For a place that’s only been open since September 2008, London-born Louise Clark’s smashing café restaurant & deli just off the square in Dungarvan town centre has a very established air – and no wonder: it hit the ground running thanks to a loyal following of appreciative foodies who, for the previous six years, had been visiting her Naked Lunch stall at the farmers’ market she helped to found, happily queueing for the simple tasty food she has made her calling cards, such as homemade spicy lamb burgers, home baked breads and cakes.
Louise also had a successful outside catering business (strange how so many of the best cooks are, or have been, caterers – perhaps it’s because it’s a job that really keeps you on your culinary toes), and now the various strands of her previous experience are working together brilliantly in this vibrant little foodie hotspot.
The interesting shopfront with the cheerful Illy logo in the window (always a hint of good things to come) draws passers-by, and a quick peep reveals all the signs of dedication – a cheery big naïve painting catches your eye initially and then the homely interior, which is just packed with delights.
The café is at the back but there are plenty of distractions en route - high stools invite you to stop for a coffee and bite from the deli counter while you take in the great range of freshly made and artisan products on sale, including a wide choice of patés, cheeses and preserves; baking is big here and the sweet-toothed will find an irresistible choice of scones, cakes and buns alongside a great range of breads, both ‘café-baked’ and from Declan Ryan’s renowned Arbutus bakery in Cork.
Everything has real homemade flavour, with the goodness of the ingredients making for some memorable treats.
The café (which also has an attractive covered terrace for outdoor dining) is served by an open kitchen, with menus offering a wide range of options for different times of day.
But, whether you drop in for a casual bite - one of their gorgeous sandwiches or salads (Gubbeen cheese sandwich with roasted cherry tomatoes and herb mayo, perhaps, or Ardsallagh goats cheese salad) or go for a full meal, you’ll find the same integrity – simply written menus, sprinkled with the names that guarantee impeccable provenance: O’Flynn’s Cumberland style sausages, for example, Frank Hederman’s smoked salmon, and a rainbow selection of farmhouse cheeses.
You must try the Irish Stew, made with lean and flavoursome Comeragh mountain lamb (it’s good to see mountain lamb is gaining recognition as an exceptional product, and marketed as such), and get your companion to order the chicken & tarragon pie, made with ‘Bornfree’ free range chicken – just taste the difference!
Children are well looked after (with a special menu offering ‘real food’ for under eights) and, although most people probably think of this as a bustling daytime place, the atmosphere is transformed by candlelight in the evening when the menu expands to include more substantial dishes and a range of sociable sharing platters (antipasta platter, mezze plate, artisan cheese board), and the drinks focus moves from fruit juices (the area is known for apple production), herbal teas and coffees to the excellent wines supplied by Bubble Brothers of Cork.
Nude Food may be small, but it packs a mighty punch.