Over 20 years ago, two St Paul’s lads met for the first time. Their names? Ken McDonnell and Kevin O’Leary.
Ken and Kevin, who’ve both spent their adult lives in the restaurant business, dreamt about owning their own restaurant – and now that they do, in a splendid new location on 121/122 The Quay, they’re clearly happy with their lot. However, neither man is taking their eye off the ball in their new premises, located in the city’s Viking Triangle.
The phone was a near constant background soundtrack on Thursday morning last as Ken reflected on their initial three months of business on The Quay, since making the move down from their previous base on High Street.
Word of mouth about McLeary’s is good. Very good even. And the sounding of the phone at the ground floor restaurant bar was proof of that contention.
“We’d been on High Street for the previous five years, but we’d been thinking about a new location for quite some time,” said Ken over a cuppa.
“Frontage was always a key consideration for us – it’s a bottom line in our business. And given the increased footfall there’s been on The Quay in the last few years, relocating down here gives us a greater opportunity to let people know we’re here – that’s a hard thing to achieve on a side street. But we’ve got a real visual impact here, and that’s something we’re very pleased about.”
Ken added: “There’s great potential for us in this location. We’ve a compact city centre; we’ve lots of other attractions nearby us – when you think of events like the Spraoi weekend, this really is a prime location. Word of mouth has been good alright, but you do need something extra to make as good a go of a business like ours as you can, and I feel that in this new location that we can find that something extra and expand our custom. That’s the hope anyway!”
And while the location is an evident bonus, the new McLeary’s premises is a beautifully finished project, a welcome sight after the scaffolding outside 121 and 122 had almost become a fixture on the streetscape.
With a stunning outdoor dining area to the rear of the restaurant, in addition to the ground floor dining area and an upstairs dining area, McLeary’s can seat 80 at any given time. “We wanted to have three different sections as opposed to one open space. Upstairs can seat 35 and is ideal for parties,” said Ken.
“This was a huge job, but it’s been a job brilliantly done by David Flynn. The building was derelict, it’s owned by the City & County Council, they had to get the building up to standard and we fitted it out…
“Come next summer, we’d love to have music on the stage in the outdoor area, which would really add to the ambience we want to create here for our clientele. It’s a real bonus having that space at the back of the restaurant, and while we know its use will be largely weather dependant, again, it’s clear to see the potential just in that part of the business alone.”
The phone rings again, interrupting our chat. “There’s no set time when people ring – it could be 8am or 1am,” says Ken. “But that’s the nature of our business – we want that phone to be ringing. Of course, being here now, facing onto The Quay, we’re hoping more and more people will come in and enjoy lunch with us.”
And given that the most expensive dish on their lunch menu is €20 (fillet steak), with most dishes ranging between €8 and €12, it’s clear that McLeary’s has positioned itself well from both a price perspective and the quality of the meals available, be it a bowl of chowder, a sumptuous salad or a chicken curry.
“Getting people to see that we’re open all day is going to be a big box for us to tick over the next few months,” said Ken.
“And again, building that business was part of the reason we came down here. We’re always open Mondays, we’re closed on Sundays – apart from the Sundays of Bank Holiday weekends – so we hope people will come into us, enjoy lunch, like what we cook, enjoy the service, spread the word and come back again themselves.
“And everything we source is local – from Dawn Meats, Jack Molloy’s, Eoin Dunphy Fruit & Veg, seafood from Dunmore East, they’re all from Waterford – and that’s very important to Kevin and myself. Everything apart from our ice creams is made in-house.”
McLeary’s €20 Value Menu (for two courses) is available all night, again a unique selling point for Ken and Kevin’s business, which employs a staff of 23. “We feel it’s good to give people an option like that. A la carte will obviously cost more, but we feel it’s important to give diners the option. And this isn’t an early bird – it’s giving you the same quality at a more competitive price.”
So if you want a relaxing evening, with good food and great service at very affordable prices, then McLeary’s, in its fantastic new home is well worth a visit. Ken, Kevin and their staff can’t wait to serve you!