My first introduction to Athlone in County Westmeath was as a child travelling by car from Dublin to Galway on a family holiday. This was before the town bypass was built and I remember being stuck for over an hour in traffic, trying to make our way over the bridge that crossed the River Shannon. Later on as a 17 year-old sitting the Leaving Certificate, Athlone held a certain significance as it was the location from where the Department of Education posted results to students who had sat the exams. Little did I think that I would eventually end up living in the town before getting married and moving to neighbouring Roscommon.
Two menus are offered; an À La Carte and also a Value Menu which offers 2 courses for €24.95 or 3 courses for €29.95. In truth both are practically the same with a couple of extra choice for starters and mains on the À La Carte. The menus contain a nice selection of interesting dishes, many of which are coeliac adaptable.
Simon, my dining companion for the evening, decided to go for the Value Menu and was delighted with his Crispy Slow-Cooked Horan’s Pork Cheek, Pickled Apple Purée, Lough Boora Kohlrabi Remoulade & Hazelnut starter. Beautifully presented, the pork cheek had been used to make a croquette that was wonderfully crispy on the outside. The meat inside was soft and moist. The accompanying apple purée and the kohlrabi remoulade complimented it perfectly. The addition of toasted hazelnuts added another layer of flavour and texture whilst some matchsticks of fresh apple cut through the overall richness of the dish.
My starter, ordered from the À La Carte menu, was equally delicious. Although initially tempted by the Pan-fried Mackerel, Quince, Yoghurt, Celery, Toasted Sunflower seeds (€8.95), I instead decided on the Pan-Roasted Breast of Wild Irish Wood Pigeon, Red Cabbage, Parsnip and Pickled Plum (€9.90). From the moment it arrived, I knew that I had made a good choice. John Coffey has a real eye for presentation and this was a real painting on a plate. The wood pigeon was beautifully cooked, well-rested and consequently beautifully tender to eat. I loved the slight crunch and gentle astringency of the red cabbage garnish whilst the pickled plum purée was an inspired pairing. I loved every mouthful.
|Shin of Beef|
My Irish Rose Veal Loin, Smoked Gubbeen Cheese Sauce, Spatzle with Pigs on the Green Pancetta, Cauliflower, Grilled Tomato, Veal Vinaigrette was complex and full of rich autumnal flavours. I was thrilled to see that spatzle – a type of German pasta or tiny dumpling had been included. Here the spatzle took on the flavour of the pancetta it had been cooked with and together they worked to intensify the sweet flavour of the veal. For me, the cauliflower, although delicious, was unnecessary. I thought that this was an unusual, innovative dish, albeit quite sizeable and I enjoyed it tremendously.
To finish we decided to share a Vanilla Panna Cotta, Poached Pears, Stem Ginger Ice-Cream, Crispy Ginger Biscuits. If this was the last thing that I ever ate, I would die a happy woman. It was superb. Every element had been executed perfectly so that each retained its character yet worked so well with the others. I loved the toasted marshmallow which decorated the plate and the combination of poached pears with the stem ginger ice-cream was heavenly. What a way to finish a meal!
A glass of house red and a large bottle of sparkling water brought the bill for our meal to just under €75 which included a tip.
|Vanilla Panna Cotta|