Birr Castle is a brilliant place to visit at any time and, tucked away in a restored stable block in the entrance courtyard, is a gorgeous café that’s a destination in its own right and it's accessible to all, i.e. you don't have to pay the entrance fee to the grounds in order to eat there.
A stylish cream awning and big parasols over the picnic tables in the outer courtyard will catch your eye on arrival and it will be hard to resist popping in to have a look - and, once inside the handsome high-ceilinged room, the chances are you’ll be smitten and want to stay.
Simple with a lovely understated style, it’s dominated by big menu blackboards offering tempting seasonal dishes and proclaiming in no uncertain style the food philosophy upheld by Manager Mary Walsh-Kinsella and her team since opening here in spring 2013: One board states that “Everyday we cook fresh Irish chicken and ham, make our soup, deli salads & savoury tarts, bakes scones, breads, cakes & biscuits”.
Another blackboard declares: “We promote and celebrate local producers and suppliers - we would like you to know where our food comes from”. And it comes from some very good places indeed, as it happens, including the Haslam family’s renowned organic Mossfield Farm, Ciara Morris of Slieve Bloom Foods, Gareth Keogh of the independent wine company Wines Direct, and Bo Bristle craft beer from Banagher, among others.
All good to know, especially as all this good homemade food not only goes into the delicious plates served in the café, but many of the items offered can also be bought to take away. Picnics can be pre-ordered for a day in the grounds too, and cakes can also be baked to order.
It really is a lovely place and the keen young staff do it proud. The day begins with deliciously simple breakfast dishes like granola with yoghurt, baked eggs or boiled eggs with toast and tasty brunch style offerings such as ham and cheese croissants or homemade sausage rolls - and a blackboard announces the weekend brunch specials. But, although mostly a daytime destination for brunches, lunches, afternoon teas and snacks, they also sometimes do pop-up tapas evenings at weekends or when there are events on at the Castle, and the catering style - sharing board charcuterie selections - is delightfully rustic.
Well worth a visit.