Just Ask Restaurant of the Month - Café Rua

The “Just Ask!” Restaurant of the Month winner for February is Café Rua in Castlebar, Co Mayo

Cafe Rua - Castlebar County Mayo IrelandWhen Ann McMahon opened Café Rua on New Antrim Street, Castlebar, in the mid ‘90s there were few enough establishments concentrating on combining quality with simplicity and making the very best foods accessible to all.

Today the business is run by Ann’s children Aran and Colleen and, not only has that philosophy of serving ‘uncomplicated food using seasonal and local ingredients’ endured, but the business expanded in 2008 with the opening of a second branch, Rua, on Castlebar’s Spencer Street, where there is also a delicatessen.

Cafe Rua - Castlebar County Mayo IrelandThe McMahons are members of Good Food Ireland and clearly take pride in their association with local producers and other quality food suppliers throughout Ireland – in addition to crediting many of these on individual dishes, current certificates from suppliers of fresh poultry and meats (including Union Food in Ballisodare McHales of Castlebar and Kelly’s of Newport) are on public display in the cafés, while older ones are moved into the kitchen.

Many of the original suppliers - such as Noodle House, Sligo (pasta and jam); Kelly's Butchers, Newport (sausages/pudding); Clarkes, Ballina (smoked salmon); and Sheridans (cheese, oils and ‘nice bits’) – still provide the McMahons with quality ingredients and the list of mainly local, Irish and organic suppliers is growing all the time.

The policy is to make foods used in the cafés available to purchase in the shop, so lucky shoppers will find some outstanding products here, like Blakes organic Fair-trade chocolate, Sally Barnes’ smoked fish, Gubbeen Farmhouse products, west of Ireland cheeses - Carrowholly raw milk, for example, and St Tola organic goats cheese - and David Llewellyn juices and vinegars.

The cafés are a hive of activity from early morning, with all the cakes, scones, muffins and breads baked on the premises, and the Spencer Street bakery also supplying the delicatessen.

Café blackboard menus begin with breakfast – daily-changed specials include Clarke's smoked Salmon with scrambled eggs; Kelly's black pudding, potato cake and bramley apple sauce; Macroom oatmeal porridge with poached rhubarb – and there’s always a full vegetarian breakfast option.

Lunch works the same way, with specials reflecting the best seasonal produce available, adding to a core of daily changing soups and hot sandwiches; children are always welcome and there’s a proper Kids’ Menu (favourites include Kelly’s sausages and mash, and Noodle House pasta with roast chicken, fresh tomato sauce and garlic bread).

Cafe Rua - Castlebar County Mayo IrelandBaking is a strong point (think hot desserts like warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, apple pie and cakes such as classic strawberry sponge) and the drinks menu follows through in the same philosophy, with Java Republic and Fairtrade featuring alongside fresh juices, quality soft drinks – and some carefully selected wines.

A 3-course dinner is offered on the last Friday of the month only, and reservations are accepted for up to two months in advance.

Dinner Menu (January 2010)

Rua breads and Cuinneog Butter

Connemara Smokehouse fish plate with beetroot chutney and Rua soda bread

Rua Delicatessen Mezze selection of Grilled Haloumi Cheese, Hummus, Pickled tomatoes, grilled artichokes and bread

Ann’s mildly spiced mussel soup

Rua chicken liver paté, pickled cucumber, cranberry relish and toast.


Baked Fillet of Clare Island Organic Salmon , tenderstem broccoli and herby hollandaise

Rib eye steak with beer battered onion rings and roquefort butter

Butternut squash gnocchi with sage, parmesan and wilted greens

Slow cooked pork belly with a bubble and squeak cake, thyme roasted apples and mustard sauce

Vegetables – Champ potatoes. Honey and thyme roasted root vegetables . Savoy cabbage


Pear tarte tatin with clotted cream

Pannetone and ice cream cake served with chocolate sauce

Crêpes with caramelised apples and boozy butterscotch sauce



Just Ask!” is a public awareness campaign that aims to encourage consumers when eating out to look for information on where the food (particularly meat) on their plate comes from, and encourages chefs to provide this information on their menus. The programme supports both large and smaller artisan suppliers, encouraging both Irish diners and visitors from abroad to support restaurants that are in turn supporting their suppliers.

Here at Georgina Campbell Guides we have always been avid supporters of the ‘eat local’ concept, and we always enjoy reading menus that have a real sense of place. The dining experience is greatly enriched by knowing that the food on your plate is inspired by the produce and traditions of the area, and sourced nearby – and we would love to see more chefs sharing that precious information with their guests. 

If you are a visitor to the area, learning a little about local food and the people who produce it adds a special extra dimension to the visit – and, for residents, it reinforces a natural pride in the good things of their locality and makes a meal all the more enjoyable.

So, we are delighted by the high standard of menus that continue to be submitted for our ' “Just Ask!” Restaurant of the Month Competition', menus that really speak of the best of Irish foods – and the dedication of both the people who make them, and the chefs who select them to create wonderful dishes with real Irish flavour for our enjoyment.

There are currently no comments

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment
Not a member? Register for your free membership now!
Or leave a comment by logging in with: