Restaurant Review: First Class – Seal of Approval for The Olde Post Inn

The Easter holidays have arrived and the whole nation seems consumed by a rampant migration fever, a flock of swallows on crystal meth, eager to travel. And it looks like we’ve had our fill of patriotic staycations, as it’s off to the airport for the next flight to anywhere, as long as it’s “elsewhere than here.”

We are going far. In County Cavan. You can get to Barcelona in two and a half hours, but Google Maps estimates it takes three hours and 45 minutes to get to Cavan. Then again, Google Maps has yet to get stuck on the end of a tractor crawling through Longford, with two precocious preteen girls riding a sugar buzz in the back seat. After over four hours and a putative hip replacement, we finally made it to the Olde Post Inn (TOPI) parking lot.

The healing salve of its ambience is instantaneous, as the converted old post office is beyond postcard perfection, featuring two elegant glass verandas: one facing east to greet the rising sun and the other to the west to wish him good night. Passing reception I spot a cozy little bar with a log fire and have an instant urge to hide out for the evening – but after a quick shower we head into Cavan town for dinner at the Duck Inn Gastropub, a new venture for TOPI owners Gearóid and Tara Lynch, having taken over the food offering from Imperial Bar & Nightclub.

Hotel The Olde Post Hostel

For some reason I expect a traditional old Irish pub, with a rustic appeal, the Imperial’s tidy little frontage doing nothing to contradict that idea. Next, we enter a large, cavernous, high-ceilinged interior, sporting the most elegant makeover. We start with Sicilian mixologist Andrea’s cocktails: two gorgeous mocktails for La Daughter and Cousin L, a vodka-based creation for Current Wife, and the best Negroni I’ve ever had.

Lynch confesses that they were “butchered” when he unveiled Duck Inn’s initial menu, with local audiences not at all happy to see familiar favorites vanquished. As a result, the burgers and chicken dishes have returned, so the real action is on the changing daily specials. I have a cracking pork belly with Colcannon; the tweens hit the dance floor for a boogie before the turn; and CW and I have another one of Andreas’ top five, a cracking Mai Tai, before heading home for the evening.

Ironically, landlocked Cavan appears to be as much water as land, with 365 lakes, one for each day of the year, and it’s also the source of the Rivers Shannon and Erne. Truly stunning in parts, rolling hills and water at every turn, we have a serious canoeing appetite on Lough Oughter.

Back at base, I have an aperitif at the bar and peruse TOPI’s very tasty little art collection, including paintings and prints by Markey Robinson, James Bingham and Sean Scully, before heading out to the large veranda dining, a delightfully light and airy space. . The girls have fun with a sharp children’s menu while we attack the adult version.

The Olde Post Inn, Cavan - we enjoyed wonderful, beautiful and hearty food here
The Olde Post Inn, Cavan – we enjoyed wonderful, beautiful and hearty food here

The ubiquitous goats cheese pie has too often served as a token vegetarian starter on a myriad of Irish menus over the years, so it’s refreshing to see such an important ingredient as St Tola goats cheese treated with the respect that its due: whipped to foam and wearing a crisp coat of ketafi pastry, its lactic flavor pairs well with sweet, earthy beetroot and creamy guacamole. Toasted seeds and pea shoots add extra cool textures to my finely balanced dish that doesn’t make a big song and dance about being truly delicious.

CW offers succulent Dublin Bay prawns rolled in filo pastry cigars, with a sweet and syrupy red onion marmalade and zesty mango mayonnaise, again a very “plus-ish” dish.

Fair enough, it’s late spring, summer is almost upon us, but the cozy fire earlier and now a beautiful Beaujolais Villages makes me think of winter thoughts, so I have a slow roasted lacquered duck breast , with a decadently rich Cointreau sauce, comfort for the ages, encouraged by braised sweet red cabbage, leafy broccoli stalks and homemade potato chips. It’s a wonderful, beautiful and hearty dish, but I can’t help but think CW does it even better with their turbot daily special and more Dublin Bay prawns.

Myrtle Allen was a former Lynch mentor from their shared days in the chiefs advocacy group, Eurotoques, and it comes straight from Allen’s old playbook, taking high-end products and doing as little as possible to present it in its best light.

Seared in garlic butter, it’s the essence of divinatory perfection in simplicity: the soft, firm flesh of pearly, sublimely cooked white fish, the umami tug of lush prawns, and the rich, buttery sauce heavy with the astringent garlic punch; a crushed tomato is a sweet counterpoint. Barely remains of the maker’s mark name on the underside of CW’s plate by the time she finished.

We have no room for desserts and nothing on the menu will convince us otherwise. And then we learn the two off-menu daily specials. CW has never knowingly turned down a tiramisu in his entire life and immediately signs up while a sticky, melty, and quite gorgeous fig and almond tart sees me descend in a blaze of deeply sated glory, returning to the fireside for a digestive.

The Olde Post Inn, Cavan: the service is so good it deserves a special mention
The Olde Post Inn, Cavan: the service is so good it deserves a special mention

TOPI is now a newly canonized family favourite, we are all deeply in love with its traditional charms and impeccably delivered Irish bistro style cuisine. The service deserves a special mention as it is quite excellent, unfortunately a growing rarity in Irish hospitality. My future must now include either a hip replacement or a helicopter because I badly need to return to TOPI for more of the same.

The verdict

  • Food: 8.5
  • Services: 9
  • Value: 9
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Bar: €69 pp (3-course menu, plus coffee/tea, sweets, excluding drinks and tip)
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