Following on the success of the Strandhill seafood restaurant, Trá Bán, Anthony Gray opened this town centre fine dining restaurant in December 2011. Like its older sister, Eala Bhàn (‘White Swan’) soon established an enviable reputation with local diners; this has stood the test of time and Eala Bhàn is a favoured destination for any special meal out, so weekend tables need to be booked well in advance.
Located in an attractive riverside premises that has been home to several restaurants, including one of Conrad Gallagher’s brief Sligo ventures, the interior is cleverly divided by curved wrought iron railings and its focal point - two floor to ceiling curtain ‘walls' of double thickness cream voile with fairy lights are hung between the layers - is reminiscent of the eponymous swan.
Block mounted photographs inspired by nature decorate the walls, and tables – which include two especially desirable window tables looking out on the river - are smartly set up bistro style.
Well trained staff create a good impression from the outset and Head Chef Michal Chruszcz's menus – which include a very nice early dinner menu and a proper children’s menu (not for tinies, although some dishes could be adjusted) – make promising reading, with many dishes offering upbeat versions of restaurant favourites.
Steak and seafood are the stated specialities, and they offer a very good lunchtime menu with favourites such as the elegant tower of Kellys of Newport Black and white pudding Lasagne made with fresh light pasta sheets and drizzled with a creamy shallot sauce. Eala Bhan utilises all fresh local organic produce and this shines through in their local beetroot carpaccio with goats cheese fritters and dressed organic baby leaf salad with candied almonds .
The trademark fat chips also feature in fish’n’chips and the house style - tempura battered fresh Atlantic cod with garden pea purée - is lighter and more colourful than the traditional version. Another firm favourite is John Flynns Lemon Sole Paupiette, which comprises of sole wrapped in Parma Ham and stuffed with soft spinach and prawns, served on a bed of fresh asparagus risotto & champagne cream sauce.
But all menus offer plenty of choice, and good value too, with nothing over about €11 on the lunch menu and not even the most expensive choices on the evening à la carte – Mullaghmore lobster, and a 10oz Sherlocks of Tubbercurry fillet steak on a bed of softened shallot mash topped with red onion marmalade & bacon crisp – comes in well priced at €24.95; and, although a side or two may also be needed, à la carte dishes come with all the trimmings.
Vegetarians are well looked after as well, although you don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy a delicious dish like their perfectly cooked Baked Balini - light fluffy Balini with pan fried wild mushrooms tossed in garlic butter topped with confit tomato & parsnip.
In fact, good pastry cooking is a particular strength, showing up again in, for example, a mouthwatering dessert of homemade glazed lemon tart with fresh fruits & cool raspberry sorbet or the very interesting trio of shots which combines cappucino mousse, a filled mini ice cream cone, mixed berry fool & fresh smoothie.
Coffee is excellent too, and efficient service is provided by pleasant and well informed staff.
While not over-extensive, the wine list is carefully selected and, like everything else at this pleasing restaurant, well priced; although special celebrations are allowed for (Dom Perignon, €200), almost everything else is well under €30, with French house wines just €22.95 (5.95 per glass).
Offering delicious food, pleasing surroundings, great staff and real value for money, it’s not hard to see why this restaurant is so successful.