Eala Bhan restaurant in on the banks of the Garavogue River in the centre of Sligo Town. They couldn’t have gotten a better location, the river flows by just outside and the Sligo version of the Ha’penny Bridge spans it here. The scene reminds me of Westport, and as I walk towards the restaurant I wonder why Sligo isn’t more overrun with tourist types; this is a charming town.
From the outside Eala Bhan is white and bright is the brainchild of Anthony Gray, who is also the man behind the excellent Tra Ban restaurant in Sligo’s own surfing Mecca, Strandhill.
Inside the restaurant is contemporary chic, with wooden floors, mostly cream walls broken by large pictures. The room itself stretches quite a way back, and they have used clever ways to break up the space into individual parts. During the days the layout is casual, while there’s a turnaround come evening and out come the linen table cloths and the room is transformed into a stylish and intimate restaurant.
Last time we visited I enjoyed an excellent lunch of confit duck and a side order of gratin potatoes. The meaty cut of duck came served on top of puy lentils and roast vegetables, and the potatoes were garlicky and creamy, and suffered only from their over generosity: it’s hard to take a gratin home. The duck itself was perfectly cooked, falling off the bones but juicy and meaty. This was washed down with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and after wards I managed a classic crème brulee and good coffee.
This time we came for dinner and homemade pesto with garlic and chilli flakes and an amuse bouche of cauliflower soup in a dinky little espresso cup got me off to a flying start.
I had a starter of scallops with a black pudding croquette using Kelly's of Newport black pudding. The scallops are locally sourced from David Flynn, who supplies the restaurant with these magical molluscs.
Main course come down to a choice between the local Sligo lamb and the duck from up the road in Co. Cavan, but the lamb won in the end and I get a half rack, divided in two, with a herb crust and cooked perfectly pink.
Paolo always said that off all the great Irish produce, lamb is probably our best. In all cases it's almost organic, in the generic sense, since they eat grass, or mountain heather, or sea grasses if they are coastal, each having a distinctive flavour, and each delicious. The lamb in Eala Bhan was exceptially good, and I loved it. It was served simply with mashed potato with lashing of butter and good gravy.
During the day Eala Bhan is a busy and buzzy lunch destination for the good citizens of Sligo Town, while in the evening the tables turn over with the addition of some crisp linen and a more formal setting, making the restaurant a fine, but not formal ding experience.
Eala Bhan is a real find, excellent bistro food beautifully presented and perfectly cooked, combines with friendliness and a very pleasing room. Eating is a social experience, and no matter how good the food, it’s improved by a friendly face. Top marks to the staff here.