This family-run restaurant in the heart of Laragh has been welcoming diners for over 40 years; currently in the capable hands of Betty and John Kenny who run it with the help of their friendly and attentive staff, it has a more loyal following than ever.
From the road it’s very inviting, with a host of generous tables, chairs, parasols and blooming hanging baskets setting the tone, seen against white-washed stone walls.
Once inside, the restaurant is divided up into the Irish Whiskey Bar and the Irish Writers’ Room, with shelves of books penned by Ireland’s literary greats and a medley of Irish memorabilia such as antique spinning wheels, copper pots etc.
The Irish Writers' Room is more than just an atmospheric dining room, however, as items on display comprise a very rare antique literary collection including first editions of Swift's Gullivers travels from 1726, James Joyce's Ulysses 1922 Paris edition on hand made paper (one of only 750 copies printed), alongside many Yeats, Heaney, Beckett and Oscar Wilde 1st editions to name but a few. The James Joyce love bracelet takes pride of place here.
But the ambience is not in the slightest museum-like - you'll find cosy, homely comfort, complemented by unfussy but prompt and efficient service.
For evening diners, the à la carte menu offers a lot of (possibly too much) choice with starters covering everything from garlic mushrooms to prawns pil pil, and mains such as Creole Cajun chicken alongside traditional roast stuffed turkey and ham.
But the dinner specials menu has a stronger sense of identity, focusing more on local flavours and ingredients – offering Wicklow beef and lamb sourced from the nearby village of Aughrim for example, and Wicklow venison from Glenmalure, all fully traceable from farm to fork.
From the dinner specials menu you might choose starters of warm pear, Cashel blue and pecan salad (€6.95) and French onion soup with goats cheese crostini (€5.50) both very good of their type - elegantly presented in just the right portion size to leave the appetite whetted for the next course.
To follow, there are good fish choices as well as local meat - sea fish such as pan-fried fillet of cod (perhaps served on a bed of summer risotto, with garden peas, spring onion and cherry vine tomatoes, around €19), or local trout, perhaps, baked whole in traditional style with almond butter and served with soft mash and seasonal vegetables (about €16).
For dessert (all €5.95), choose from a selection of popular dishes such as meringue nest with fresh fruit and whipped cream, banoffee pie, crème brulée with chocolate and almond cookie, and warm apple & blackberry crumble.
The Wicklow Heather is open all day and a wide-ranging Lunch Specials menu offers local produce like Wicklow trout and Aughrim lamb, alongside seasonal produce from further afield such as Dingle crab. Various styles of cooking are offered to suit the varied clientele, but dishes like their popular beer battered haddock with minted peas and handcut fries have universal appeal.
The wine list also caters for all tastes and includes a rosé and a choice of sparkling wines among the nine house wines, plus a number of half and quarter bottles in addition to the main list. There is also a full bar, with four beers on draught for those who are happier with a pint - a nice little seasonal drinks menu offers a few more tempting suggestions, including cocktails.
The Wicklow Heather offers something for everyone and is always buzzing with a blend of local families, couples and tourists and all seem to leave happy and well fed.
Next door, at Heather House, the Kennys have an attractive Failte Ireland Approved B&B, with lovely mountain views from the comfortable bedrooms and a guest reading room, where there are comfy armchairs,loads of books and games to while away those long relaxing holiday evenings.