If ever there was a food stuff that bonded two countries together so closely, it is the Irish and French adoration of shed loads of butter/buerre. Whether you are still a butter skeptic, a butter convert or sitting firmly on the aluminium rails of the farmgate, there is one universal truth that the epicureans of these two great nations agree on - everything tastes better with butter!
If ever there was a food stuff that bonded two countries together so closely, it is the Irish and French adoration of shed loads of butter/buerre. Whether you are still a butter skeptic, a butter convert or sitting firmly on the aluminium rails of the farmgate, there is one universal truth that the epicureans of these two great nations agree on – everything tastes better with butter!
BIA Restaurant, The Bantry Bay, Main Street, Bantry T: 027 55789
Bantry town, nestled at the head of a picturesque bay with views of Whiddy Island and standing gateway at the start of Westerly West Cork, has always had a reputation for good food. But the town wears it in a typically understated manner – part of the scenery, and part of the everyday lives of the people there.
The newest addition to the town’s foodie collective is BIA Restaurant, and it is a little gem that is combining a menu of produce sourced locally within the West Cork region in the well-seasoned hands of Marseille born and raised chef Gilles Eynaud – a man who is not afraid to look a butter pat in the eye!
The restaurant itself is located in a completed redesigned space that was originally the reception to the former O’Callaghan Hotel. A clever re-utilisation of the space, plus an interior design finish that balances a touch of the glam with a relaxed dining experience has created a restaurant that feels not too small but perfectly formed. A giant chalk board wall behind the service bar area is a nice touch with a hand-drawn map of West Cork indicating where the produce, including craft beers and spirits, on the menu are sourced from. There are daily specials posted up there too, but not too many. The menu is a la carte offering a good selection of dishes but not too many – all dishes are cooked to order – something that can be done well and benefit from a smaller menu.
Chef Gilles joined The Bantry Bay as Head Chef when it re-opened in September 2015 under the new ownership of Stephen and Gillian O’Donovan. Gilles has been a West Cork man for over 10 years’ and working in several notable West Cork restaurants including Blair’s Cove. It is clear that Gilles grá for great ingredients paired with honest, well executed cookery is a great match for Bia. Everything is cooked well with not too many things going on allowing the fantastic flavour of the ingredients to really shine through and be showcased on each plate.
I’ll admit, I’m slightly obsessed with Gilles mashed potato – I’ll explain why…
A couple of years ago, a chef friend of mine revealed the secret to the best mashed potato. “It’s a ratio” they told me, “50% potato to 50% butter”. Well let’s just say, at BIA restaurant, it’s more a case of “would you like potato with your butter”. It’s rich, no doubt, but somehow is still as light as a feather. Mr Flavour and I both agree it is the nicest mashed potato we have ever tasted, and as Mr Flavour would happily live out the rest of his days on buttery mashed spuds, this is a compliment indeed!
Service at BIA is right on pointe. You feel well looked after: friendly and attentive, but no one is asking you how your meal is every 5 minutes. There is a great selection of craft beers, good wines (the Spanish Rioja packs a suitable punch and the French Rose is lightly acidic and fruity – the perfect counterpoint to the rich buttery mash!), and if you are celebrating something special then a complimentary glass of prosecco will easily find its way to you!
Deirdre Byrne is the energetic whirlwind behind the reopening of The Bantry Bay and opening BIA Restaurant. Waterford native, Deirdre was “blown into West Cork” over 15 years ago after a successful career in the food industry that saw her work and travel extensively across Ireland and the US. In 2014, Deirdre came to work with Stephen & Gillian at the hugely popular Brick Oven, BIA’s sister restaurant just a few doors away.
As General Manager of The Bantry Bay and self-proclaimed foodie, one cannot help but imagine that BIA is in equal parts a serious foodie project as well as the realisation of a personal dream project stemming from a love of good food and hospitality. Deirdre says, “I could see the change in West Cork in the few years I was away, the foodie and craft beer scene were all really taking off and it was exciting to come home and be a part of it.”
For honest good food, locally sourced and freshly cooked to order with a deft and experienced hand in chef Gilles, this is a welcome addition to the restaurant scene in Bantry and we wish them well!
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