Toby Simmonds and the well known Real Olive Company team not only sell the quality imports (olives, cheese etc) that are familiar at the English Market in Cork and farmers’ markets all around Ireland, but also local water buffalo products - which you can buy in their shop and taste in their café too.
A water buffalo farm in West Cork? Well why not, the grass is good and water is plentiful. And so too is the spirit of enterprise, in the form of Toby Simmonds, local dairy farmer Johnny Lynch, and renowned West Cork cheesemaker Sean Ferry.
Following a conversation about “milking water buffalo to make cheese” over a pint on St Patrick’s Day in 2009, the seemingly strange idea started to make economic sense. A trip to Italy was arranged and 45 Italian buffalo found themselves in Cork (and the herd size has since increased) and, less than four years later, the trio received an Irish Food Writers’ Guild Good Food Award for their fresh, raw milk mozzarella cheese - which is just one of the excellent products they make with their buffalo milk.
The range also includes fresh ricotta, and any remaining whey goes to local pig breeders. Toons Bridge Dairy also produces a hard cheese and a feta cheese and is working on a blue cheese. It’s a successful import substitute that arrives on your plate ultra-fresh and bursting with flavour.
Shop & Café
Beside the Toons Bridge Dairy Toby’s wife Jenny-Rose Clarke operates a little shop and a lovely conservatory café. They sell their buffalo milk produce (mozzarella, ricotta, butter, raw milk, aged cheese, cream cheese and yoghurt…) here along with the Real Olive Company’s Mediterranean foods (olives, oils, Iberico meats etc), while also providing an outlet for other local artisan producers including De Roiste fresh blood puddings and Coolea cheese.
At the café overlooking the pretty creamery garden, they serve deliciously simple food using the ingredients they sell, as well as good coffee, organic wine and sherry and homemade desserts. For example, the Real Olive Co. contributes tapas boards, warm crispy pane carasau (Sardinian flatbread) with various toppings, salads and toasted sandwiches - and their own buffalo milk and cream stars in delicious mozzarella salad, ricotta cake, ice cream and the Toons Bridge cheese board. Tempting, eh?