Clare is quickly becoming my favourite county and every time I visit I find another reason to continue this love affair.
Being half Kerry-woman, The Kingdom was always my go-to Irish holiday spot growing up, however, being a bad traveller, the journey absolutely kills me. Last year my boyfriend and I took our campervan to Doolin and had the most magical break away. Since then, Clare has been a place that's very close to my heart.
So, you can only imagine my excitement when I got a text into my Whatsapp group with my friends from college one gloomy day in the office asking if I'd be up for a spot of surfing in Lahinch - I texted back within seconds "I'm in. Also, leave the dinner booking to me, I have somewhere special in mind."
A few months ago my boyfriend and I were going back to Doolin to celebrate our one year anniversary (you can now see why it's a special place to me) and head back to the pub where he asked the big question. The day before, I scoured the internet to find a place to eat and realised a restaurant I had been following online was only a hop, skip and a jump from our campsite. I had also heard great things from various foodies so I knew this was a place I needed to try.
Little Fox in Ennistymon was calling my name.
I rang immediately requesting a booking and there was one slot available at 7.30pm. As I gave my name to the person on the other end of the phone the line cut. I rang back and was told that there were no bookings left. As you can imagine, I was left feeling pretty frustrated and disappointed - it felt like sand in my hands, it just... slipped through my fingers.
I decided that this trip with the girls was the perfect opportunity to finally try it and also make better memories.
I knew that I had to make the booking in good time, I rang - no answer, and followed up with an email and thankfully my prayers were answered as I nabbed a booking. I felt as though I had gotten a golden ticket.
Little Fox is located in the heart of a quaint village that only has a few shops and pubs. It's an unassuming building with a yellow border and door. As we walked in there was an immediate buzz of chatter and laughter from the five or six tables in the cosy nook-like room.
I looked to my left and saw a table snuggled into the corner waiting for us. We sat down and I finally got the chance to take in my surroundings. On the walls were dainty oil paintings by Irish artists, lining our seats were plump cushions from Liaden Knitwear, a chalkboard spanned across the wall above the kitchen where chef Niamh Fox and Co. were working their magic.
Run by chef Niamh Fox, Little Fox serves delicious locally grown food, intertwined with the natural rhythm of the season, cooked with heart and flair.
Our waiter came up and ran us through the dishes available that evening - six shareable mains and two sides, being the Harry Potter nerd I am, I replied: "we'll take the lot".
Out came six dishes, with wafts of Mediterranean spices and steam rising from the plates.
Because we had just ordered from the board above, I hadn't spent as much time imagining what my dish would look like and how it would taste. This worked in my favour as each dish came out one by one, each looking more impressive than the last.
We started with a flatbread and labneh, it really set the tone for the meal ahead - interesting flavour concepts, ideal for tearing and sharing and downright delicious.
Next came a pumpkin pastry, a bowl of the most divine mussels I've ever tried and a crab salad the oozed freshness. Each dish had a completely unique and inventive flavour but they all seemed to pair together so beautifully.
I'm sure there was one point when I had a bit of everything carefully placed on a piece of flatbread before devouring it in one bite.
The dishes kept coming with a lamb kofta, mashed potato and black bean and chorizo bowl being placed in between the few small spaces left on the table.
All four of us nodded approvingly at one another as we dug in, there was something to suit everyone with each of us having our own favourite dish by the end of the meal. We shared one bottle of white and one bottle of red, both were paired perfectly to the dishes.
As well as the fantastic food offerings, I adored the vibe of Little Fox, it was unfussy, casual and warm. The waiters popped over to check-in and have the craic with us, talking us through the dishes and which they loved most. Even the other guests in the restaurant ended up chatting with us after we had all finished our meals and the restaurant was beginning to close up.
A girl at another table had a birthday so the whole restaurant sang to her and after her and her friends had tucked into the cake, they passed it to the table beside us and then over to us. Everyone was in such good spirits after having the tastiest meal.
That's an atmosphere that doesn't occur by accident, it comes down to the execution of service and the general vibe while dining.
All round, this was a meal I'll be harping on about for a long time to come and a place I will be recommending to anyone who ventures west. We had a surfing lesson booked in Lahinch for the following morning and had we not had to be there for that I would have tried to sneak in for brunch too.
There are only a handful of places I've enjoyed as much as this and Niamh Fox's skills are second to none.
Little Fox is open for brunch Wednesday - Sunday 10.00-16.00pm and for dinner Friday-Saturday 18.30-21.30pm.
Booking is highly recommended, and try to do it well in advance to guarantee a spot!