When Declan Ryan sold the legendary Arbutus Lodge Hotel in Cork city in 1999, it was obvious that retirement would not suit him. So, inspired by breads he had enjoyed in America and France, Declan set about learning the art of sourdough baking from some of the best bakers in France, then he set up a little artisan bakery in his two car garage.
Delivery was from the back of his jeep in the early days, and his first customers were Isabelle Sheridan (On the Pig’s Back, English Market) and his brother Michael, of Isaacs Restaurant, both of whom are still customers today.
Now - still using only the finest ingredients and traditional, slow methods - he operates from new premises where, together with an international crew of five full time bakers, he produces a range of over two dozen speciality breads. Many young bakers have taken up the 'real bread' challenge recently, but Declan was a decade ahead of the current trend and there is still nobody to beat the Arbutus team.
They come in varying shapes and sizes, using different flours and flavourings (if any), but all are made to the same exacting standard. Most - including a crusty Cork Beer Bread - are sourdough, but you’ll also find Irish specialities among them: a white West Cork soda bread, for example, and a nutty brown version including Macroom pinhead oatmeal - the recipe is on their website and it’s available as Granny Ryan’s Soda Bread Mix too, to buy from O’Keeffe’s and Nash 19 in Cork, and farmers’ markets (or order it by email through the site).
Arbutus Breads are now distributed to selected outlets nationwide, and they run baking courses too.