The Entrance to The Thatch, Crinkle.
Situated one mile from Birr in Crinkle on the Roscrea side of Birr, The Thatch serves traditional dishes, some unusual dishes, plenty of seafood and offers some vegetarian options. The Thatch has a well earned reputation for for good food, presentation and a great atmosphere in the pub. Come and enjoy good food and warm hospitality. The restaurant seats 50 and the private room approx. 15-20. Children are welcome and there is plenty of parking.
Georgina Campbell’s Ireland 2007
The Guide: The Best Places to Eat, Drink and Stay
This characterful little thatched pub and restaurant just outside Birr shows just how pleasing a genuine, well-run country pub can be. Des Connole, proprietor since 1991, has achieved a well-earned reputation for the immaculate maintenance and atmosphere of the pub, and both bar food and restaurant meals offer generous portions for a reasonable price.
Licensing World Dec. 2001
Club Orange Pub Lunch Awards
The Thatch Bar in Crinkill, Co. Offaly is a prime example of building a better mouse trap. The world has certainly beaten a path to this award-garlanded pub which is a mile outside the nearest town and not even on a major road.
Publican Des Connole is the sixth generation of his family to preside behind the bar of the 300-year-old premises just outside Birr which has become as famed for fine food as for comfortable ambiance and the dispensing of reliable drink. At one time, the Thatch was one of 13 pubs in the village, serving the 5000 troops garrisoned in the old barracks. Now only high fortress walls remain to dominate the clusters of new houses that form a suburban enclave a few fields away from the road to Roscrea and the main routes to east and west.
Food only became a part of the successful Thatch formula in 1995, when Des added a restaurant and a new kitchen, keeping the traditional style of thick stone walls and cosy log fires along with trademark thatch which is now long-lasting reed instead of straw. Recognising the potential for daytime food business, Des initially planned to serve lunches in the parlour-bar only, where inviting nooks clustered around the stone built bar and glowing hearth seat about 50 people. “I was amazed,” Des recalls “when the demand for food took off more than I had ever dreamed of, and it’s gone from strength to strength.”
With the lunchtime rush concentrated in an hour and a half time slot, both bar and restaurant areas are needed to cater for weekday trade which runs steadily at 90 to 100 persons daily. On Saturdays there are 12.30 and 2.30 sittings to cope with the numbers. Customers come from the local area and those who drive out from Birr as well as canny commercial travellers who make sure their route encompasses Crinkill regularly. Most telling gastronomic indicator of all is the presence of the sleekly padded barristers who appear like extras fro Rumple of the Bailey when the circuit court is sitting nearby. Homemade soups head the menu which changes daily – a cream soup like leek and country vegetable or roast parsnip with broccoli and smokey bacon as well as a fish soup of the day. Classic creamy chowder alternates with chunky Italian tomato and fish broth or a cajun spiced fish soup on the style of a gumbo – and all are served with generous slices of brown or white soda breads made by Des’s wife Anne.
Seafood is unexpectedly popular in this midlands county, Des confirms, and he makes good use of daily fish deliveries in dishes like poached plaice fillets stuffed with prawns and leeks, smoked salmon and crab potato cakes of a seafood and vegetable stir-fry. All in all, Des reckons that about 40 per cent of his daily food sales are fish. Warm smoked Haddock with pasta appears as a starter as does the unusual pub offering of warm pickled herrings with lemon sauce.
Traditional roasts are still the backbone of Thatch bar food and these are posted daily on a blackboard. Beef, lamb, chicken and pork enjoy great popularity, and this is one pub where you may find roast goose on the bar menu, resplendent with potato and chestnut stuffing. Seasonal rabbit, “and hare when we can get it,” as well as quail and mixed game terrines may turn up as well. Menus are planned in weekly blocks with head chef Brian Maher assisted by Deborah Carroll, and faxed each Monday to offices and regular customers in the area.
Menus reflect all that is best in season and Des considers himself especially fortunate in being surrounded by excellent local food suppliers. Meat comes from Birr butcher David Corbett, who selects beef from several local farms. Geese are farm fed locally and turkeys are supplied by Seymour Kenny’s farm near Tullamore. Fruit and vegetables are sourced from Pat Milne, a major national supplier whose processing facility is one of the biggest businesses in Crinkill village. Interestingly, Pat is mooting plans for a unique “food village” of producer and retail units within the disused barracks walls.
“People are interested in knowing where their food comes from,” Des says, “and they’re looking for low-fat healthy options. We see an increasing uptake of vegetarian dishes.”
At least one vegetarian special features daily – creative dishes like warm tortilla filled with Cashel blue cheese and broccoli, vegetable spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce or crispy potato skins filled with curry vegetable and mozzarella cheese sticks.
Although there’s hardly another space to hang an award and the Thatch was All Ireland Black and white Pub of the Year in 1999, resting on his laurels was not an option for Des. Professing to be a keen follower of Licensing World/Club Orange Pub Lunch Awards, Des says he’s visited most of the winners and never stops looking for new ideas. In nearly every menu, The Thatch tests new ground with the likes of savoury ostrich burger on a crispy toasted bap, confit of pig’s head with vinaigrette or sweet and sour frog’s legs with escargot in garlic butter – popular with experimental customers but mesmerising reading even for conservatives who will opt for roast beef and potatoes.
From catering start up with six staff, Des now has 15 full-time and 10 part-time staff. Gay Halvey heads up the smoothly working crew who are fully briefed by the chef about each days dishes. In addition they are well able to guide customers to a dry white Chilean wine or a full bodied red Australian from the line-up eight quarter-bottles wines which are a popular lunchtime choice.
Des himself has recently completed the HACCP course. “I have to know all the pitfalls and be able to do all the jobs from washing up to checking food temperatures to cleaning fridges if I’m to guide staff properly. It’s hard work but I’m very hands on and believe that if the product is right and the system is right you’ll be successful.”
The Thatch, situated in the village of Crinkill, is one of the oldest pubs in South Offaly and, as its name suggests, has always been thatched.
The Thatch restaurant is one of the finest places to eat in the midlands region. Our chefs take great care in providing our guests with delicious food, prepared to the highest standards. The Thatch has the unique distinction of being in the same family ownership for nigh on 200 years and the present owner Des Connole is the fifth generation to carry on business there.
Many of the older generation remember this quaint and indeed exclusive pub as Mother Walsh’s and every summer, visitors from abroad come to visit it and reflect on stories told to them by fathers and grandfathers who affectionately remember happy evenings in the warm atmosphere of this fine traditional pub.