anyone recommend a place that serves yummy mussels in a garlic butter sauce?

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  1. Not the best time of year for mussels. There's an old adage in the UK and Ireland that they are only good when there is an "R" in the month (i.e, not in summer) and, personally, I wouldnt order them now.

    1. I thought the 'r in the month' thing was for wild shellfish. Their breeding season is in the summer and all this strenuous activity makes them thin and tasteless. Mussels and oysters are commercially propagated and harvested all year round I thought and therefore the breeding season is not restricted to the summer months.
      I'm open to correction if anyone out there knows more.
      But it never stops me ordering mussels and fries sitting outside La Jolie Brise in Baltimore, Cork, on a warm summers evening downing a pint of Murphys to ease the sting of my sunburn.

      4 Replies
      1. re: DublinChow

        Technically, I'm sure you're correct.

        1. re: Harters

          It isn't simple. When oysters spawn their texture changes and they are no as good, in Europe this is in the summer "non-R" months. But I understand some (but not all) farmed oysters are sterile (triploid) so don't spawn and there is no issue (that isn't a pun), and oysters are also imported from regions where their spawning season is different.

          Mussels are not eaten in their spawning season because they loose a lot of weight and so there isn't much meat, in the UK this is from April. But again lots are imported and some (but not all) farmed ones are sterile (again triploid) and these will generally be the ones on menus.

          Of course like all "rules of thumb" this one was multi-purpose, prior to refrigeration it was tricky to keep shellfish fresh for any length of time so eating Oysters and Mussels in the summer was risky and thus the "rule" served a good purpose for public health.

          Hopefully restaurants quality control is such that they don't buy/sell mussels or oysters that are not in peak condition for eating and producers/wholesalers quality control mechanisms will be similar so they won't be bringing sub-standard products to market.

          1. re: PhilD


            Your final paragraph is the reason I prefer to stick to the old adage about "R" in the month. For home use, most of our local supplies are farmed around Anglesey and I would generally trust the producer but I still wouldnt usually buy at this time of year.

            Perhaps, I'm just an old fuddy-duddy but I have out of season mussels in the same category as strawberries in January and Peruvian asparagus anytime.

            1. re: Harters

              We can safely enjoy shellfish year-round with modern refrigerated storage. The old adages about avoiding oysters, etc., in "non-R" months only apply if you collect your own. They will be edible but thin and watery because of spawning, as already noted, but temperature controls their spawning: a good producer-fishmonger connection will ensure that your oysters, mussels, clams, etc. are kept properly chilled (34F). Even 20 minutes on a loading dock will trigger spawning, so a reliable merchant is key.

      2. Back to the subject, if you're travelling to Cork, be sure to stop in Cobh. Known as the "reverse Ellis Island" it has a heart-wrenching museum devoted to the famine and the waves of immigration to N. America, but also is a beautiful seaside town with palm trees and lots of seaside pubs where I'm sure you can get some tasty fresh seafood, but perhaps not mussels. Enjoy!

        1. Has anyone tried the food at Chez Max in Dublin? Is it any good? Thanks for the advice.