A trip to Bacchus restaurant in Athlone, run by business partners Umit Duyar and Casim Buyukkaya, is best described as an experience of the senses. The sweet aroma of the Mediterranean greets you the moment you set foot inside the door.
Turkish-themed music plays lightly in the background, setting a tone that immediately puts one at ease. Gazing around the impressively large but warm room, the Mediterranean/Turkish theme continues, with bright red cushions and wall hangings conveying a culture from a faraway land.
The décor is warm and inviting, dark browns, reds, and black creating a cosy environment. However, it is the scenic view that initially stands out as this establishment's unique selling point. A glass window runs the length of the right side of the restaurant, filling the room with natural light and offering majestic views of the Shannon, Church of Ss Peter and Paul, and Athlone Castle. A charming decking area is available just outside the window for those warmer summer days.
Umit greets me with a warm handshake and a smile before guiding me to my window-side table. He is polite and courteous, and offers not only a fantastic insight into the food I am about to eat but also into the culture from which it derives.
The open kitchen makes the chef and his team both visible and accessible, and it is not long before I catch head chef Casim's eye and he comes to meet me. He is personable with no airs and graces - such things undoubtedly make a difference to the overall experience offered by Bacchus.
A bottle of cool water and traditional Turkish flat bread arrive at the table while I await a selection of entrées. It is just 2pm, but the restaurant is already alive with customers of all ages, bringing a certain vibrancy with them.
Within minutes a selection of starters arrive. The aroma of Mediterranean spices is foreign to me, but my sense are piqued. The platter, a vegetarian offering, consists of a Bacchus-style roll, beetroot, courgette, stuffed vine leaf, and a feta spring roll. The Bacchus roll is particularly tasty, stuffed with prime mince meat, baby spinach, pine nuts and walnut, seasonal mixed leaves and tomato salsa. The chili salad is full of flavour and only slightly spicy.
Turkish garlic sausage comes next, and is served on a bed of homemade bread with mozzarella cheese, eggs, and green salad. The sausages give off a strong, spicy and smokey taste which are complemented so well by the egg and red pepper contrast.
Pan-fried tiger prawns and calamari are served in a garlic and chilli butter with shepherd’s salad. This is a standout starter - the prawns release an explosion of juices into the mouth with every bite. The calamari is tender and cooked just right, lacking the rubbery texture that often results from over-cooking. The great thing about the food at Bacchus is that it is as healthy as it is tasty, meaning you can put dieting concerns to one side.
Moving onto the mains, first up is an Ottoman-style chicken dish, served with basmati rice, mushrooms, onions, garlic, green chili pepper and tomato. Bacchus also do a lamb version of this really tasty dish.
The selection of mains is rounded off with classic lamb moussaka casserole - lean pieces of lamb are slowly casseroled in a rich tomato, onion, green peas, aubergine, thyme, and rosemary sauce and served with either rice or chips.
The meal concludes with a sweet homemade dessert, Turkish Baklava served with ice-cream, and a cup of traditional ground Turkish coffee.
The aim of the team at Bacchus is to ensure that you have a memorable experience defined by impeccable service and great food.
However, the restaurant also offers all of your traditional favourites as well, meaning you get the best of both worlds. For starter, try freshly made courgette and blue cheese soup; garlic mushrooms; tandoori chicken Caesar salad; or warm smoked mackerel salad.
For your main choose between 10oz sirloin steak; oven-roasted sage chicken; confit of duck leg; grilled fillet of Atlantic salmon; classic lamb moussaka casserole; or Mediterranean-style vegetable penne pasta.
For dessert, treat yourself to homemade cheesecake, apple crumble, tiramisu, profiteroles, or a selection of ice-cream.
Bacchus Christmas menu offers three courses for the great price of just €27. There is also a value menu offering three courses for €23.
Bacchus also offers a selection of fine wines. Allow Ummit to use his expertise to pick one that will best complement the food you will eat; you will not be disappointed.
The kids room at Bacchus is another unique feature and a real draw. Where else can you deposit your children in a friendly and safe environment within watching distance while you enjoy your meal?
Bacchus is located at Custume Pier, Athlone. The restaurant is open Monday to Thursday from 5pm to 10pm and from Friday to Sunday from 1pm to 10pm.
For more information or to make a booking call (090 ) 6450433. Alternatively, visit www.bacchusrestaurant.ie or visit Facebook and TripAdvisor for further details.