Sample fresh flavours and the best local produce in hip cafés, contemporary restaurants and cosy pubs in Mullingar and along the Royal Canal.
A quiet foodie revolution has been taking place in Ireland’s heartlands over the last few years. Passionate local producers – chocolatiers, smokehouses, organic farms and home bakeries – have been working with dedicated chefs to serve up top-quality, innovative food. And judging by the buzzing food scene in towns like Mullingar and Longford, it’s been working. As you explore this part of the country, you’re spoiled for choice – coffee and freshly baked scones in thriving cafés; hearty, traditional fare in pubs with roaring open fires; or surprising flavour combinations in cool, contemporary restaurants. In fact, you’ll find that focus on flavour is a common theme that connects everything from small delis to award-winning restaurants. This is a place that knows good food.
Shoda Market Café, Maynooth - shoda.ie
“It’s all about the taste”, proclaims the writing on the wall outside the Shoda Market Café, a popular spot right beside the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth. Menus here focus on simple, wholesome food, with breakfast options such as eggs benedict and avocado toast, as well as the obligatory full Irish. There’s a nice range of gourmet sandwiches, quiches and salads as well as an ever-changing main menu that caters to vegetarians, vegans and those with special dietary requirements. Then there’s the coffee – roasted and blended exclusively for Shoda and guaranteed to pep you up. So whether you’re starting or ending your Royal Canal adventure in Maynooth, the Shoda Market Café is a must on your itinerary.
Furey’s Bar, Moyvalley - facebook.com/fureysbarmoyvalley/
Furey’s is an old-style canal-side pub that feels like it exists in the best kind of time warp – far way from the bustle of modern life and quietly determined to carry on at its own pace. On a sunny summer’s day, there’s really no better place to enjoy a cooling drink than at one of the outdoor tables overlooking the Royal Canal. Visit in winter and the warming stove and cosy atmosphere are a welcome antidote to those crisp canal walks. Furey’s has gained a well-deserved reputation for good food and is ever-popular with locals so if you’re travelling with a large group, it’s best to call ahead.
Fire & Salt, Enfield - thejohnstownestate.com
The art deco style of Fire & Salt Restaurant at the Johnstown Estate sets a mellow mood that is only enhanced by the live jazz band you’ll hear there every Friday night. Start your experience with a cocktail at the bar, whose glowing amber bricks are made of Himalayan rock salt. Then move to one of the crescent-shaped booths to try the house specialty – steak, dry aged and sprinkled with rock salt before being chargrilled in a custom-made charcoal oven, a process that gives the restaurant its name. For a change of pace, there are wonderful seafood options as well. And to finish? Let’s just say the cheese board looks so good you won’t know whether to eat it or Instagram it.
Dominik’s, Mullingar - dominiksrestaurant.ie
With its stylish, modern vibe and great food, Dominik’s has become a firm favourite on the Mullingar dining scene. The café-style tables at the front of the premises are well-suited to watching the world go by as you enjoy a quick coffee or a relaxing glass of wine. Chef Jan Gablech’s modern twist on traditional favourites line a menu that has something for everyone – vegans included. Fresh, seasonal and local is the order of the day here, and the impressive wine list and friendly staff makes this a real dining pleasure.
Red Earth, Mullingar - redearthireland.com
Don’t be fooled by the warehouse-like exterior, Red Earth, with its well-stocked food hall, restaurant and deli, is a magnet for foodies. The menu covers everything from salad and steak to Asian cuisine cooked right in front of you at the wok station. Move past the cafeteria-style seating and you’ll find cosy little nooks for a more intimate dining experience. Then, once you’ve had a chance to refuel, you can browse through the eclectic range of gifts and homeware.
Oscar’s, Mullingar - oscarsmullingar.com
A modern take of Mediterranean flavours and a commitment to serving up the best
local produce has made Oscar’s quite the Mullingar institution. With its exposed brickwork and wooden beams, it’s brimming with warmth and atmosphere. The menu caters to all tastes but the steaks are exceptional – Westmeath is known as beef country, after all. Add in welcoming, efficient staff and reasonable prices and you’ve got a winning combination. Just remember to book ahead – this local favourite is always busy.
Belly Café, Mullingar - facebook.com/bellycafemullingar
Quirky décor, a buzzing atmosphere and food that keeps you coming back time after time – that’s Belly Café, a standout among Mullingar’s crowded café scene. If you’re looking for a breakfast to set you up for the day, choose from the Full Belly Irish breakfast, huevo rancheros or avocado toast – all delicious. But there’s more to Belly than breakfast. Lunchtime is a joy with a tasty range of soups, sandwiches and salads, all made with the freshest ingredients and plenty of options suitable for vegetarians and vegans, too.
Con’s Pub, - facebook.com/Cons-Bar-1416962081900539
A lunchtime favourite on busy Dominick Street, Con’s has been serving Mullingar since 1877. While things might have changed a bit since then, this gorgeous little spot has retained the warmth and friendliness of an old-time Irish pub with its roaring open fire and dark wood bar. Whether you’re here to enjoy the hearty food (dessert is a particular treat), to relax over a quiet pint or to sample the excellent Irish coffee, Con’s has got you covered.
The Church Restaurant, Mullingar - churchmullingar.com
The Church has stood on this spot since 1825, on land that was granted to the Presbyterian church of Ireland by the landlord of Mullingar, Lord Granard. But this modest building with its tall arched windows and square tower has served a very different purpose in recent years. Today, the Church restaurant serves up a good range of breakfast, lunch and evening meals and offers a nice line in seafood for those looking for a taste of the ocean in landlocked County Westmeath.
The Old House Restaurant, Mullingar - annebrook.ie
The Old House Restaurant is the ever-popular eatery at Annebrook House Hotel in Mullingar. Situated in the cellar of the original 17th century manor house, the restaurant retains its original limestone walls and fireplaces, but the modern conservatory that wraps around the old building offers a light, airy space for diners, particularly during the summer months. The award-winning menu brings together the best local and seasonal ingredients and the homemade pesto, served with a generous selection of breads at the start of your meal, is a real winner.
Danny Byrne’s Pub, Mullingar
One of the great things about Mullingar is that the town’s buzzy atmosphere doesn’t disappear when the sun goes down. And its night-owl character is epitomised by Danny Byrne’s pub right in the heart of the town. With live music session six days a week and a quiz night on Tuesdays, Danny’s is a firm favourite with locals, including Mullingar superstar Niall Horan who’s been known to drop by to sing a song or two. With all this and good food available through the day, it’s the perfect package.
Nine Arches, Ballymahon - facebook.com/pg/NineArchesBallymahon
This exceptionally good restaurant has turned the quiet Longford town of Ballymahon into a real foodie destination. Using the best of local ingredients, chef Daniel Skukalek produces imaginative flavour combinations served up with artistic flair, and offering great value for money. Keep an eye out for their tasting menus, where the focus could be on anything from Mexican to vegetarian cuisine. A real treat.
Torc Café and Foodhall, Longford Town - torccafe.com
Who doesn’t love a food hall? Particularly one that’s fully stocked with tasty treats, specialty foods AND serves an impressive range of homemade food in a friendly, relaxed environment. Torc Café and Foodhall in Longford – just a stone’s throw from St Mel’s Cathedral – offers all this and more. In particular, this is Nirvana for chocolate lovers, with a chocolate fountain by the window that lures in passers-by and a nice selection of Torc chocolate products ranging from truffles to novelty items such as chocolate iPhones.
Purple Onion Kitchen, Termonbarry - purpleonion.ie
There’s a wonderfully relaxed, old-world feel to the Purple Onion Kitchen, a restaurant, pub and art gallery in the tiny village of Termonbarry, County Roscommon, on the banks of the River Shannon. Owners Pauline Roe and Paul Dempsey have created a unique offering here, with a menu that celebrates the absolute best of local food producers and the freshest of ingredients – they even grow their own herbs and salad leaves. The gallery above the restaurant features works by well-known Irish artists so if you want to view the art, just ask behind the bar.