Something wonderful happens to the picturesque fishing village of Howth during the winter months: it becomes quiet.
The summer tourists and the day trippers have all gone away. There are no queues outside the cafes or the shops, or at the ATM machine. The noisy, never-ending line of traffic clogging the road into, through, and out of Howth has disappeared.
All that’s left is a fishing village, sleepy and tranquil. There’s no better time of the year to take a stroll around the harbour, and out along the pier.
It’s colder, of course. The sea breeze coming up over the harbour wall is a little fresher, more blustery. But there’s a good cure for that: a steaming, hearty portion of seafood chowder.
You’d be doing well to get a more delicious bowl of chowder in Dublin than what Tram Chowder has to offer. And at six quid, you’d hardly get one cheaper.
The Tram Chowder stall is located in Howth Market, directly opposite the west pier of Howth Harbour, where trawlers bring in fresh fish each day.
The chowder is made up of mixed white fish – whatever is freshest that morning – salmon, carrots, parsnips and leeks. And a special flavour from Brazil, which owner Edmar Barbosa won’t divulge.
Barbosa has lived in Howth for 11 years, ever since he moved to Ireland from Brazil. He started out working in kitchen of the Oar House, the owner of which set up Tram Chowder eight years ago and asked Barbosa to run it for him.
Up until last year, Tram Chowder was run out of an actual tram just by the West Pier, but its licence was discontinued.
So Tram Chowder relocated to Howth Market, and Barbosa bought the majority of the business, becoming its owner.
He says it was busier down the pier, and that a lot of people didn’t know they’d moved – just thought they’d closed up.
I’d thought that too, and it was a pleasant surprise when, ambling through Howth Market a couple of months back, I smelled that rich creamy, unmistakable smell and looked up and saw the stall.
As well as chowder, the small menu boasts prawns, calamari, and the classic fish and chips.
The fish is either haddock or cod – again, depending on what’s freshest that day. Lightly breaded, it’s a healthier option than the usual grease-saturated fish and chips, but still very tasty.
The calamari, coated in a delicate batter, cooked to perfection (not chewy), is delicious.
But after a good stroll around the harbour on a crisp winter’s day, a portion of steaming chowder is your only dish.
Tram Chowder is open Friday to Sunday 10.00am to 6.00pm in Howth Market.