Located on the cornmarket in the heart of Wexford, and named after the Irish poet whose parents once lived here, the Thomas Moore Tavern claims to be Wexford's oldest pub and - although mainly a smart new build - parts of the building go back to the 13th century.
It is now owned and run by the local Wright family, who have recently totally revamped and extended the building to create a timelessly stylish and very comfortable refuge from the outside world, offering the choice of a casual bistro with a characterful and secluded cellar area (ideal for parties), or a more formal evening in the splendid rooftop Spires Restaurant.
Head chef Ryan Bell, formerly head chef at Shanahan’s on the Green, Dublin (famous for their steaks), clearly relishes the quality of produce that is available in Co Wexford and turns his hand with dexterity to dishes that combine rusticity and sophistication.
On arrival, friendly staff will greet you and seat you at sturdy, polished tables – simply dressed but with promising signs, including salt and pepper mills.
The Bistro menu (shortened at lunchtime) offers a well balanced choice of dishes that make good use of both local in-season foods and more exotic ingredients, working out at especially good value for lunch - and well-informed staff are only too happy to discuss the menu and advise on choices.
There are no course divisions between the savoury dishes but, although soup is the only obvious starter, half portions are available on request and many dishes are well suited to this - a luscious mussel Linguine with a curry foam, for example, fits the bill perfectly as either starter or main course.
To follow, Moroccan lamb in a flat bread with mint & coriander salad, avocado yoghurt dressing plus a beetroot and carrot slaw makes an interesting and well judged main course – attractively served in the style of a skewered club sandwich, the tender chunks of lamb still taste deliciously of themselves despite competition from other flavours.
This Bistro menu becomes more extensive in the evenings, offering a good range of lively modern dishes. Starters might typically include Potted local crab, apple-basil jelly with avocado, lemon mayonnaise & toast; and a Sweet basil risotto with a St Killian brie croquette, while main courses will probably include several seafood choices – and, of course, outstanding steaks (anyone for a 20oz T-Bone?). Unusually, there are no daily specials offered, but set price dinner and early bird menu are added in the evenings.
Desserts may include popular dishes such as warm chocolate brownies (served with a wicked Toblerone sauce and ice cream) and a butterscotch & honeycomb sundae – difficult to eat, perhaps, in its tall glass, but pretty more-ish nonetheless.
For relaxation before or after dining, a lively piano bar provides comfort and style with a pianist playing in the evenings.
At the top of the building, Spires Restaurant offers fine dining and the menu moves up several notches. In atmospheric surroundings (subtle lighting is used to great effect here, as it is throughout the building) the emphasis is on luxurious ingredients – Kilmore Quay scallops, lobster, Black Angus beef fillet … as well as the à la carte, an 8-course ''Taste of Spires Menu'' is offered (and reasonably priced too, at €48), also menus celebrating special events from time to time - an autumn menu with dishes inspired by the Opera Festival, for example, and of course seasonal occasions such as Christmas.
A fairly extensive wine list offers choices from around the world, some available by the glass.