By Sarah O’Toole
Set in the idyllic village of Birdhill, Co. Tipperary, Matt the Thresher has been providing award-winning food since 1987, most recently scooping the Good Eating Guide’s Best Munster Gastro Pub award. Eoghan Toner, the manager at Matt the Threshers spoke to MenuPages about what it takes to achieve such a high standard of hospitality and culinary excellence.
Absolutely thrilled with the accolade: “It was great because we just took over in December, made a lot of changes and it looks like they paid off as we won the award, it was fantastic for everyone involved.”
Matt the Threshers has grown from strength to strength with a primary focus on making it the number one culinary destination in the region. Eoghan feels that incremental changes recently implemented to the restaurant like changing the uniform and introducing a new wine and craft beer menu has paid dividends.
Many people will be more familiar with the Dublin restaurant, which is famous for its outstanding seafood dishes, however, the Birdhill location has a more varied menu.Matt the Threshers believe in using locally sourced produce in preparing their meals: “We put a huge emphasis on locally produced food. The area that we are, the south-west, the fields are lush and the cows well fed.”
Even the alcohol doesn’t have far to travel: “All the craft beers are within a 50-mile radius from the restaurant and includes ranges from the smallest microbreweries to the better-known brands such as O’Hara’s.”
Eoghan himself has a pedigree in the hospitality industry with many top roles at home and abroad, all which has culminated in playing a vital role in achieving such a high standard at the Birdhill restaurant. After cutting his teeth in the Bridge House in Tullamore he went further afield to Jury’s Hotel in Scotland then took on the move across the Atlantic.
“I was in America for a couple of years working in a restaurant in Atlanta, when I returned to Ireland I started in Matt the Threshers in Dublin and two years later I was made manager in Birdhill.”
After swapping the acclaimed Dublin restaurant for quieter pastures down the country Eoghan revealed they do have the odd famous face in for a visit. While the Dublin restaurant played host to Michelle Obama on her visit to Ireland in 2013 the Birdhill branch is no stranger to well-known Irish personalities.
“A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to have the Taoiseach dine with us. I’m a Gaeilgeoir, I was talking to him in Irish for 5 minutes and he took the time to chat with the waitress and customers. He told me he loved the restaurant as it’s painted red and green inside and it reminds him of the Mayo flag!”
Eoghan believes that social media plays a significant role in the reputation of a restaurant these days: “With social media, the hospitality sector has to deliver 100% every time. Back in the day if you made a mistake five or six people would hear about it, now the whole world hears about instantly!”
Potential staff hires are put through their paces before being hired, each having two interviews and a trial before being taken on by Matt the Threshers, to ensure quality service.
Eoghan was full of praise for his hard-working staff: “We have some amazing staff. We took on a 16-year-old recently for her work experience, and she was so good we kept her on part time at the weekends”.
As well as the staff Eoghan lauded his customers and the people of Birdhill, “The people down here are so obliging and made me feel at home as soon as I moved here from Dublin. There are 30 people I can call in the morning, I could say I need a lift to Dublin airport right now and they would bring me, it’s that kind of generosity”.
Ultimately he believes the success comes down to two simple things: “We keep saying here if the service is good and the food is good, people will keep coming. If you are missing one of those two factors things go wrong”.