In what has become the ‘restaurant quarter’ of Clontarf, this atmospheric two-storey restaurant includes Hemmingways, Picasso's and the Pigeon House among its neighbours and, with on-street parking outside and the menus written in white on the French doors at the front, it's an inviting place.
Entering through a little porch, you’ll find an appealingly relaxed space, with exposed beams seen against lovely high pale ceilings, reclaimed red brickwork, grey/green woodwork and plenty of wood – both in flooring, and tables of various sizes (some good for groups). Up the characterful stairway (bookshelves to the ceiling, pretty old-fashioned lace curtains), the first floor restaurant (available for private parties, including weddings) is similar, but with chesterfield sofas creating a slightly more chilled out ambience.
Although there is very little artwork, it’s a really attractive place and there’s a buzz about it with a mix of family groups, ladies who lunch, young mothers, and couples creating a good atmosphere.
For Chef-Owner Liam Moloughney, who opened here in 2009, it was always all about Irish produce. It's a philosophy shared with Head Chef John Fitzmaurice, a Euro-Toques Young Chef finalist in 2014 who came to Clontarf via Allo's in Listowel and The Mustard Seed in Ballingarry, both Euro-Toques strongholds famous for an absolute belief in supporting local producers and keeping it seasonal.
They change the menu at least every six weeks at Moloughneys, so any dishes mentioned here are just to give an indication of the style, but they always convey a sense of pride in the suppliers they work with, which include the terrific Vernon Stores, just up the road, and a host of others in the general area such as butchers McKenna's of Clontarf and O'Mahony Meats; and, for seafood,Wrights of Marino, Kish Fish and Dorans.
Foods that you won't find on every other restaurant menu include Comeragh Mountain Lamb, from Willie Drohan's West Waterford farm, which is a special treat in season (late summer into autumn), and game from Wild Irish Game in Wicklow and Ballinwillin Farm in East Cork that is a highlight in winter. And, unusually, not only are all meat, poultry, game and eggs Irish, but there is also a very welcome commitment to using only fish from Irish waters.
But, to the casual diner, it's all about deliciousness and value. A chilled display unit towards the back of the room is full of lovely homemade goodies, from quiches and tarts to fruit salad and an apple pie full of big juicy slices of apple that would be hard to resist. And then, at the very back, the wall is lined promisingly with shelves of wine...
The thought of breakfast here might be enough to divert you on your way to work – fat sausages, gorgeous rashers, portobello or flat mushroom, black pudding tomato and fried eggs, and pancakes, a vegetarian breakfast, fruits, juices, home baked breads and scones, and more.
Then, when it comes to lunch, there’s a tempting written menu – including a speciality choice of a fish plate or charcuterie & cheeseboard and hot dishes like collar of bacon with colcannon & parsley sauce, perhaps, and beef & Guinness pie. And then are specials that are worth dropping in for in their own right - pan fried whiting, for example, done very simply with rosemary roasted potatoes and rocket: delicious.
A special value two-course dinner is offered, also a very appealing à la carte - who could resist starters like potato & chestnut soup with watercress oil and pickled chestnuts, or Dingle Gin cured Goatsbridge Farm Trout? Or mains of free range Naul Tamworth belly and loin of pork with cabbage crisps and rainbow carrots, or wild Irish pheasant breast with duck fat roasties...?
Upbeat classic desserts such as chocolate tart with raspberries & vanilla ice cream would be hard to pass on, or there’s an excellent Irish cheeseboard to finish – offered with an optional dessert wine or port.
Kind, attentive staff work quickly and efficiently, and children are not only welcome but have proper daytime and evening menus. A comprehensive drinks list includes cocktails, aperitifs and digestifs, spirits and interesting beers (craft on draught) and soft drinks as well as an informative and kindly priced wine list.
This is a fun and relaxed place to be, great for coffee, breakfast, lunch or a serious dinner. It's a restaurant working really hard to please a discerning market at the right price, and their loyal customers clearly appreciate it.