What a great Good Food Ireland find! Lennon’s@Visual is a serious restaurant in a public gallery space – and just the type of place you want to refresh yourself after a morning or afternoon spent browsing art and culture. Ross Byrne is owner manager here. His mum owned and ran Lennon’s Café in Carlow town for some years. During the time the original restaurant was being renovated, the opportunity to move to this spot came up. Ross and his mum jumped at the chance to move here two years ago – bringing the same ethos to use local produce where possible to create a modern Irish cuisine that hits the spot with locals and visitors alike.
The café shares the same kind of contemporary feel of the gallery. Located downstairs from the entrance lobby, the layout here is open plan and stylish – with lots of original art on the walls reflecting the purpose of rest of the building. The crowd is a mix of the town’s business people, lecturers and visitors to the college campus and Visual Centre which combines with the George Bernard Shaw Theatre. A lively buzz is apparent and lunches are particularly busy. Outside the main restaurant space, big French doors open onto a lovely terrace looking out over college grounds. Outdoor tables here catch the lunchtime or summer evening rays – a real suntrap.
From there, you can enjoy one of Lennon’s Favourites – a Ploughman’s Board with Honey Roast Ham and local Coolattin Cheddar with homemade pickles, apricot chutney and crusty bread. Or nibble on some velvet smooth Chicken Liver Paté with Cumberland sauce and mixed leaves. A host of open sandwiches like chargrilled chicken with red pepper mayo, or fresh salmon with herb mayo, both dressings made in house, will tempt the hungry art seeker. Substantial filled ciabattas, wraps and wholesome homemade salads also feature on this casual menu. But perhaps the highlight here is the list of daily specials. These are handwritten on black glass which separates the kitchen from the main restaurant floor. Behind the glass, the chefs are busy beavering away creating goodies like Brennan’s Bacon with fluffy mash, cabbage and parsley sauce, our choice on the day we visited, and absolutely superb. Chicken and Ham Pie has homemade puff pastry and a delectable filling. These are just two of a daily long list influenced by chef Gail Johnson’s view of using the best ingredients to create simple modern Irish dishes.
Food starts with the Morning Treats menu, everything from a homemade sausage roll with tomato relish to homemade scones and preserves, and a variety of cakes like carrot, coffee and walnut cake and chocolate biscuit cake. On Saturdays, The Full Irish is offered with bangers and bacon from the butcher in Carlow town. Lunch can be as simple as a bowl of soup of the day – usually veggie based and served with homemade brown bread or gluten free. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, a superb value early bird supper menu has a choice of three firsts, six mains and three puddings – perfect as a pre-theatre bite. Parties are also catered at Lennon’s. You can book the dining space for a launch, celebration or small wedding, with use of the outside space too. We are more than happy to have Lennon’s on board as a Good Food Ireland destination – the food here represents the locality. Suppliers are listed on the menu and in the restaurant next to the daily specials board. That’s what this family run restaurant is all about – doing something well and being proud to shout about it.