Formerly a listed residential property, this attractive and well presented restaurant in the heart of the Orchard County is now owned by John and Lisa McNally, who have transformed it into a thriving all-day business, serving a range of menus from breakfast, through to à la carte evening menus.
They are members of A Taste of Ulster and, with farm, butchery and bakery connections all within the family, have a strong commitment to local producers - hence their reputation for high quality food, sourced wherever possible from an ever growing network of local independent suppliers.
It’s a big, bustling place with seating divided between a first floor restaurant and two dining rooms downstairs, where there’s also a comfortable reception and bar area. Although the building retains key period features including sash windows and lovely doors, the interior style is fairly modern and the bare darkwood tables are set simply with paper napkins, cutlery and glasses – just as you would expect of a very busy restaurant.
The daily carvery lunch offering generous helpings of succulent roasted joints and traditional accompaniments is a big hit with local patrons, but those who prefer a different style – and perhaps smaller portions – are, considering the huge popularity of the carvery, surprisingly well catered for in a ‘light bites’ menu featuring a choice of dishes including fish, poultry and a vegetarian pasta as well as soups, sandwiches, and salads.
In the evening the tone is more adventurous, when the wine bar and à la carte offer an interesting range of venison, lamb, pork, beef and chicken dishes complemented by a fairly extensive drinks list.
Menus are sprinkled with local references – Kilkeel prawn cocktail, Co Antrim chicken liver paté, Co Down venison, Armagh pork – and everything is tasty, colourful, well cooked and presented with flair, with most of the herbs and salad leaves ‘plot to plate’, ie grown on the family farm.
A New England style seafood chowder is a good example of a dish that would serve as a light meal - nice and creamy and well flavoured, with lots of chunky fish pieces, potatoes and vegetables, it’s served with lovely home baked crusty bread - or a warming starter for the hungrier diner, perhaps paving the way for a delicious dish of slow roasted County Fermanagh pork belly, presented with cabbage and bacon and homemade Bramley apple sauce, or a tender medallion of Co Down venison served with root vegetable mash and a Madeira and thyme jus.
You could finish with a classic dessert, such as pavlova or chocolate profiteroles, or perhaps try one of the homemade ice creams. And the trio smartly presented on a slate may include some surprises – anyone for parsnip ice cream? (Give it a try if you get the chance, it’s actually very successful.)
Service tends to be brisk - a reflection of how busy this popular restaurant is - so don’t expect a quiet relaxing ambience, rather a busy, buzzy scene with lots of things going on. Booking is strongly recommended, especially at weekends.