Following the recent lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, local restaurateurs Eamonn and Mary Gleeson sat down to discuss post-pandemic hospitality at Gleeson’s Restaurant and Rooms with Dan Dooner…
When was Gleeson’s established in Roscommon town?
Mary: “Gleeson’s was established 31 years in 1991 when Roscommon didn’t even have so much as a coffee shop. Our ethos, even way back then, was that we wanted to source as much of our produce locally as possible. We were and are very proud of ‘local’ and have always made every single dish from scratch.
“All of our breads and pastries have been made the exact same way over the years and we are still making everything from scratch from local ingredients in our kitchen”.
Has the business changed in any way in recent years?
Eamonn: “Yes, our daughter Cait has taken over from myself and Mary in running Gleeson’s while we have moved to a more advisory role”.
Mary: “We’ve recently come back on board to help out a little bit more following the birth of our beautiful grandson. Before Covid-19 I was looking forward to becoming a ‘grey nomad’ like the retired people you see in Australia but we are very happy to be back meeting customers again!”
How have the last few weeks been post-restrictions?
Mary: “What’s been so lovely is seeing people we haven’t seen in a really long time. It’s great to welcome them back. I’ve also noticed that we’ve all gone back to basics and people don’t take meeting up for a coffee for granted anymore. Customers will sit together for a couple of hours now for a catch-up”.
People have two years’ worth of catching up to do…
Mary: “They really do, and you know what else? Happier occasions have also become even happier. It’s great to see people going all out for events like christenings and seeing people being able to take elderly relatives out for lunch, dinner or even a coffee and scone again. We took this for granted but it’s so wonderful to see that we’re now treating it as the special thing it always was.
“In terms of other events, we’ve already hosted one deferred Christmas party in recent weeks, and we have another one booked for April! It was great to see people gathering together and toasting each other again”.
In terms of the menu, is there one dish that stands out for visitors?
Mary: “Our Roscommon Lamb Stew is now our signature dish and we have taken it halfway around the world to different events. We’re always very proud to showcase our stew but there was a time when stew was almost looked down upon – it was something mammy made for the dinner!”
Eamonn: “Visitors to an area like to experience the food and produce of that area. It’s the same when we go on holidays to other countries. You’ll have people come in and ask for a local dish and a local beer and we’re lucky to be able to give them that with Roscommon lamb and Black Donkey Brewery from Ballinlough”.
So, fair to say there was an element of food snobbishness around the humble stew?
Mary: “Yes, it was as if people would question what it was doing on an evening dinner menu! Thank God we got over that fear. Most visitors to Roscommon now look for a nice bowl of stew. Our lamb stew has been featured for all those years and it won’t go away, because everyone loves it. They want the authentic, genuine, proper article and we’re so lucky in Roscommon to have Castlemine Farm Shop, our local butchers, and local suppliers such as Audrey Hession with her beautiful organic leaves, and of course Gannon’s Poultry and Molloy’s Bakery”.
Will Outdoor Dining really take off in Roscommon?
Mary: “People got used to it, particularly during the summer months. We have our outdoor dining area to the front, which is now overlooking the new Square, and I have to say it has been a major success so far”.
Finally, what impact will the new-look Square have on local hospitality?
Eamonn: “It’s a big investment for the town and there are plans to allow businesses to make use of the space, particularly during the summer. Town centres are becoming places for people to meet rather than just for shopping in and the new-look Square will add to that. We really welcome it”.
Mary: “It would be great to see other businesses (those with limited outside space) making use of the Square in terms of seating and parasols. It’s a wonderful addition and now we have way more potential for events such as the recent Christmas Markets…that can only be good for everyone in the town”.