Feargal O’Donnell - a prominent Euro-Toques chef - and his wife, Fiona, built up a great following when they ran The Fatted Calf in the pretty village of Glasson. In 2015 they moved to nearby Athlone and, while it is a very different place from the atmospheric gastro-pub that they had become associated with, their chic restaurant soon became one of the most popular dining destinations in the town.
Despite its situation in the centre of a busy town, the view is rather nice and tranquil, with old stone walls and mature trees surrounding the premises. Pleasant surroundings, a relaxed style and food that offers a timely combination of fairly priced menus and cooking with finesse, has earned the new venture well deserved early success.
Well known for his commitment to seasonal and local foods, Feargal’s enticing, frequently changed, menus promise innovative modern Irish food, with suppliers including John Stone meats, McGeough's of Oughterard (famed for their cured meats), Jane Russell sausages, Marty's Killary Harbour mussels, Solaris Organic Teas and Bell's Coffee (Mullingar) credited on the suppliers list. Many other excellent products and producers are mentioned in dishes too - turkey from The Friendly Farmer in Athenry, Horan's smoked bacon and Lough Boora organic leaves for example, and a selection of Irish cheeses such as the Mossfleld organic cheeses from Birr, Co Offaly, Bellingham Blue from Co Louth, and Cooleeney from Tipperary.
Also reflecting Feargal's passion for the best, the wine list offers a diverse collection of carefully selected bottles, with 10 available by the glass; the drinks list also includes a great choice of Irish craft beers and Longueville House Irish cider alongside the 'old reliables', all of which adds greatly to the dining experience.
While offering variations of some popular dishes, menus spell out quality in every detail. Midland meats are a speciality and it would be hard to resist the 30 day dry aged sirloin steak from John Stone; served with tarragon butter, hand cut chips and wild rocket, in season, it's a snip on the lunch menu and a more sophisticated evening version is also offered - and there's even a Fatted Calf Beef Club. But other meats also get a good run for their money, and there are always some interesting fish and vegetable dishes - you certainly don't need to be vegetarian to fall for the appealing meat-free dishes offered here.
Lovers of the famous Fatted Calf crème brulée will be glad to know that it has travelled well to its new home - and you will also find the excellent Boulaban ice cream, from Co Tipperary, on the very tempting dessert menu.
Excellent, stylish cooking is matched by friendly and efficient service - and, along with good food and a relaxed ambience, this attractive restaurant offers good value too, notably on the lunch and Midweek Supper menus.