The Cooley mountains make an impressive backdrop to Hannah Byrne’s unusual café and retail operation at Strandfield House, just outside Dundalk. The driveway leading up to the house arrives into a farmyard that’s choc-a-bloc with colourful plants and shrubs - big ornamental urns catch the eye and gaily coloured flowers and plants spill out over an old free-standing bath.
This quirky theme continues inside the long, low building that houses the shop and café. Complete with tiled floor, brick walls, a grandfather clock and a wood-burning stove, the kitchen and service counter is in the first of two dining areas.
The second room, long and rectangular, is partly covered with glass, providing a light and airy space. Large windows overlook the yard while the glassed end wall has views of the mountains. There are comfortable sofas, rattan armchairs and a variety of old wooden chairs to sit on. Blue-painted sideboards, pink tables and a free-standing wood burner add a quaint touch to this very appealing room.
Outside, plants thriving in old Belfast sinks decorate an outdoor area with spectacular views of the sweeping mountains and surrounding fields.
The menu is short but delicious. Focused on supporting small farms and local ingredients, Strandfield uses free-range eggs from their own hens, milk from a nearby farm and homemade jams from local jam-makers, Corderry.
Breakfast, soups, sandwiches, scones and pastries are on offer, but with a twist. Porridge comes with fruits and honey, French toast is doused with yoghurt and seasonal fruits, while an unusual cranberry and orange scone is the perfect partner for good coffee.
The sandwiches offered go beyond the usual - egg, garden salad, cranberry and walnut toast with St Tola goat’s cheese, or Brie and red grapes - and home grown herbs, vegetables and fruit are used in season.
The shop is sure to tempt, with items not often seen elsewhere on sale including home grown garlic in season, the local Dunany flour, Corderry jam, and homemade relishes - and there’s an in-house florist too.
Prices are premium and this is not Avoca - but the food quality is high and it is a quirky and interesting place to visit.