Following on the success of their Strandhill seafood restaurant, Trá Bán, Anthony Gray and Cedric Roussilhe 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 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 Seamus Thompson’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 a very good lunchtime chargrilled sirloin steak sambo is the business: a moreish combination of aged sirloin steak and freshly baked ciabbata, it comes with mustard mayonnaise, sautéed onions and mushrooms, jumbo onion rings and hand cut fat chips – the steak lover’s dream combo.
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. While the cod is probably from Irish ports, some other fish is hardly likely to be local however – ‘fresh caught red snapper’, for example, must have had quite a journey before reaching Sligo.
But all menus offer plenty of choice, and good value too, with nothing over about €14 on the lunch menu and not even the most expensive choices on the evening à la carte – Mullaghmore lobster, and a 16oz T-bone ‘cowboy steak’ – topping €25; 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 Three Cheese Tart (brie, goats cheese and aged cheddar with caramelised red onion and spinach), served with lovely confit plum tomatoes and a beautifully dressed and presented salad of tossed rocket leaves and watercress.
In fact, good pastry cooking is a particular strength, showing up again in, for example, a mouthwatering dessert of homemade apple tarte fine; described as ‘Cedric’s apple pie’, it lives up to its promise of a tarte 'fine' with really fine pastry, just crisp around the edges, lovely apple and really good vanilla ice cream to accompany.
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, €185), almost everything else is well under €30, with French house wines just €19.95 (5.50 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.