Food Review – Amethyst Bar Keel, Achill Island

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The Amethyst Bar in Keel on Achill Island has developed a stellar reputation in recent years and was nominated for Best Gastro Pub in the Irish Restaurant Awards 2024. The reputation is built on well-sourced and cooked comfort food, with a touch of nostalgia and an elevated presentation. Every time I’ve visited, it’s been absolutely packed. The 2024 season starts mid-March and runs through to early October.

Keel Strand on Achill Island is one of my favourite stops on the Wild Atlantic Way. A road trip, hiking adventure or cycling marathon are all things that might bring you to Achill Island, the largest of Ireland’s isles, off the West coast in County Mayo. You’ll want to stay for longer once you experience the Amethyst Bar in Keel.

Amethyst Bar in Keel

Keel East, Keel, Co. Mayo, F28 YV12, Ireland

Impressive gastropub menu, warm surroundings

It gets very very busy

Open mid-March to early October

VARIED MENU INC VEGAN
TABLES & HIGH-STOOLS
MID-PRICED

Atmosphere & Service

The cold wind coming off the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t care that it’s supposed to be Summer in Ireland. I bundled up in layers, best thing to pack for the West, and made my way early to the Amethyst Bar in Keel. You can book a table by calling the pub, but I’d not been able to get through, on the day. So I took a risk and didn’t build up my hopes. The bar was already busy and staff were whizzing past carrying hot plates aloft and creamy pints of stout. It can take a minute or two to be seen and get seated. I got the last high table at the end of the bar. A group of young friends, obviously out for the craic, took the last few seats at the bar and I was glad I’d arrived early.

The feeling you’ll get inside is elevated country pub. On the ground floor, it’s big and noisy but with the best kind of chatter, of people catching up and looking forward to what Amethyst calls their “good honest hearty food”.

The Amethyst Menu is built on solid crowd pleasers, with starters including smoked and bbq salmon. I saw the golden fried mushrooms whizz past me again and again so those are definitely popular. For main dishes, expect a hearty roast, duck, fish & chips, a Thai curry and fried chicken. Vegan options include a veggie samosa, beetroot burger and a meat-replacement spaghetti bolognese. Some decent options here.

It’s good to know that the Amethyst Bar has a Vegan Menu and a Kids Menu. Click here to see those.

Food & Drink

I ordered up a crisp pint of Carlsberg to enjoy while I perused the menu. Keep an eye out for daily specials – on the day, there was fresh plaice. However, I’m a sucker for a roast dinner and saw a turkey and ham platter at the next table that was calling my name.

This place is seriously busy and staff are running around helter-skelter to keep everyone fed and watered. Take your time and enjoy your pint as you may wait a bit for service. That said, my server was friendly and efficient and didn’t make me feel rushed.

My turkey arrived in thick slices and was not in any way as dry as that meat can be. The ham had enough integral fat to retain a chew and satisfying bounce. The sides, which were potato, carrot and cabbage, were electrically hot, coming directly from the hot plate to the table as soon as they were ready.

Gravy is the weakest link on the plate. It’s a good consistency but lacked the salty umami punch which might bring the meal fully to life. With little additional effort, this could turn a simple roast into a winning dish. Meanwhile, more plates were flying past and the friends at the bar had all ordered fish. It looked great and, going by their satisfied nods, they were pleased too.

My place setting, ready for food!
Turkey & Ham Roast
Eton Mess

Top Tip: the dessert menu has a lot of delicious options. I chose the Strawberry Fields Surprise, which was a kind of Eton Mess. I think way more time could have been spent on the aesthetics of this. Some of the other options, particularly the heavier items like Sticky Toffee Pudding looked a lot better.

The Amethyst – Famous Connections

Paul Henry, a noted Irish artist famous for painting the West of Ireland in a post-impressionist style, lived at what is now the Amethyst Bar in the early 20th century.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono visited the Amethyst when it was a hotel and restaurant in 1967, dining there. They went on to buy an island in Clew Bay, Ireland.

Overall Experience

Each time I visit a place as popular and crowded as the Amethyst Bar, I’m reminded that it serves me well to be patient. I was a server in a hotel many years ago and juggling everyone’s needs is not made easier by impatience. Saying that, I felt welcomed at the Amethyst, especially as a solo traveller, and I’ve not hesitated to return a few times now. I’ve found the meals to be consistently good and that counts highly in my book.

You’ll enjoy an excellent starter and main course here, but the desserts need a little refinement. My total bill came to €31.95 which is, frankly, a good deal for the amount and quality of food that I enjoyed.

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I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.

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