A new team has instilled fresh life into this attractive restaurant In the upper part of Westport town, since chef Shteryo Yurukov and front of house partner Eva Ivanova took on the ownership in 2013 - they are both from Bulgaria but have worked in the west of Ireland for over 12 years, most recently in the very successful An Port Mor.
Sage was formerly noted for its authentic Italian cooking and the present team continue to offer a few of the pasta dishes that were popular with regular diners, but - not surprisingly, given Shteryo’s experience in Irish kitchens - the focus is now on seafood and contemporary Irish cooking.
The familiar cream and light green décor in this comfortable restaurant is as pleasing as ever and, although the reception area has unfortunately not been retained, the open kitchen still allows customers to view a busy kitchen team at work.
The welcome is warm, and service both friendly and efficient - the specials board is explained when menus are presented (along with good home-made bread and water); it’s good to see local foods highlighted, with producers and suppliers credited on the menu - including fish from Achill, beef and lamb from leading Westport butcher Séamus Hawkshaw, salads from Joe Kelly's and Pat Grimes' Organic farm, and poultry from The Friendly Farmer at Athenry.
Starters like Clew Bay scallops, Silver Hill duck spring rolls and Killary mussels may be hard to choose from but whatever you decide on it should be a winner - an Achill smoked mackerel paté with salmon pastrami is a delicious option, for example, and so is a St Tola organic cheese parfait which is a particularly attractive and well-flavoured dish, served with slow roasted cherry tomato, red pepper mustard jam and basil gel.
Shteryo’s cooking is very good and main courses allow him to flex his culinary muscles in creative dishes which are quietly impressive. Blackboard specials will include extra fish dishes - oven-baked black sole on the bone, perhaps, and grilled seatrout garnished with seared queen scallops - in addition to other fish and seafood, such as Achill Island panfried hake in a white wine cream sauce; seafood linguine; and an interesting dish of West Coast monkfish with a pork belly, butter bean, chorizo, tomato and sage casserole.
If you’re not in the mood for fish there are other equally appealing choices though, such as The Friendly Farmer's flavoursome free-range chicken with a pancetta and mozzarella stuffing; Hawkshaw's duo of lamb (steak and cutlet); or that old favourite, ‘a good steak’ - in this case a 21-day dry-aged rib eye steak, with crispy onions and peppercorn cognac sauce which, at around €22.95, may well be the most expensive dish on this fairly priced menu.
Home-made desserts at around €6.50 are excellent (warm orange and vanilla baklava with vanilla ice cream; white chocolate and raspberry mousse with hazelnut cookie; chocolate and almond semi-freddo.) and there’s selection of Irish cheeses (€8.90) served, unusually, with red pepper mustard seed chutney and parmesan puff sticks - a nice savoury plate to share, perhaps.
A separate vegetarian menu is also available (5 main course options) and also have a Group Menu for larger parties up to 16-17 people at €30.
A well-chosen list of about two dozen wines is also fairly priced, mostly under the €30 mark.
With great service and excellent food served in a lovely ambience, dinner here should be very enjoyable - and good value for top class Irish produce too, probably working out at under €85 for two with wine. All of which should auger well for this pleasing restaurant.