Brennan’s Lane is in the heart of Ballina, on the evocatively named Garden Street. From outside it looks quite small, but this is deceiving as it stretches way back and is actually huge. It has an almost Tardis quality in the amount of space inside. Downstairs is the bar, where some pretty serious gigs take place while you will find the restaurant on the first floor.
The dining room is beautifully designed and features exposed brisk walls, cool sofa seats, plenty of well spaced tables and chairs and some interesting art, as well as a series of old style butchers blackboards showing farm animals and the parts the different cuts of meat come from. The room is long and fairly narrow, but well thought out design means it feels light and airy, and the open plan kitchen at one end adds to the sense of space. It is modern and elegant, warm and inviting.
The menu features seafood and game, some with a modern twist. So the crab claws come with a vanilla cream, rather that the more usual garlic butter, monkfish is cooked wrapped in banana leaves with ginger, lemongrass and coriander, sea bass is served on coriander risotto with Chorizo oil. On the meat side, there are interesting duo combinations, such as the char grilled venison with wild boar sausage or how about roast Barbary duck breast with pheasant filet, served with Kelly’s black pudding mash. Throughout the menu is well thought out, balanced and features little touches that intrigue.
We share the crab claws to start, the vanilla sauce works a treat, and we fairly demolish them, thinking we really should have ordered two. The main event is the venison and homemade wild boar sausage for me, while the brunette takes a fancy to the fish and chips. The venison comes sliced, daintily arranged around the plate; the sausage sits atop the black pudding mash, while there are a shaped carrot and parsnip on the side. Everything works brilliantly, the venison is perfectly pink, mash is delicious, the shaped vegetables are coated with herbs and honey, while tow caramelised figs look like little red onions, and beautifully compliment the game. Even so, the sausage is beyond lovely and I feel we are eating seriously high quality food. The better, prettier half’s fish and chips is crisp batter, perfectly cooked fish, good homemade chips with a delicious tartar sauce and red peppercorns infused vinegar. Again the little touches.
We finish with a dessert I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since, a vanilla panna cotta in an orange and passion fruit broth, infused with spices. This was absolutely wonderful, and the last time I had a dessert this good was when I had Dylan McGraths mango and coconut confection in Mint some years back. Seriously, if you do nothing else, eat nothing else; make a pilgrimage for this panna cotta.
Brennans Lane is seriously good. You would find it hard to find food of this quality anywhere, but in this new-ish restaurant in Ballina it was a wonderful revelation. Absolutely worth a detour, if not a special trip.