The little café at the back of the shop in Ballymaloe may not be the best known spot in the place but it sure is one of the busiest. And like every other part of Ballymaloe the meals produced here are top notch, as I found out during Friday's visit.
The main reason for travelling to the East Cork venue was to check out the shop for some items for the kitchen. The shop’s kitchen area has an extensive stock, everything from knives to cake tins, and there is also a textile and books area.
We got our bits and pieces and then lingered a while longer, adding to the purchases, in the food area which packs quite a lot, including Green Saffron spices and Badger and Dodo coffees, into a relatively small area. You may also shop online.
The time for lunch was at hand and we got a table in the café. It fills up pretty quickly so don't rely on getting a place. Still, if you can wait (check out that shop, maybe), lunch is served from twelve thirty to four.
The short menu is displayed on a blackboard and we both started with the Celeriac Soup (5.20) served with a small scattering of toasted hazelnuts and flat parsley. The nuts really added to the enjoyable soup, served in the distinctive blue and white Burleigh pottery (also on sale in the shop).
Main course for me was the Hot Sandwich of Black Forest Ham and Comté Cheese on toasted Arbutus Bread with salad and pickles (9.90). CL picked the Hederman Smoked Mackerel, with salad and homemade mayonnaise and served on brown bread (9.50).
Both were well presented and each was terrific. I totally enjoyed my combination of flavours and textures as did CL. Must say that the salads in particular were just fantastic, great mix and dressing. Would love to see the Café take on Glucksman’s Fresco Bistro in a Niçoise salad competition!
A couple of coffees later and two happy customers, service was friendly and efficient, walked out as others eagerly walked in. It is that kind of café.
* Now you can sample the café on Fridays (from 7.00pm). There'll be casual eats to share: small platters, nibbles, wine, cava, sherry. No reservation needed. Keep an eye on their Facebook page.