Just across the road from An Grianan Theatre, Restaurant Sage is in a lovely big modern room that provides an ideal setting for relaxed modern fine dining. While it is very simply decorated - think local photographs of Donegal set against white walls - the lighting is excellent, the white linen-clad tables are nicely spaced and the background music is just right. All of which may sound quite straightforward, but it's rare enough to find it.
It's the brainchild of Donegal man and hospitality professional Garvan Gallagher, who travelled far and wide before settling back in Letterkenny to open the restaurant of his dreams in 2013. Here, together with Head Chef Martin Hernandez, who brings a Mexican twist to some popular dishes, Garvan Gallagher is focused on giving a real taste of Donegal to diners and almost everything on the menu is sourced within 30 miles of the restaurant. It is a real passion and they love to share it - so not only is there a supplier list giving credit to producers but, taking this a step further, they also go out with staff to visit their suppliers, who are then profiled on the website with links to their own sites.
Although also a trained chef, Garvan (who describes himself as a 'food fanatic') looks after front of house, so you may expect enthusiastic engagement if you have an interest in provenance, or rural llife, or any of the many other things that touch on our food stories.
You'll hear all about butchers Paddy Gildea and his son Lee, who farm just outside Letterkenny and have a butchers shop in the town; Gerard Noone who produces Noones Farm Chicken out on the beautiful Inishowen peninsula; John and Gareth Austin of Ballyholey Farm who supply the freshest of seasonal vegetables all year (and have a farm shop out on the Lifford road); the Wilhare family who supply fresh organic mussels from Mulroy Bay, just 15 minutes away - which is also the source of the scallops supplied by Gerry Gallagher at North West Shellfish; Declan, who smokes organic salmon in a seriously cute traditional cottage, The Haven Smoke House, at Carigart - and many more...
It's music to the ears of food lovers, and these superb ingredients are the building blocks for Martin's contemporary cooking, so you'll taste the county's best on the plate.
The pre-theatre menu offers a choice of five dishes on each course and is great value at around €30, especially as it includes many of the most popular dishes on the à la carte - a starter of Mulroy Bay Organic Mussels, for example (Steamed Mussels with Garlic and White Wine Sauce) and main courses including the ever-popular dry-aged steak; sourced from Gildea Butchers, sirlloin is offered on the early menu (with a small supplement applied) plus fillet as an option on the à la carte.
There's a good choice of chicken dishes (Mexican Chicken, perhaps, a Guajillo Chilli Marinated Donegal Chicken Fillet, with Lemon Rice and Spicy Tomato Sauce) while fish and seafood might include a Duo of Greencastle Fish (Pan Roasted Fish, Steamed Mussels from Mulroy Bay, Sautéed Greens from John Graham at Ballyholey and Donegal Rapeseed Fennel Sauce) and vegetarian dishes include a well made risotto.
To accompany your thoughtfully prepared meal, a shortish but well priced wine list offers something for everybody in the €20-34 price range, and a good choice by the glass.
You might finish with a tempting sweet like Sage Messy Meringue (Meringue with Fresh Cream, Berries and Berry Sauce) and a good coffee to see you home.
Letterkenny is blessed with a good range of quality restaurants and, with its particular focus on local ingredients the Mexican twists in the cooking, Sage enriches the town's offering for locals and visitors alike.