It’s been a whirlwind four years for Gavin Moore and Michelle O’Mahony, who have not only built a successful business together but also managed to find the time to get married. Since opening in June 2014, Monk’s Lane has become an integral part of life in the historic village of Timoleague. It’s a place where you can comfortably sit by yourself with a gourmet coffee and watch the world go by or enjoy a leisurely afternoon or evening meal with family or friends. Serving local artisan produce with impressive craft beer, gin and wine lists, Monk’s Lane is a welcoming and lively spot. It’s a place you want to return to.
The food is simple but delicious – you can taste the quality of the ingredients, which much of the time are personally delivered by a producer from just over the road. Fresh, handpicked leaves from Dunworley; purple potatoes from a Timoleague vegetable grower; fish fresh off the boat from Unionhall; and West Cork meat from butchers in Bandon and Clonakilty – the menu changes daily depending on what is in season and delivered to the door. There are four full-time chefs and all of the bread and desserts are made in-house, as well as the pestos, chutneys and sauces. While Gavin looks after front-of-house, Michelle is now full-time helping out in the busy kitchen.
The food is very important to Gavin and Michelle, who explain how the menu has grown organically around their customers. “We started off doing a lot of tapas and small plates but I think within two months, we had put steak, among other things, on the menu,” says Michelle.
“I don’t think we’d work as hard as we do, if we didn’t believe in what we were doing,” adds Gavin. “The quality of our ingredients is very important to us.”
“It’s really lovely to see locals walking through the restaurant to the kitchen with bags of veg,” says Michelle “it’s what we’re all about, supporting local small producers.”
The lamb quesadillas are always a popular choice on the starters and there is always a selection of soups, salads and a few vegetarian options. The present menu has a delicious baked goats cheese served with toasted almonds and homemade apricot jam and served with crostini. On the mains, there is always steak, a number of fresh fish options, O’Neills Honey and Mustard sausages are very popular and a new favourite is the Wagyu beef burger. There is also a good children’s menu (which doesn’t include chicken nuggets!).
Michelle and Gavin planned the entire interior themselves, completely gutting the building to open up the space and allow lots of natural light to flood in. The couple found a local craftsman who created the beautiful bespoke wooden dining tables and wooden benches, which are covered in a selection of comfortable and beautiful cushions. “I think I’m up to 200 cushions now,” says Michelle smiling and looking sideways at Gavin. “They’re the bane of my life,” adds Gavin with an exaggerated sigh. “It’s my job to plump all 200 cushions at the end of an evening!”
On coming in the front door, you’ll notice a charming little snug to your right and if you’re waiting for a table there are plenty of high stools at the front bar to relax on while you peruse the extensive gin list (over 40 gins) for an aperitif. If the fancy takes you, there is also a small list of cocktails to indulge in. “I make a mean margarita but nobody ever asks for it,” says Gavin laughing. There is also an excellent wine list.
In 2017, the couple decided to renovate the building next door and ‘The Parlour’ opened for a wedding in June of last year. The room, whose prior functions included a massage parlour, is now a West Cork hotspot for private functions and parties.
Outdoors, the sheltered beer garden has lots of nooks and crannies to cosy up in and is a lovely place to enjoy lunch on a sunny Saturday afternoon. By day the wonderful flower boxes provide a pretty backdrop of colour and scent while, as the sun goes down, fairy lights, candles and lanterns create a cosy and magical atmosphere. It’s hard to believe that back in the day public hangings took place just across the road at The Courthouse!
On a Saturday night after eating, diners can sit back in the intimate surrounds of the restaurant or beer garden and enjoy the sounds of a live music session. There are also impromptu occasional gigs on a Friday or Sunday night with musician Gavin joining in when he can. “It’s been such a busy summer I haven’t had much time but I still play with Liam, Anto and Justin in Fir Beag and with Paula Kingston and John Fitz in Wayward Folk. I’m looking forward to playing at a
few gigs at the upcoming Guitar festival in Clonakilty,” he says.
Timoleague is now home for Gavin and Michelle, who both say wholeheartedly that it didn’t take long before they felt like locals. “I was taken aback how great the community is here and how welcoming everyone was to us from the very start,” says Michelle.
“Monk’s Lane became what we hoped it would much quicker than we thought it would take,” says Gavin. “I think perhaps that’s down to a combination of people and place. We have a great team (many of whom have been with us from the start) and customers and we’ve worked hard and stayed true to what we believe in.”
As part of the A Taste of West Cork Food Festival, Monk’s Lane will host ‘Flavours of Timoleague: Past and Present on Wednesday, September 12 at 7.30pm. The evening will begin with a guided stroll around Timoleague’s historical landmarks with a local historian, followed by a special five-course tasting menu of local produce., with wine pairings from Wines Direct. The evening will finish with a live music session.
To book call 023 8846348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.