The Merry Ploughboy is in Rockbrook, which is just up the road from Rathfarnham at the start of the Dublin Mountains. The pub has a traditional look, - it's white with green paintwork - and there is a large car park on the other side of the road. Inside its bare floorboards, simple wooden tables and chairs and bric a brac decorating the walls, like old style advertising panels, farm implements and an old Singer sowing machine.
The Merry Ploughboy’s are also a band, and the pub is primarily an Irish Music venue. Each evening there is a traditional music and dance show upstairs, with the band taking centre stage. The guys own the pub and are all traditional Irish musicians, and they put on a great show. Dinner is served with the show, and downstairs in the bar there is a very good food menu on each evening, which features quite a lot of carefully sourced ingredients.
In some ways it would be correct to describe the Merry Ploughboy as a gastro pub; minus all the baggage around contemporary and minimalist that the term conjures up. What they have done here is build a fairly traditional menu around good ingredients, and the dishes are presented in a very pleasing manner with nice use of plates and slates.
Starters feature Bluebells Fall goat’s cheese bruschetta, Donegal white crab croquette with a smoked haddock and dill fishcake, steamed Galway Bay mussels, a confit of Silverhill duck with smoked pork spring roll as well as a daily soup and a seafood chowder.
Main courses feature a lot of favourites, with traditional fish and chips, a choice of aged steaks from Kettyle, Slaney lamb and rare breed Tamworth pork belly. Each of the dishes features more that one component; for instance the pork is served with a seared scallop, and a rack of lamb special comes with a mini Shepard’s pie on the side in a little skillet.
We visited om a Wednesday in September and the bar is fairly full with a mostly local crowd in for the food rather than the bar, and well made plates passed us on the way to other tables. Our starters of goat’s cheese and steamed mussels get us off to a fine start. The Bluebell Falls goats cheese is served on a bruschetta with spiced hummus and baby leaves, while the mussels are slight variation on the classic, with a creamed leeks, garlic, cream and white wine sauce, that got mopped up with homemade brown bread.
My main course of rack of lamb was cooked perfectly pink and was a fine size; I struggled to finish it and the mini shepherd’s pie that accompanies it in a small skillet. The flavours from the meat are excellent and the presentation on a slate is a nice touch. Deirdre had the fish and chips, and the batter was crispy and light while the fish was firm and moist. Home made chips were crispy and floury inside and a pea puree and tartare relish were fine sides.
After all this food we shared a very good brioche bread and butter pudding and a couple of good coffees sent us on our way. The Merry Ploughboy serves very well made food prepared from fine ingredients. It’s certainly a step up from most pub fare, and if there’s a gang or some visitors in your party, the show upstairs lifts the spirit as well as the roof.