Jane and Myles Lamberth’s gorgeously pretty little café right on the seafront is first port of call for many a regular visitor to Strandhill, and it’s easy to see why.
An outside seating area at the front provides the perfect perch for people-watching and enjoying the view while you enjoy some delicious home cooking, or simply sip a glass of wine or a cup of organic fair trade coffee prepared by a trained barista.
Indoors it’s cosy and pretty with an Ireland-meets-New England feel with its crisp white walls, colourful mismatched chairs and tables covered with polka dot oilcloths. As well as a welcoming atmosphere, there’s an obvious pride in using and producing the best. The menu begins with a sourcing and quality statement, and first-time visitors will be happy to see that locally sourced foods are used as much as possible (including organically grown herbs from their own garden), all eggs are free range and the meat is Irish.
All breads are baked in-house too, along with the other baked treats on the menu, like scones (served with butter and homemade jam), lemon square, apple tart, gooey carrot cake and a luscious chocolate cake that’s also coeliac friendly.
Accompanying drinks include homemade lemonade and fresh orange juice as well as smoothies, organic coffees and a range of teas including Voya herbal (from the famous spa and seaweed baths next door).
But although the bakery is special – and afternoon tea is a big treat here – there’s more to Shells than just a tea shop, and the menus offered for breakfast, lunch and (on Friday and Saturday) dinner are surprisingly extensive.
At lunchtime, for example, in addition to the half dozen or so ‘Light Plates’ available all day (soups, salads and sandwiches – toasted, or open on thick-cut bread, with gluten-free bread available), there are more substantial options ranging from the House Burger or Ultimate Burger (or indeed the No Beef Burger!), to slow cooked lamb stew or the excellent Shells Café Fish & Chips. And there’s a cute Kids Korner menu too, offering the likes of a cowboy burger and chips or Bo Peep lamb stew.
Takeaway is also available – very handy for visitors self-catering in the area – occasion cakes can be baked to order, and they’ve opened the Little Shop next door too for takeaway coffees, baked goods and a small selection of artisan foods as well as pretty home items and toys.
It’s jam packed on weekends and in the summer, so be prepared to wait for a table – though they turn over fairly quickly, and it’s a good excuse to browse in the shop.
All round, a fabulous little spot worth going out of your way for.
* Jane and Myles Lamberth have even found time to publish a book – The Surf Café Cookbook: Contemporary Irish Cooking with a Soupcon of Salty Air (available online via the Shells website).