In the week leading up to Irish Country Living’s visit to chef Robbie McCauley and wife Sophie’s new Co Clare restaurant, Homestead Cottage, the air was crisp, the morning frosts were stunning and the skies were blue. I had visions of Robbie (a keen hunter) in his gear amidst a perfectly frost-laden Burren landscape; he and Sophie’s sweet daughters, Louise (3) and five-month-old Iris bundled up in scarves and mittens.

Instead of frost and sunshine, however, we got front-row tickets to a Wild Atlantic Way winter special: harsh wind and rain – with limited visibility.

As I brace myself against the wind and make my way into the 200-year-old restored stone cottage, I am regretting my choice of outfit (wellies and waterproofs would have been more practical). But when I enter, I immediately feel cosy; like I’ve stepped into a family gathering.

Robbie is untangling fairy lights (a very relatable — and infuriating — task at this time of year), while Sophie sits with baby Iris alongside a tray of coffee and mugs. Little Louise is tromping around the rustic dining room’s original Luogh flagstone floor; helping her mammy with the coffee and her daddy with the lights. Outside may be wild, but inside it is warm.

The interior of Homestead Cottage.

Homestead Cottage

Robbie, former head chef at Gregans Castle in nearby Ballyvaughan, and Sophie opened their restaurant (located just outside the village of Doolin) earlier this year to immediate acclaim. Many suspect this small — but very special — restaurant will be awarded a Michelin Star in 2024.

When you read other reviews on the restaurant, terms like “grounded” and “no unnecessary frills” keep popping up. Meeting Robbie and Sophie, it is immediately apparent why. This couple is passionate about providing high-end service and celebrating seasonality, but they are not interested in buzz words or bandwagons. They use locally-sourced and homegrown ingredients because these things are part of their everyday lives.

“We’ve been growing our own food for the last four or five years and we’ve always produced more than we can eat,” Robbie says. “With our menu, we’ve been trying to show the full circle of what’s out there. The important thing is we’re able to stand over everything we have on our menus — the provenance of the ingredients.

“We’re lucky — we’re doing this out in the country and we have a great relationship with our suppliers. That, for me, makes it special — the actual relationship, not the one spoken about on Instagram.”

Clare roots

Robbie grew up in Edinburgh, while Sophie is originally from the Burgundy region of France. Both have spent their professional lives working in food and hospitality, and this led them to Ireland separately in the early 2010s, where they first met. Robbie has always felt a familial connection to Co Clare, in particular.

“I grew up in the city and was there until I was 17, then I moved to London for four years [for my culinary training], but my mom is from just outside Ennis,” he says. “My uncle has a farm and he was in dairy up until 1998. We’d come over for visits and although we were definitely not from the country, this was something I‘d always enjoyed.

“After London, I went home to Edinburgh in 2013 and thought I’d like to move out to the country. There was always a bit of a draw to Ireland. I moved to [Gregans Castle], where I worked on and off for nine years.”

The exterior of the cottage.

Coming together

Between the cottage becoming available earlier this year and Robbie and Sophie deciding to take it on as their new venue, they had just four weeks to get it up-and-running before opening in June. This would be a difficult task under normal circumstances, but to add to the urgency, Sophie was expecting baby Iris at this time.

After she was born, it became a common sight to see Sophie working front of house with Iris attached to her in a sling. This upscale but family-focused approach to service tied into the overall ambiance of the restaurant. Robbie says their more relaxed approach to fine dining has been well received, especially among Irish diners.

“With this restaurant, we have had no [financial] backers, this was all us, and we had to move quickly to get this place open,” Robbie says. “Our families aren’t close by, so trying to get childcare will always be an issue [in such a remote location while working restaurant hours].

“I always said I wanted to open a place in an old fishing cottage,” he adds, smiling. “And while this isn’t a fishing cottage, it is an old, traditional stone cottage — you won’t find it anywhere else.”

Robbie mainly hunts pheasant, snipe, venison and woodcock.


Robbie has always had an interest in hunting. He mainly hunts pheasant, snipe, venison and woodcock with his dogs, Olive and Jess. He enjoys cooking with wild game, not just for flavour, but because he believes game, alongside farmed ingredients, are important elements in a sustainable food system.

“It’s always something I’ve had an interest in and when I moved here, I got into trap and rough shooting,” he says. “I’ve always loved game. In England, I learned the traditions of trussed and roasted birds served with bread sauce; parfaits on toast — it’s amazing stuff.

“A lot of shooting here is rough shooting which you don’t get a lot of in the UK. You’re always going to have people against [hunting], but I think if people don’t experience it, they don’t always understand it. In the Burren, woodcock numbers are among the highest they’ve ever been and hunters also do a lot of work in habitat maintenance and restoration.”

In addition to the wild game on Robbie’s menus, he also works with a butcher in Kilrush, who processes all of his locally sourced beef and lamb.

Homestead Cottage’s menu changes constantly depending on what is in season and available. Unsurprisingly, recent weeks have seen plenty of wild game, with dishes like Irish game galantine, partridge, bacon and foie gras pithivier and East Clare Fallow Deer cooked over birch. At other times of year, the menu features fresh, local seafood.

Robbie has always had an interest in hunting. He mainly hunts pheasant, snipe, venison and woodcock with his dogs, Olive and Jess.

“We can literally see where the boat fishes for the crab and lobster we use,” Robbie says as we look out the ocean-facing window in his kitchen. “People have said we must have the nicest kitchen views here; you do catch some beautiful sunsets.”

For dinner service, they offer a seven-course tasting menu for €80 (wine not included). They also offer a lunch menu from Thursday to Saturday, while on Sundays they open for an epic Sunday lunch, which is available from 1-7pm. Booking is essential for dinner, and recommended for lunch. The restaurant is closed from Monday to Wednesday, but will remain in operation right up until Christmas Eve, before the family of four retire for a well-deserved holiday.

“We’ll be going to Scotland for Christmas,” Robbie says, eyes twinkling.

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