Situated on busy College Street in the centre of Killarney, Miss Courtney’s Tea Rooms has all the elegance and charm of a bygone age, offering harrassed visitors the perfect antidote to the pushy modern world outside.
The tables are dressed with linen tablecloths and everything is served on proper china, with no two pieces being the same.
The name is not as fanciful as it sounds: Miss Courtney established her business here in 1909, as a confectioner, grocer and tobacconist, and the family has traded in tea and confectionery ever since. The present owner, Sandra Dunlea, is the fourth generation and it was an inspired idea to make it into this lovely old world Tea Shop.
Along with a couple of coffees and hot chocolate (served with marshmallows and cream), an extensive loose leaf tea menu offers no less than 17 choices - ‘Bad Weather Tea’ sounds like good insurance, but there are plenty of more familiar ones, including Assam, Ceylon, Lapsang Souchong, Darjeeling, Jasmine and Green Tea – and you could be tempted to have a go at reading the leaves too, instructions duly given at the back of the menu.
Then there are the afternoon rituals – traditional Cream Teas (scones with clotted or whipped cream and homemade jam accompany the tea of your choice), and Afternoon Tea (as above, plus fine cut sandwiches and cake), or simply a scone with jam and cream along with your tea. Afternoon Tea sandwiches include, of course, the classic cucumber – and, yes, you’ll find Victoria sponge among the cake selection.
There are juices and waters to choose from if tea is not your thing, including pressed fruit juices from Tipperary, and some more modern offerings for breakfast (available all day) are followed by a good choice of open, closed and toasted sandwiches, a daily homemade soup and a trio of salads.
Despite the presence of tiger prawns (an unexpected jarring note, offered in a modern salad with avocado and chilli & lime dressed leaves, and an open sandwich), there is a stated commitment to sourcing local and seasonal ingredients, everything is very tasty - and gluten free sandwiches are available at all times.
Prices are high in comparison with more ordinary cafés, but this special place is well worth a visit when in Killarney.