ICONIC: The Railway Tavern's firebox grill
The Railway Tavern in Fahan has recently been taken over by Harcourt Developments, and to mark the launch of their new menu I was invited along to the Firebox Grill recently to sample their wares.
'Fill your boots', they told me, so I eagerly obliged.
On a reporter's salary, scallops are a luxury I can rarely afford, so I ordered the kings of the seafood world for my starter. Cooked to perfection and silky in texture, they were set off perfectly by the simple, yet elegant, apple garnish that accompanied it. A lovely bonus was a little deep-fried black pudding bomb, the soft and spicy interior blending nicely with its crispy breadcrumb shell.
The diner on my right was loving his seafood chowder, the one on my left about her spicy chicken wings, and in fact the entire round table I was seated at was buzzing with murmurs of contentment.
Then came the moment we were all waiting for - the mains. When you think of the Tavern, you automatically think of steak.
This place will always live or die by its reputation on that score, and so I awaited the arrival of my medium rare ribeye with huge anticipation.
The cut, a generous piece of 28-day aged beef, was absolutely delicious. Suffused with the tastebud-tickling char from being cooked on the grill, the texture was sublime and the silky threads of wafer thin fat meant it packed a serious flavour punch.
I washed mine down with a robust Rioja that was not only exceptional for the price, but complimented perfectly the almost criminally good parmesan and truffle oil fries I had with my steak - with everyone at the table raving about them, I predict they will quickly become the Tavern's signature side.
And the sheer theatre of watching the chef oversee the cooking of the steaks on the legendary open grill, set just off the middle of the dining area, is definitely another reason to roll up here for a bite on a cold winter's evening.
The Tavern, like the regulars who come here, is refreshingly unpretentious. You won't be served up dishes with unprounouncable ingredients, but rather, good honest grub that is a cut above for the price.
The winter warmer menu, running throughout December, is likely to attract new and existing customers. At two courses for €19.95 or three for €23.95 (with only a €4 supplement on the steak), you can enjoy a seriously good meal without breaking the bank.
And if you don't fancy the whole shebang, Tuesday and Thursday nights are 'Surf or Turf' night where you can enjoy a steak or fish dish plus a glass of wine/beer for €23.95
Paddy Doherty, the Buncrana man behind Harcourt Developments, has been a regular visitor to the Tavern for many years, and he liked it so much he bought it.
It's obvious he intends to remain faithful to the things that have always attracted people here, which are so simple yet essential - good food and a warm atmosphere.
This may have been the launch of a new menu, but there's no massive shift in direction here.
In reality what the Tavern has done is simply enhance what was always, with the right guidance, a winning formula.
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