This atmospheric restaurant has been one of the most consistently popular dining choices in the area since 1994 and, with proprietor/restaurant manager Maria O’Sullivan and chef Gary Fitzgerald heading up a dynamic team, it's set to stay that way.
It’s a landmark in the town - an attractive cut stone building built in 1832 and set well back from the road - and an open log fire, exposed stone walls, original wall panelling and a minstrels’ gallery (which provides an upper eating area) all give character to the interior.
And a contemporary art gallery on the first floor adds an extra dimension to a visit here; fine original artwork in the restaurant gives a hint of what may be for sale - while the menu cover may make you long for something that is not.
A la carte menus have quite an international tone but you’ll find plenty of local produce, especially among the starters – the House Salad, for instance, is an unusual dish with Sneem black pudding wontons, sliced potato, melon, shaved parmesan and maple dressing, and a tian of smoked salmon, shrimp and crab is made with freshwater shrimp and crab topped and tailed with Kenmare smoked salmon and served with cucumber carpaccio and an orange nut dressing.
There’s a little less emphasis on local seafood than might be expected - but that allows for a wider choice (including vegetarian dishes) and, among several fish dishes, an enduring speciality is a selection of seafood cooked ‘en papillotte’ with white wine, herb butter and julienne vegetables: when cut open at the table, the aromas released are delicious.
Other main courses include imaginatively updated traditional combinations – popular supreme of chicken, for example, may come with sage & onion stuffing, bacon and peperonata and parsley pesto.
Desserts tend to be tweaked classics (rhubarb tartlet topped with gingernut crumble, served with raspberry ice cream and vanilla custard, for example) and Munster cheeses are served with water biscuits & fig chutney.
Service, under Maria’s direction, is professional and relaxed; a user-friendly wine list is organised by style (‘light, crisp and appealing’, ‘soft bodied and fruity’...) and includes some interesting bottles.
And remember that it might be wise to budget a little extra for dinner here - you could be taking home a modern masterpiece; gallery open from 4pm.