Chef John Kelly has run Riverbank Restaurant for the past seven years in the sleepy village of Dromahair in Leitrim, 15kms outside of Sligo town centre. After three years of trading in rented premises, his dad bought the Clubhouse pub on the edge of the village and it made perfect sense for John to build over head and run his restaurant in its very own premises, so that is exactly what he did.
Upon entering the upstairs restaurant you come into a large contemporary space with exposed brickwork and beams overhead, complemented with dark wooden floors and tables formally set with crisp white linen cloths. There are low hanging lights over all the tables and double doors opened out onto a balcony, which would be perfect for pre-dinner drinks on a summer evening. Unfortunately for us, it was a cold and wet March night, but we didn’t mind as it was toasty warm inside.
A selection of breads, homemade brown & white, pizza topped and a curried, were brought to the table with a bottle of still water while we browsed through the menu. The early bird menu offers 3 courses for €20 with good choices; vegetable soup, Cajun chicken Caesar salad or crispy fried goats cheese to start. Mains offer a steak sandwich, spicy pork stirfry, herb crusted cod or chargrilled chicken and a choice of warm chocolate brownie, apple & rhubarb crumble or ice cream for dessert.
We ate from the a la carte which was a carefully prepared menu with starters from €6 for a creamy mushroom vol au vent to €9 for a trio of Thornhill duckling. There was also a trio of goats cheese, a Cajun chicken spring roll, or soup of the day.
Mains were well priced from €18 for roast supreme of chicken to €25 for oven roast rump of lamb. There was also a trio of pork, pan seared sea trout, a rib eye or a fillet steak. While waiting for our food we were given an amuse Bouche of curried sweet potato soup served in a dainty dolls house cup and saucer; lovely presentation and real depth of flavour characterised this palate pleaser.
The wine list is a selection of nine reds and the same number of whites, reasonable priced between €19.50 for the French Domaine Peras - Merlot or a S. blanc - to €28 for a Chablis or a Fleurie. In fairness a Chablis under €30 is very good value You also have a full selection of drinks from the bar below, but we were driving and so it was a half bottle of the Chablis at €14.
I started with the trio of duckling which was as delicious as it read; a confit duck spring roll, duck liver pate on toasted brioche and honey smoked duck breast. The pate was so smooth and creamy and the breast was rare and finely cut. My husband chose John’s take on the well known surf ‘n turf; braised belly of pork and pan flashed prawns with a cauliflower puree and star anise reduction, and what a good take it was.
My mian course was the pan seared sea trout which was simply cooked, allowing you to savour the freshness of the fish and it came with mussel risotto, confit tomato, pea shoots and a herb buerre blanc. The other half worked his way through a huge serving of lamb served with Mediterranean cous cous, an aubergine puree and thyme jus. The combination of ingredients and flavours were interesting and well chosen, and this theme runs through all the dishes, this is better food than the norm.
All desserts are homemade, but we were well fed at this stage and shared a slice of lemon tart, it was fantastic. Perfectly balanced between sweet and sour, a refreshing way to complement the various tastes through dinner.
If you ever find yourself, for whatever reason within driving distance of Dromahair make sure you pay Riverbank a visit. John Kelly is an inspiration to chefs in the West, with perfect presentation and a blend of flavours I would highly recommend to anyone.