It was a happy day for Ennis when Dermot and Noreen Fetton decided to take over this famous premises within the Ennis Friary cloistral buildings - a national monument that dates back 13th century, it’s a unique setting for a restaurant.
Dermot and Noreen are well known in hospitality circles, notably having worked together recently at Dromoland Castle (where Dermot was chief sommelier) and also at Castlemartyr Resort in Cork when it was re-opened as part of The Dromoland Collection - and, as anyone lucky enough to experience their hospitality at The Cloister will find out, their values are traditional, with customer service and all round excellence their key aims.
It’s a fantastic premises on two levels and, although a protected property with many attendant restrictions, the interior was extensively refurbished by the previous occupants at a time when bling was in. It was all pretty superficial though, and the Fettons have succeeded in ‘adjusting’ the décor to complement the setting - and the quality of their own operation.
Together with their Head Chef - well known Clare man Paddy ‘Chowder Champion’ Collins, who values the quality ingredients of the locality and is not afraid of simplicity - this warmly hospitable couple have created a welcoming and relaxing destination where good food can be enjoyed in an atmospheric setting.
It’s a great place to drop into at any time of day as the bar menu offers a carefully tuned range of snacks and light dishes - the famous seafood chowder, of course, plus salads and gourmet sandwiches, risottos and pasta dishes, classics like fish & chips and scampi with home fries - along with blackboard specials (deliciously homely bacon & cabbage perhaps) and proper ‘dinner dishes’ like slow roast Burren lamb shank, rib-eye steak with crispy onion rings and honey roast duckling, and desserts that include the gorgeous Linalla ice cream from the flaggy shore at New Quay.
When The Cloister Restaurant is open at weekends there’s a real sense of occasion in both the setting and the menu - which may include unusual items such as refined game pie (a richly flavoured combination of furred and feathered game in season, toped with crisp puff pastry) and some more sophisticated versions of some of the bar main courses along with a wider choice.
There’s a welcome down to earth tone throughout, with locality and seasonality leading the menu - and, given Dermot’s special interest in wine, the well chosen and informative list will come as no surprise; while compact, it offers plenty of interesting choices, with many in the €20-€35 range, also a judicious selection of treat bottle and a quartet of half bottles.
Warm, welcoming and efficient service is a key priority here too - no wonder The Cloister has established itself as one of the region’s favourite dining destinations.