A landmark pub for many years, Willie Pa’s closed following fire in December 2011 but to the delight of locals and visitors alike, this striking yellow premises was rebuilt and has been run by Pat Kiely, of the well known O’Connors Seafood Restaurant in Bantry since February 2014.
This friendly roadhouse pub is a welcoming place with a comfortable and atmospherically high-ceilinged bar along the front of the building, where casual meals and weekday dinners are served, and an attractive restaurant with smart leather high-backed chairs at the back for weekend dinners and Sunday lunch.
Steak and seafood are the specialities, especially steak (from Twomey’s Butchers, Bantry) and, together with Head Chef Mark Donovan and Manager Pat Murnane, Pat Kiely aims to create a ‘True Taste of West Cork’ for diners.
Menus liberally sprinkled with name checked produce immediately give visitors a sense of place, backed up by a supplier list that includes many of the local food heroes including Skeaghanore Duck, Toons Bridge Dairy, Macroom (local buffalo mozzarella), De Roíste Puddings of Ballyvourney, Gubbeen Smokehouse, and Durrus Cheese among others. The written menus are also backed up with a daily menu board, which may sometimes be used alone on quiet days off season although there will still be plenty of choice.
Speciality steaks include a monster 32oz ribeye on the bone; dry hung from the hip for 35 days, this is a dish ‘for two to share or one to challenge’ and will set you back €39.50, but there are plenty of more manageable steaks offered including a 10 oz Angus fillet or ribeye - or you can even have a sirloin cut to weight for you (10-14oz/€25.50-31.50).
But you don’t have to eat steak to enjoy a meal at Willie Pa’s, the menu is well constructed to offer a balance between the hearty meals loved by locals to something a bit special for visitors or anyone dining out for an occasion.
Fish and seafood is bound to be tempting, with Bantry Bay scallops and prawns playing a leading role along with fresh fish from Union Hall, which appears in posh fish & chips (Dungarvan Blonde Ale battered haddock with homemade tartare sauce, a pea, broad bean, mangetout & crème fraiche salad and hand cut fries) and more sophisticated dishes, such as pan seared fillet of hake topped with semi dried tomato & smoked Gubbeen cheese, with buttered leeks and beurre blanc.
Local Skeaghanore duck, West Cork lamb and quality chicken will probably feature among the other choices and vegetarian dishes are likely to be imaginative too, so it’s well worth asking what’s on that day.
Classic desserts like Eton mess or a warm sponge pudding should be a treat, and the drinks list promises an interesting selection to accompany your meal, with ‘Wine-on-Tap’ as well as the usual list by the bottle, craft beers including West Cork’s local Mountain Man Brewing Company, along with established names like Dungarvan Brewing Company, and craft cider from Stonewell at Kinsale.
Willie Pa’s manages well to please both locals and visitors with an evocative menu, well cooked food and an interesting drink offering. Service is friendly and willing so visitors should soon feel at home although, in the Guide’s experience, staff can be a bit too casual and further training would bring the whole operation up a few notches.
All in all, a very useful place to know about and a boon for locals or visitors who want to eat well without having to go into a town.