At The Merchant Hotel, a commitment to exceptional local produce is at the heart of our kitchen, from locally sourced meats right down to a tiny grain of sea salt, harvested from the scenic shores of Achill Island.
What started with pots and buckets on the shores of County Mayo has developed into Achill Island Sea Salt, a thriving family business founded by the O’Malley family in 2013 to revive the island’s forgotten tradition of salt production. Our head chefs, John-Paul Leake and Saul O’Reilly, recently travelled the whole way to Achill to meet with the O'Malley family and discover first-hand their story of success.
Inspired by a documentary on the history of Irish sea salt production, dating back to the 1820s, this award winning business started in the family kitchen and has gone from strength to strength resulting in the move to their current pilot plant. The process of creating this salt is an intricate art which includes harvesting the water, boiling it and drying it at the optimum temperature of 40°C to form salt crystals that are natural, traditionally produced and 100% Irish.
The Merchant Hotel’s preference towards Achill Island Sea Salt is not purely on account of its local provenance– the quality of this salt is unique and among the best in the world. As a result of the unique combination of water conditions and the cleanliness of these Grade-A Atlantic waters, it is possible for Achill Island to produce a completely natural, snow white salt with a soft, flaky texture, without the use of preservatives or anti-caking agents.
What does this mean for The Merchant Hotel’s recipes? Every aspect of cooking requires salt to enhance flavour, and the use of a more naturally derived sea salt results in a finer quality of food. Achill Island Sea Salt also includes more than 60 naturally occurring trace elements including potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc, all of which are beneficial from a health and wellbeing perspective.
Achill Island Sea Salt is used throughout the hotel, from The Great Room kitchens to Berts Jazz Bar and The Cloth Ear.