Formerly known as Patisserie Régale, Jane and Richard Graham-Leigh have run this little craft bakery just outside the West Cork market town of Dunmanway since 2003.
Here, together with head baker Paola Vais and a growing team, patissier Richard Graham-Leigh uses the very best locally sourced ingredients to produce a wide range of handmade biscuits and cookies under the brand name "Cookies of Character".
Unsalted West Cork butter from Bandon Co-op is, he says, the secret of their melt-in the-mouth deliciousness, and other key local ingredients include organic cream and milk, free range eggs from Clonakilty, buttermilk from Belgooly, stoneground flour from Macroom Oatmeal Mills, and their own spring water. Imported ingredients like Belgian chocolate, nuts, dried fruit and Bourbon vanilla are sourced with equal care, and “We never, ever use artificial flavours or colours; preservatives or stabilisers; emulsifiers or hydrogenated fats in any of our cookies.”
The range is wide and includes chocolate chip cookies and oat & raisin cookies in various sizes, gingermen, biscotti and Baci di Dama (almond biscuits sandwiched with Belgian chocolate…) but everything is made by hand in small batches - originally this was out of necessity, but now they keep it that way so that the special homemade quality will not be lost.
A recent addition to their range which has proved a huge success is their crackers for cheese, which were developed with Sheridans Cheesemongers. Available in three styles (Brown Bread Crackers for Cheese, Rye & Linseed and Mixed Seed Crackers for Cheese) and marketed under the Sheridans brand, these excellent crackers filled a big gap in the Irish market (and are better than any imports) - and the two companies were very worthy joint recipients of a 2013 Irish Food Writers Guild Good Food Award.
Cookies of Character are available in good shops locally (eg Urru, Bandon; Field’s SuperValu, Skibbereeen; Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey), and in many of the best speciality food stores throughout Ireland including Ballymaloe (shops at house & cookery school); Ardkeen Food Stores, Waterford; McCambridge’s, Galway; Fallon & Byrne, Dublin; Country Market, Howth; Sheridans shops Carnaross, Co Meath & Galway - and many others.