The Thatch Bar and Grill in Ballymore Eustace near Naas in Co. Kildare has been transformed over the past year. It is now firmly in the restaurant category, even though the old bar is still there and provides a pint or two for thirsty locals in the traditional setting.
The lounge is now set out with fine tables, with upholstered chairs in a variety of colours. Shelves of wines hang from the walls and a partnership with O'Brien’s means there are some very good bottles on offer for very good prices.
There is plenty of exposed brickwork, and wood is picked out in shades of cream. Sparkling glassware and cutlery are placed onto the fine wooden tables, possibly mahogany, and the whole effect is tasteful and really quite stylish.
We were meeting as a gang for Sunday lunch, a last hurrah before our friend’s daughters started their exams. Laura and Rachel Kinnerk are facing into the Junior and leaving Exams this week, while their mother Grainne is wondering how safe Valium actually is! A relaxing lunch with friends seems like just the thing.
The drive down from Dublin brought us past the Blessington lakes, and the day was bright and sunny, so before we even arrived things were looking good.
The menu is nicely thought out and well priced. Starters included a fresh soup of the day, chickens wings with spicy sauce, a Confit duck leg, mussels served with a Thai broth and smoked salmon and cream cheese on sourdough. They were all priced around the €7 mark, and we picked our three fairly quickly.
Main courses were equally appealing and we chose from a Thai curry, traditional fish and chips, a homemade burger and too slow roast options, blade of beef and pulled pork. Prices only just broke €16 here for the beef, with most in the early teens.
Our starters were very good; the Thai mussels came in a broth of coconut chilli and lime and were fresh and fragrant. The smoked salmon was served on little disks of the sourdough, almost like blinis, and was very good indeed, while the star here was my confit duck leg, which was carefully trimmed and beautifully presented, apart from being perfectly cooked.
Little touches added to the enjoyment; the salmon was served with little beetroot cubes and a beetroot, crime fraiche and horseradish purée, while the duck was enhanced by the presence of a wild berry purée and some nicely dressed leaves. We were in the area where the line between bar and restaurant wasn't so much blurred as erased.
Our main courses were equally good; the homemade burger could only be criticised as being overly generous, while the pulled pork was served as a burger also, with the addition of Cajun coleslaw and apple chutney, while the slow cooked blade of beef was impossibly tender, with a great flavour and set atop some creamy mash with roast vegetables on the side.
We somehow managed some desserts; a mango cheesecake was served in a jar, and was very refreshing, while a chocolate mousse was rich and sinful, and an affogato was coffee heaven.
Good coffee and a pot of tea finished us off, and we said our goodbyes and set off back to Dublin thinking about what an enjoyable lunch we had just had in Ballymore Eustace.