Easy to spot with its smart bright blue canopies and standard bay trees flanking plate glass doors, David Rouse’s inviting modern restaurant is set in the historic covered Work House Square of MacDonagh Junction shopping complex and has plenty of outside tables where you can sit and enjoy the buzz. It has introduced a new level of daytime dining to the area and both shoppers and local business people clearly appreciate the quality offered.
The restaurant itself is impressive. A spacious, stylishly fitted out room with a classy lightwood floor, contrasting darkwood tables and comfortable seating, it has some lovely local art for sale on the pale walls. The large space is cleverly broken up by columns and shelving units, with high stools set welcomingly at a large modern bar (complete with gleaming coffee machine and wine displays) and red table lamps providing occasional pops of colour around the room.
The Courtyard Bar and Grill is a very relaxed, family-friendly place, and menus reflect the needs of daytime diners, offering a range of ‘Light Bites’ (soups with house baked brown bread, warm goat’s cheese crostini with dressed salad leaves; about €4.50-€7.50), open sandwiches (€5.95); hot dishes are ‘From the Chargrill’ (burgers, salmon, chicken breast, steaks; about €10.95-€17.95) and ‘From the Hot Kitchen’ (half a dozen more varied dishes, perhaps including several fish dishes and spicy choices such as a chicken curry with jasmine rice; about €9.95-€11.95).
You might begin with an excellent leek and cheddar tart, or a steaming bowl of mussels, followed by a perfectly cooked sirloin steak with mouth watering Courtyard fries, or grilled seabass with jasmine rice. To finish, aromatic Illy coffees could make a good match for a seriously delicious chocolate brownie.
A note on the menu states that all meat and fish are Irish, vegetables come from Kilkenny suppiers Farrell Foods and – a nice touch – that the flour used in the in-house baking is from the local Kells Flour Mill. Combining quality and value for money are the aim and cooking is very good, so it’s no wonder that it can be hard to get a lunchtime table at this pleasing restaurant.
In the evening there’s an early dinner, along with a ‘Tapas menu’ offering variations on some of the daytime dishes plus a number of extra small dishes (nibbles), salads and – an especially good idea for the after work crowd, to pair with well-priced wines - sharing platters of both meats and cheeses, priced by item.
Wine service is very good, and although the wine list is small it has nice tasting notes and offers house wines at a very reasonable price (about €18, 3 red and 3 white; glass, €5); six other red and white wines cover the main grape varieties.
Working within the shopping centre hours is perhaps a limiting factor at night time, but this restaurant has the potential to be a classy evening venue and, while the menu may seem a little safe, the ‘Tapas menu’ is attractive.