Meal Ticket: Pigeon House in Delgany, Co Wicklow

The food is certainly worth travelling for, but it’s not the most memorable part of our visit

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Pigeon House

On the main road in the village of Delgany, about a 40-minute drive from Dublin, lies a deceptively unassuming country pub with the name Pigeon House over its front door. This is the country home of Chef Brian Walsh and restaurateur Paul Foley. You may remember this duo’s previous venture, Downstairs in Clontarf, which they ran together between 2010 and 2014 and were awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand for their efforts. When the premises that housed Downstairs was sold, the team launched Pigeon House in Clontarf on Dublin’s northside seaside and Delgany in County Wicklow.

The menus are similar and both are well located. But the Delgany Pigeon House gets my vote and that’s because of the cluster of businesses it’s a part of. It’s one of four independent Irish businesses that have transformed The Old Delgany Inn, (the aforementioned unassuming country pub) creating a destination for food lovers in this small village in the midst of the beautiful Wicklow countryside.

The Pigeon House has been perched on the top floor of the renovated pub since October 2014, while the exceptional Firehouse Bakery’s ovens blaze on the ground floor baking sourdough loaves, blistering wood-fired pizzas and mouth-watering cakes. Sharing the ground floor is the Delgany Grocer, its shelves stocked with fruit and vegetables, spices, cheeses and great Irish produce such as The Happy Pear pesto range and Nobó ice-cream. The brilliant Roasted Brown’s coffee bean roastery has a home on the ground floor, too.

Upstairs, the decor is modern but they’ve taken advantage of the best of the original features, such as beautiful white-washed brick walls and large windows letting the light spill in. We come in for the last leg of Saturday brunch and the staff seem a little shell-shocked, like they’re taking their first breather after a very busy morning. Their friendliness remains intact, and we’re set up with Mimosas (€7) and decent coffees (€3 for a flat white) in no time at all.

Similar to my experience in Pigeon House in Clontarf, the menu reads really well but doesn’t quite deliver on its promise. The food is really good and way, way above average for a countryside inn vibe, but I’m left with the feeling that the food is tantalisingly close to being great. A plate of broccoli, feta, chilli and smoked almonds with croutons and a fried egg (€11) reads likes a vegetarian’s brunch dream but it arrives looking a little lacklustre and thrown together. It doesn’t quite deliver on the potential for flavour that we read between the lines on the menu.

A plate of duck sausage (€12) with a red pepper chutney on toast topped with a fried egg is really tasty but it also lacks a little presentation finesse. I’m not looking for the appearance of fussy fine dining here. That wouldn’t suit at all. But, to me, brunch is an aesthetic meal, soothing the soul through the eyes as well as through flavour and our eyes aren’t feeling the love this brunchtime.

There are some great quality ingredients highlighted on the menu, such as the Firehouse brioche bun for the Pigeon House Burger (€16), which is a gloriously juicy black angus beef patty supplied by Higgins Family Butchers. The food is certainly worth travelling for but it’s not the most memorable part of our visit. It’s the location and the people that make this place really special.

There is ample parking outside and the calm of the Kindelstown Woods are just a short drive down the road. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be doing a nearby search on Daft on your way home. Thanks to this little cluster of great businesses, Delgany has pretty much everything I need to survive: great coffee, crusty bread, a well-stocked grocer and a decent place for brunch.