Now located on Church Street in the centre of the busy midlands town of Athlone, the reincarnated Fatted Calf is styled more as a formal restaurant rather than, as it was previously, a gastropub. The restaurant is light and spacious with a modern, contemporary feel which is welcoming even if it lacks the cosiness of a pub setting. As seems to be the fashion these days, there is an open kitchen where you can see your food being prepared and cooked.
I was dining with two old friends, so between us we were able to order a good cross-section of the food on offer. As we examined the menu and contemplated which dishes to choose we nibbled on the very tasty selection of breads that had been delivered to the table. The sourdough was wonderfully aerated with an open texture and was pleasantly chewy to eat whilst the soda bread was dark and damp and tasted heavenly when liberally spread with butter. Last but not least was a curry-flavoured bread which I absolutely loved and was something a little different. A flavoursome tapenade was served alongside the butter to accompany the breads and went particularly well with the sourdough.
|Marrow Bones, Black Pudding|
The Dublin Bay Prawn Wontons with Sweet Chilli and Ginger Jam which M chose were presented attractively piled up on top of each other along with some mixed salad leaves in a bowl. The wontons had been perfectly deep fried, without a hint of greasiness, to a very tempting light golden brown colour. The soft and sweet prawn filling was wonderful contrasted against the crispy exterior of the wontons and tasted delicious eaten with the simply dressed salad leaves. I particularly liked the Asian-inspired salad dressing which was sweet and exotically fragrant with just the right amount of chilli heat.
For her starter, C chose the Heir Island Scallops with Pulled Pork from the specials menu. Here two fantastically plump pan-fried scallops were served with a carrot puree and meltingly soft pulled pork. More unusually the dish also included warm, balsamic vinegar-macerated strawberries. Now in the interests of full-disclosure I should declare that I’m not really sure whether I’m a fan of macerated strawberries which I have eaten paired with meat in a couple of restaurants recently as I find their texture a little disconcerting. However, here they worked, mainly because they were served slightly warm and had been liberally seasoned with black pepper which cut through their acidity, giving them a savoury edge and served to accentuate the meatiness of the pulled pork. This was an unusual dish but we liked it.
|Butter Roasted Chicken|
The Pan-Fried Fillet of Cod, Honey Mustard Parmentier Potatoes & Prawn and Chive Butter which M chose was another outstanding dish, where all the elements and flavours worked seamlessly together. The generous portion of cod was faultlessly cooked with a wonderfully crisp skin and soft, milky white flesh which came away in beautiful large flakes. The prawn and chive butter was a clever addition because it added another flavour dimension without engulfing or detracting from the flavour of the cod.
Main courses come with a choice of sides and the Summer Greens, and Baby New Potatoes we ordered were lovely but in many ways unnecessary as the main course dishes were generous and complete in themselves.
The cheeseboard comprised a quartet of Irish cheeses including Bellingham Blue, Cooleeney, Milleens and Mossfield Organic and was accompanied by a good selection of crackers, fresh fruit and a lovely fig chutney. At €9.50, I thought it was great value for something that would have easily fed the three of us even without the desserts that two of us had also chosen.
|Chocolate & Peanut Butter Tart|
Our meal cost €179 for three courses for each of us which included a large bottle of sparkling water and a very enjoyable organic Malbec reserve which was full of deep plum and blackberry fruit flavours. We also had teas and coffee.
The Fatted Calf