I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of The Old Bank in Dungarvan before my recent visit but having dined there I certainly won’t be forgetting it any time soon.
Overlooking Davitts Quay, this former bank has been sympathetically restored and transformed into a delightful place to dine, whether it’s dinner, afternoon tea or a private family gathering.
Just past reception is a hand sanitizing station with a sink which gives you the option to either use hand gel or wash your hands and dry with paper towels. This attention to detail is reflected throughout the property with all current regulations being met to the highest standards, so you can truly dine in comfort.
Priding itself on having one of the most extensive wine lists in the southeast, The Old Bank also offers a range of cocktails to rival any cocktail bar in this country.
For our pre dinner drink I enjoyed a Blackwater Gin Spritzer. How can a cool glass of Blackwater strawberry gin, mint, strawberries, lemonade and Spumante Prosecco not be gorgeous? Mr D was drawn to the honey syrup in the Festival Spirit cocktail and he wasn’t disappointed with this delightful concoction made with Blackwater No. 5 gin, honey syrup, strawberry shrub and apple juice with orange and plum bitters.
(If you would prefer a cocktail instead of dessert, you won’t be disappointed with an offering that includes Bistro Tiramisu, Raspberries and Cream and Lemon Meringue). We relaxed with our cocktails in the bar area while listening to stories of where the bank safes were located – not your usual pre dinner conversation, but definitely fun!
Before we moved to the dining room for dinner, Chef David came to meet us with a proposition – choose from the menu or let him choose for us. Well, there was no choice to be made! With tasting menus a speciality here, this was the perfect opportunity to enjoy the creativity and skill of a Chef and his staff. He was hardly back in the kitchen when our cocktails were joined on the table by a plate of pig’s ears with a luscious dipping sauce. Now this might not be to everyone’s taste, but it definitely heralded an evening of exciting tastes and flavours.
Settling at a table beside the window overlooking the quay, Antonio, the most attentive and friendly Maître D suggested pairing wines with each course. Each of the wines would be from Puglia and exclusive to The Old Bank. The scene was set.
First to arrive to the table was Dungarvan oyster with scallops in an yuzu sauce. The taste of the sea and the presentation were top class. Paired with a crisp white wine, we were off to a great start.
Our selection of breads arrived with the most unusual butters – black garlic and fermented tomato. To put the quality of the breads into context, Chef David comes from the family who created the original Waterford Blaa. Need I say more? Well just one thing – I personally found the curry bread a little overpowering but Mr D didn’t agree so this really is a personal thing.
Next to arrive was an onion and oxtail fondant. Imagine the savoury version of a chocolate fondant but instead of chocolate oozing out of the centre, it is delicious slow cooked oxtail. This is an inspired dish – creative, quirky and flavoursome.
To clear our palates we enjoyed a rhubarb sorbet. Rhubarb is one of my favourite flavours and I thought this sorbet had a deep, clean, authentic flavour.
The rosé was poured in advance of the arrival of monkfish in a fermented celeriac sauce. I am a big fan of monkfish and I wasn’t disappointed. The presentation and flavours again were excellent.
Along with the Primitivo came Comeragh Mountain Lamb – belly, shoulder, loin and fillet and all cooked to perfection. The presentation of the lamb was picture perfect, so much so that I felt a little bit guilty tucking in. Provenance is a priority at The Old Bank and that makes me so happy. Locally sourced food is not only top quality but by choosing it, chefs are helping to keep Irish food producers in business. It’s a win/win especially for us diners.
The sweetness arrived in the form of a Blanc Manger bursting with coconut and vanilla flavours. Then it was time for a Passito from Puglia to accompany one more sweet surprise – chef’s take on a soufflé. Both were delicious and I urge you to try them both some day.
The Old Bank was a revelation. A beautifully restored building, enthusiastic staff embodying the true meaning of Irish hospitality, a superb wine and cocktail menu and a chef who likes to challenge himself every single day.
But this little gem has more to offer. Pretty soon their first floor dining area will become a haven for afternoon tea lovers. Also on the first floor is the Captain’s Room, a perfect spot for private family or corporate celebrations. Who knew a bank would have so much to offer (and they might even give you the code to the safe!) I cannot wait to return.
WRITTEN BY FIONA DILLON