John Coffey, chef-patron of Athlone’s Thyme Restaurant, is the defining chef of the Irish Midlands. His menus are an evocation of the agricultural riches of the region, expressed via a culinary technique that has been refined and polished until every element of every plate the kitchen offers gives its best.
His modus operandi is a statement of common culinary sense: ‘Good quality ingredients cooked well and served by friendly, knowledgeable front of house staff in a comfortable environment, for a fair price!’ he explained to one interviewer, and Mr Coffey and his team deliver that to a T. You can imagine the legendary figures of Irish food making a statement like that – it’s pure Myrtle Allen, pure Ross Lewis, in its modest self-effacement – and it reflects Mr Coffey’s status as the chef whose work exemplifies his region, his culinary community, and his own culinary culture.
He sources from all the best suppliers, and it’s a classic win-win scenario, allowing Mr Coffey to pivot his menus with the seasons, so that when Eamonn Giblin’s game birds are ready, then it’s game on and time to order wild mallard, and elsewhere the menus are like culinary road maps: Gillivan’s lamb with Kate’s chard; Mossfield cheese with Wexford queens; Ronan’s chicken with pickled vegetables; Pigs on the Green pork with Audrey’s bok choy. We love the use of christian names on the menu – Ronan; Audrey; Kate – and we also love how modest Mr Coffey and his team are, as they go about their business of realising their culinary mantra – quality ingredients; friendly staff; comfortable environment; fair price – with every plate and with every service.
Photos credit: Thyme Restaurant