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WHAT’S the best thing about Larne? The road out of it! Amirite? Amirite?
If you want an easy laugh, the Co Antrim town has long provided a punchline. (Or two. I would also have accepted “the boat out of it”.) The reputation even prompted a BBC True North documentary, I Love Larne, which only managed to expand the available material thanks to it being pretty bonkers.
Despite the fact this part of the world can boast a myriad of places that are all basically the same as my hometown, it’s always Larne that gets a slap.
Now, I’m not so full of civic pride that I still live there and anyway, being married to someone from Derry means any lacking wistful notions about where I grew up will be more than compensated by my other half.
Whatever about tired jokes and easy targets, as it happens, the road out of Larne is about the most spectacular piece of infrastructure on Earth – winding along the coast hugging the mighty Glens of Antrim. The roads out the other side of the town are building a bit of a reputation too – for finding something good to eat.
Billy Andy’s, on the scenic route to Ballynure, has established itself as a Michelin-recognised destination for quality pub food. The next road over, a mile away as the crow flies, is the village of Gleno and The Diary which, while not possessing Billy Andy’s ambitions, is making a name for itself as somewhere doing something well worth seeking out.
Built on the site of a co-operative creamery founded over a century ago – bits and pieces from which are part of the decor around the building – it’s a cafe, butcher’s and farm shop, in a handsome, whitewashed stone building in as bucolic a setting as you could wish for.
Inside it’s part hipster-steampunk, part country farmhouse.
Bare wood furniture, ironwork, exposed brick and beams, filament lightbulbs and a long banquette reaching away from the artisan-leaning grocery and enticing butcher’s counter, with meat from owner Sandra and husband Robert McDowell’s farm.
The menu isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but everywhere you look there’s something you want to eat. Burgers, a gammon steak, fish and chips, sausages and mash. Chicken wings, mushrooms on toast, tray bakes as far as the eye can see.
We’re too late for breakfast but the breakfast stack – bacon, fried egg, hollandaise and spelt and black pudding potato bread from Ann’s Pantry, the home bakery that’s a legitimate, correct answer to the question at the top of this page – looks like reason enough to rock up early.
A special of daube of beef is a nitpick short of complete fall-apart territory but it’s deeply meaty and the mustard mash, roasted cauliflower, parsnip puree, carrot and burnt onion gravy more than make up for it.
The steak sandwich, really a generous sirloin sitting on top of a garlic-soaked sourdough with immaculate chips, is another exercise in getting just what people want right.
There’s a dizzying selection of desserts, all for £4.95, and all looking the business. The chocolate peanut butter stack was rich – and rich and rich, but that was the point. A crisp, chewy waffle came doused in toffee sauce and mini-marshmallows and scoops from their selection of Maud’s ice cream, which used to call Gleno home.
Maud’s Poor Bear honeycomb has always been the standard bearer against any competition, and it didn’t disappoint here.
It would have been, as my mum used to say, the height of ignorance – especially in somewhere so friendly – not to take home a traybake as well and – shock, horror – the caramel and raspberry ruffle squares were faultless. And just £1.10 each.
That friendliness, and the setting, and the quality of the food, in The Diary combine to leave a quiet satisfaction. Nothing fancy, just everything good.
And if you have to take the road out of (or maybe even into) Larne to find that, you’ll be pleased you did.
Steak sandwich £11.95
Daube of beef £12.95
Waffle and ice cream £4.95
Chocolate peanut butter stack £4.95
Caramel square £1.10
Raspberry ruffle square £1.10
Raspberry lemonade £2.15
Coffee x2 £3.60
Source: Thanks http://www.irishnews.com/lifestyle/2019/12/21/news/eating-out-the-road-out-of-larne-leads-to-the-dairy-so-the-old-gag-is-ok-1795654/