‘Delicious food at affordable prices’ is the stated aim at this cosy little restaurant in the centre of Athlone – and, as many people of all ages would cite Thyme as their favourite place to eat in the town, this is clearly something they are achieving very well.
Space is limited and the wooden tables and upholstered chairs are quite tightly packed, but screens at head height provide privacy and neutral décor makes for a surprisingly uncrowded feeling.
Today, Thyme's food philosophy is light years away from the early days, when the Guide noted 'very little mention of suppliers'. Owner-chef John Coffey's menus are now a model of customer information, and diners are left in no doubt that this is a chef who sources every ingredient with the greatest of care and ensures that everything travels as short a distance as possible.
You may see influences from world cuisines in his menus - a kindly priced two or three-course early dinner and a wide-ranging Sunday lunch as well as the à la carte - but, with ingredients name-checked on dishes and a detailed list of suppliers provided, it's clear where John's heart lies.
Many of the key ingredients are from around Athlone and most of the others from the general midlands area: bacon, eggs and butter and some of the vegetables and chicken come from Athlone suppliers (Paul Lawlor, Paddy Halligan and Seamus Fagan, respectively); additional supplies of vegetables and chicken - from Beechlawn Organic Farm, Ballinasloe, and 'The Friendlly Farmer' (Ronan Byrne) of Athenry - don't have too far to travel.
There is free range Tamworth pork from Fergus Dunne of Tullamore, and Irish Food Writers' Guild Award winning Castlemine Farm in Co Roscommon also supplies pork, black pudding, lamb and all of the beef except sirloin, which comes from Brendan Coyle of Bellurgan Meats, Dundalk. The fish - "all Irish, sustainable and fresh" - is landed at Kilmore Quay and the main supplier is Atlantis Seafood, Wexford.
Menus change seasonally so favourite dishes may not always be available, but examples showcasing some of this wonderful produce include a starter confit of Fergus Dunne's free range Tamworth pork, deliciously accompanied by celeriac remoulade, plum chutney & toasted hazelnuts; also a main course of slow-cooked shoulder of Castlemine Farm lamb served with pipérade and an Ardsallagh goats cheese won ton, illustrating how eclectic influences combine beautifully with local produce.
Fish dishes are particularly interesting, with lesser-used species such as blossom and (the once familiar) ling featuring in both traditional and international flavour combinations; Panfried fillet of Kilmore Quay blossom, with peas, leek, smoked bacon and crème fraiche is a typical example from a Sunday lunch menu.
Desserts include variations on old favourites, but there are some nice surprises too - such as a delicious Lime curd and meringue ice cream with lime jelly and chocolate hazelnut tuile...
A short, reasonably priced wine list includes a couple of half bottles and the four house wines are available by the glass. All menus offer good value for the delicious local foods served, and the early dinner is a snip.
All age groups feel at home here and it’s child friendly, with half portions offered from the main menu, where coeliac adaptable dishes are highlighted too. Very popular locally, this is a busy restaurant and booking is recommended, especially at weekends or in high season.