Officially called rather grandly ‘Bramley, The Department Store’, Bramley's in Abbeyleix provides a touch of travellers' joy on the main route between Dublin and Cork.
Castle Durrow’s smart country house brand of restorative, good food and hospitality has been extended to the heavily trafficked Main Street by owners Shelley and Peter Stokes - and combined with a bit of retail diversion that attracts both locals and passersby, as well as their own guests.
While other hotels and guesthouses were diversifying into cookery schools, sports complexes and own label jams, Shelley was inspired when a traditional old shop came up for sale in Abbeyleix, one of the few towns not bypassed on the much re-routed N8.
The shop, opposite the famed Morrissey's Pub, had been a traditional drapery owned by a Mrs. Bramley who'd “been there forever ".
Following major restoration, Bramley's opened quietly in June 2008, providing a one-stop shop for guests attending weddings at Castle Durrow and looking for quality gifts or unusual clothing, and it has become a focal point where local people meet for lunch or a coffee.
Bramley’s lunch room – “not really grand enough to be called a café”, according to its owner - features coffee sourced from The Green Bean Coffee Company, always served with complimentary homemade biscuits. Most of the fresh fruit and vegetables come from Castle Durrow's organic walled garden, and prices are kept as low as possible.
Homemade soup of the day comes with two salads and a brown roll for around €5, while hot dishes like chicken and tarragon, Irish lamb stew or a vegetarian lasagne come with salads and bread at about €9.50.
Pecan pie and warm brownies are house specialties, along with the fresh baked scones that are served with spicy apple jelly from the castle orchards. There are also generous platters of cheese, charcuterie and salads for sharing.
Solo customers needn't be lonely either, with seating for 10 at a large table well stocked with magazines and the daily newspapers.
A magic place to break a journey.