Looking for a kitchen or food production space to rent?

One question I’m asked frequently is if I know of any production units that might available to rent. Most people, while they may start off in their home kitchen, want to get out of it as the business starts to take over their space. For others, the house just isn’t an option. One thing is clear though, you need an approved kitchen for food production….unlike these boys we spotted on the street in Croatia!

A number of food units around the country can be rented by the hour, week or longer term. Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), Councils, the Rural Development Companies and some community and private enterprises have built proper food units finished to food production standard that you can rent – contact your local council, community office or enterprise company to enquire. Bord Bia has published a list of units that can be found on www.bordbiavantage.ie. Its fairly up to date, typos not withstanding (Silgo, really?!)

Here is a selection on the island of Ireland, adapted from a chapter in my book, Money for Jam (2nd Edn):

Northern Ireland

The only Food Business Incubation Centre at the time of writing is situated at Loughry Campus in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. The Centre was opened in 1998 and provides the food supply chain with eight purpose-built food processing factory units finished to the highest standards in two sizes, 175m2 and 225m2 (www.cafre.ac.uk). There are also plans afoot to build a second food enterprise centre in Armagh;

Republic of Ireland

Connacht

The Food Hub in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim is a shining example. Operational since 2004, the Food Hub provides 26,000 sq. ft. of premium food production space across 14 independent work units and the Community Kitchen is a timeshare production unit where start-up food businesses can make their foods in a fully-equipped kitchen, paying by the hour (currently €15/hour) with no commitment other than to bring your own ingredients (www.thefoodhub.com);

Moy Valley Resources IRD has clients occupying Enterprise Units at a number of locations around Ballina, Co. Mayo, for a mixture of both food and non-food producers (www.moyvalley.ie);

Enterprise Castlerea in Co. Roscommon is currently developing a new facility which will include a kitchen and units to rent, called An Chistin in the Enterprise Hub; (www.castlereaenterprisehub.ie)

Castlehill Foods has a 900 sq. ft. (84m2) kitchen and food production premises available to hire outside Killala, Co. Mayo (contact Clair O’Connor on (087) 652 6065);

Munster

The North Tipperary Food Works in Rearcross, Newport, Co. Tipperary was developed by North Tipperary Food Enterprise Centre (Rearcross) Ltd. An old creamery building was converted into a premium food workspace. There is a timeshare kitchen and production units for rental. At the time of writing, the cost of rental of the timeshare kitchen is €15 per hour + VAT for the fully equipped kitchen which includes gas, water and electricity. The Food Production units cost €550 per month + VAT and as a tenant, you kit them out yourself as well as taking over utility bills (www.northtippfoodworks.ie);

The Limerick Food Centre at Raheen Business Park provides food manufacturing and processing units for commercial letting. Contact Gerry Fitzmaurice, M: +353-86-6380596, T: +353-61-712860, Gerry.Fitzmaurice@shannonproperties.ie(www.shannonproperties.ie);

The Ferbane Food Campus in Co.Offaly opened in 2003. Contact Donal Egan, Business Development Manager, Mobile: 085 877 6098 Tel: 090 6453926 Email: donal@ferbanefoodcampus.ie www.ferbanefoodcampus.ie

Cork County Council operates Cork Incubator Kitchens and can be contacted via www.corkincubatorkitchens.ie

Leinster

Nutgrove Enterprise Park, Dublin has two high-spec food production units, each 59.45m2 with own-door ground floor access and parking (www.nutgrove-enterprisepark.ie / info@dlrceb.ie);

SPADE Enterprise Centre is a community-based enterprise centre in the converted St. Paul’s Church at North King Street, Dublin (contact Susan Richardson, Centre Manager, (01) 617 4830 www.spade.ie);

Terenure Enterprise Centre (Dublin) has 3 fully-serviced food units (01) 490 3237 / www.terenure-enterprise.ie;

Hour Kitchen is a well equipped facility in Churchtown, Dublin 14.Tel. +353 1 298 0839; E-mail. info@hourkitchen.ie

In Kilkenny, The School of Food offers a commercial Kitchen for small or growing food businesses, professional Chefs or home Cooks to rent on a daily basis. Costs are €90 + VAT @ 23% per day or €45 + VAT @ 23% per half day and includeWaste, Electricity, Sanitizing Solution for Cleaning, Gas, Cleaning Equipment. Contact them at https://schooloffood.ie/incubation-kitchen

Newmarket Kitchen has opened in Bray. Co.Wicklow and offers shared kitchen space on a membership basis. Full details are available on www.newmarketkitchen.ie

Ulster

Údarás na Gaeltachta has three food units in Co. Donegal (www.udaras.ie);

Croatia Revisited

It’s getting  bit cold here these days and the leaves have nearly all fallen off the tress following the recent storms. When I plugged in my phone this morning, the camera uploads flashing by brought me back to my trip earlier this year to Croatia. I had previously visited Croatia in 2003 and spent a week in Dubrovnik. It wasn’t long after the war and, at that time, the evidence of those events could still be seen in the bombed and bullet-ridden buildings up and down the coast. Dubrovnik itself though, being a UNESCO world heritage site, had been fully restored even then.

This time, however, we headed north to the Istria peninsula and we based ourselves in Pula. It was booked on a whim, with little or no research (most unlike me!), but with great anticipation of sunshine, mediterranean seas, Roman ruins, culture, and of course…the food & wine! And we weren’t disappointed.

There are strong influences of Italy, especially in towns like Rovinj, which used to be part of the Venetian Empire at one point. Our our guide told us that her Grandmother had lived in four countries and had never moved house! Such was the history of unrest in the region. The town is lovely, narrow lanes, though hilly. We came across a man grilling sardines on the lane outside his house! We travelled there by boat from Pula, a lovely journey with great views of the coast and islands.

 

So whats Croatian food like? Well, lots of meat and fish, truffles, honey, olive oil and plenty of influences from Italy, as we were in the Northern part of the country on the Istrian peninsula. Ražnjići and ćevapčići are both local minced meat concoctions. Cevapčići is often served with a roasted red pepper sauce and is really tasty – a but like a cross between and sausage and kebab. We first tried it after a long day kayaking up the coast and cliff jumping and we stopped for lunch in the Safari Bar, Premature, which is located within the Cape Kamenjak nature park – fantastic!

Safari Bar group

 

Wherever we went, every time I ordered fish, no matter what type, it seemed to some with baby potatoes and spinach, although someone did tell me afterwards its not actually spinach! It was mostly seabass or mackerel and served simply. Not much by way of choice to be honest. I was getting a bit sick of fish / spuds / spinach after a few days! And though I’m sure I shouldn’t say so, I’m not really a big fan of truffles. Perhaps they’re an acquired taste.

 

Croatia is a wine producer and while I wasn’t familiar with any Croatian wines before travelling, I was really impressed. The reds in particular were great, and such good value!

We stayed in the Park Plaza on the Pula peninsula – a beautiful report with a good range of restaurants. One of my favourites there was the Hugo cocktail – sparkling wine, elderflower cordial and mint, with some sparkling water. Hard to beat looking out over the Mediterranean on a warm evening!

So would I go back? Yes, definitely, but I think I’d have to find out more about other local foods – there is only so much fish & spinach or ćevapčići  I can handle!

 

 

 

Sligo Food Trail goodies!

The Sligo Food Trail was officially launched on April 6th. I was delighted to work with Amanda McCloat, Head of Home Economic at St. Angela’s College in Sligo, and the Food Trail members in putting together the fantastic Goodie Bags that were distributed to key people on the launch night.

The producers and businesses showed typical generosity when it came to donations. The bags were packed full of delicious treats (both food & drink!), vouchers, books and, of course, copies of the Food Trail brochure:

The White Hag Brewing Company Ltd.
Café Fleur
Sweet Beat Cafè
WB’s Coffee House and Deli Bar
Shells Café and Little Shop
Beltra Country Market – Marguerite Quinlan
Fabio’s Homemade Italian Ice Cream
Prannie Rhatigan’s Irish Seaweed Kitchen
Clo’s Chocolate
Murson Farm
Seashore Veg
The Organic Centre
Aisling’s Home Cooked Food also to be found at the Grass Roof Café!
Bramble Lodge Foods
Eala Bhán / Trá Bán
Lyons Cafè
Pudding Row
Harrisons Gastro Bar & Restaurant
Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa

Some of these I’ve reviewed previously here on oonagheats.com or on the oonagheats.com Facebook fan page (Eala Bhan, Sweet Beat, Shells, Lyons Cafe, Radisson Blu, Aisling’s Home Cooked Food at the Grass Roof Café) but over the coming months, I plan to check them all out, painstakingly, one by one (poor me, LOL !) and give you the low down – watch this space!

Best Children’s Menu in Ireland – Spring Review

In February, I set out to assess Children’s menus, for variety, healthiness, availability and appeal. I’ve checked out quite a few at this stage, some directly (with the Children in tow) and some indirectly, just from a look at the menus.

We were invited by Anthony Gray, President of the RAI and owner of Eala Bhán and Trá Bán restaurants in Sligo to dine en famille at Eala Bhán and try out his newly launched “Healthy Kid’s Menu”. With thanks to Anthony for his generous hospitality, this is an honest appraisal. Anthony told us that the menu was devised by himself and his team and with input from Olivia Collins of Food PR.

Kids — Eala Bhán menu

It was very nicely presented, with the usual colouring in / activities on the reverse, though my pair are a bit old for the colouring in at this stage. Everyone got a soup amuse bouche, which is always a great addition!
Amuse Bouche

A review of the Starter options showed that the healthy option for starters was Soup. The fish cake, though listed as “Super Healthy” was deep fried (at least I assume it was or it would have said “baked”) in breadcrumbs. The third choice was sweet potato chips (deep fried again). For Starters, he close the Fish Cake and she went for the soup (vegetable).

The fish cake looked lovely, however, for a child, the presentation and garnish was a bit too fancy to be honest. Many children are not keen on salad or dressing or anything touching the food that they don’t want to eat! I tasted it though, and it was really good. In fact, I ate nearly all of it!!

The soup was excellent – a generous portion, with well balanced seasoning and very nicely presented, with brown bread on the side.

Choices of mains included fish & chips (deep fried), beef burger (chargrilled), deep fried chicken goujons, or vegetable lasagna (sic). For mains, he chose the Chicken Goujons & Chips and she went for the Beef Burger. The verdict on the Chicken and Chips was that the chips were really good – chunky, fresh and crispy, but the chicken was just “ok”. Deep fried so not very healthy. The burger was really super. Lovely soft bap, fab beef from Sherlock’s Butchers, perfect portion size, generous but not too much, overall a winner.

Desserts were chocolate, chocolate or chocolate! There was nothing else. He is quite the connoisseur of the chocolate brownie and said that while this was indeed very good, it was slightly overbaked and so a bit too much like chocolate cake, i.e., not squidgey enough! That said, he ate every pick! She went for fancy, and she is inclined to do, and the Chocolate Fondue was indeed very impressive!

A healthy menu should offer a fruit plate, or fruit skewers or even yogurt. If the menu is supposed to he healthy, then there should be some healthy options for all courses.

Overall, is great to see a restaurant make an effort at a healthy menu, and despite being well presented and tasty, simply calling something “healthy” and listing local suppliers doesn’t make it healthy I’m afraid. Perhaps input from a Nutritionist would help. At the very bottom of the menu in small print, it told us that Child Size portions of all adult meals are available. Fantastic! But this should be front & centre! At the very least, it should really have been pointed out to us by the server. This is where a restaurant can score points and set itself above the others when it comes to beating the competitors in the healthy kids meal stakes. It’s an opportunity that should be capitalised on.

Other quick picks from my travels (and please excuse some very poor photography on my part):

Tyrellspass Castle Restaurant, Co.Westmeath – soup and choices of turkey, beef or ham with veg first followed by the usual deep-fried chicken,sausages etc…
Tyrellspass Castle

Rua, Castlebar – excellent menu, and not a deep-fried goujon or chip in sight, hooray! Will definitely go back here with the kids in tow.
Rua Kids Menu

Shells Cafe, Strandhill – nice little kids menu, great to see that its basically smaller portions of the main menu dishes, with a twist!
Shells Kids Menu

Donaghy’s Pub, Sligo – very very limited kids portions on the menu, just 2 dishes that we could see – chicken nuggets and chips, and Healthy Fish Gougons (sic) for Kids – we weren’t offered a kids menu, if there was one (we didn’t ask either mind you);

Sweet Beat Cafe, Sligo – no children’s portions on the menu so we usually end up splitting dishes between us;

McDonagh’s, Galway – recently visited, but no kids portions offered that we could see (no complaints from the kids though!).

Sheridan’s of Milltown, Co.Galway – a good range of healthier foods for kids here. Spaghetti, mash, chicken curry and rice…and the usual sausages / goujons & chips. Better than some though.
Kids Menu Sheridans Milltown310316

Restaurants would do well to appreciate that, during the day and early evening, parents can be enticed to dine more often with children, if the children were better catered for. Who decided that all kids want to eat is processed meat & chips? Sure, they’ll happily eat it, but its not healthy, as most people know by now. Oh, and P.S., run a spell check on your menus people! There is no excuse for bad grammar, stray apostrophes and spelling errors.

Tune in again at the end of the Summer for the next instalment!

The Search for the Best Children’s Menu in Ireland is on!!

If, like me, you travel frequently with children, whether for day trips or weekends or longer, you will know that the quality and variety of food on menus for children ranges from the very ordinary to the somewhat less ordinary, with only a few exceptionally good ones bucking the trend. So I’m putting out a call to cafes and restaurants – how can you make your menus appealing to children, and by extension to the bill payer?!

For example, recently we stayed in Hotel Westport (again!). They when a great kids club for U12s, the Panda Club. Children eat at 5.15pm. This time though, since one of ours is now 13, the deal was that one night our pair (13 year old fussy boy & 11 year old foodie girl) could eat in the dining-room with us, which was really nice actually.

She loved the Amuse Bouche (fancy!).

Hotel Westport Amuse Bouche

They could choose from the Children’s Menu or the main menu (for an additional charge). The 13 year old did object to the games on the reverse, now that he’s so mature…! I thought that was a good idea though.The selection was pretty good and the quality in Hotel Westport is always up to scratch. The deep-fried goujons were a lot better than the chicken nuggets you see in so many places.

The following evening we went back to The Pantry & Corckscrew – creatures of habit are we! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is one of my favourite places in Ireland. The menu is original, fresh and interesting and the food lives up to expectations.

Children have a really interesting choice here – none of the usual fare and not a nugget in sight! Miss Foodie had an excellent homemade beefburger with lovely bun and chunky chips. The very fussy (discerning?!) 13 year old young man had tempura hake, also with chunky chips (though they could have had mash if they wished). Both super and all eaten very happily with even happier parents looking on.

Tonight we’re heading to our local Dromahair eatery, The Riverbank Restaurant. Its a firm favourite in this house and traditional choice for a Birthday Dinner (it’s mine today, just saying’, ahem!). They have published their Children’s Menu on line – clever people – which is great for anyone thinking of going, wondering about what the children could eat. Check out oonagheats.com on Facebook later tonight for photos!

So, I’m putting out the call – where is really good for children’s meals? I’m looking for recommendations from parents and restauranteurs far and wide. I’ll come and try and spread the word if it passes muster – my two assessors will have final say – after all, they will eat the food, while I’m your target market, i.e., the bill-payer! Once a good list has been established – I’ll publish it widely.

Restaurants should send me their menus and parents / others their recommendations to oonagh@alphaomega.ie

Bring it on!

The Draft House Gastro Pub opens in Strandhill using local suppliers

Its lovely when an invitation pops up in your InBox with an invitation to the opening night of a new Gastro Pub! So it was back on May 15th last when owner Daniel McGarrigle (he of 5th on Teeling fame) invited friends and neighbours to sample the craft beer and food of this new venue, The Draft House in Strandhill, Co.Sligo.

 Draft House logo

We were treated to a wide range and many samples of the foods and beers on the menu. While some of the branding might be a bit twee (a pig on a surfboard, really?) and some menu descriptions a little silly (Sand Witches – I know its by the beach in Strandhill, but still… Granny’s brown bread – who is Granny? Why not just say local or house…? Chicken Supreme, for bird lovers – hardly! and the Water was labelled as “Unicorn Tears”, give me a break) the food was undoubtedly very good.

The one quibble I had was that when I asked the F&B Manager if the bread was made on the premises, she answered “Yes! It was made fresh yesterday”. Yesterday. That explained why it was a little dry then. However, I have recently learned that a local baker (My Strandhill Bakery) will be supplying the bread imminently, and I know that will be great since the baker has recently returned from bakery training in Paris and spent 3 weeks at the Bakery Academy of Ireland in Dublin over the Summer…and I’ve tried it.

My Strandhill Bakery logo

Its far better to buy local, fresh every day, rather than serve day old bread made on the premises.

On foot of a very enjoyable launch night, I returned with the children a week later. The place was very busy, which is a good sign. However, everywhere we sat seemed to be right underneath a speaker which was playing music just a bit too loud for a family at lunch time. So we left.

Not to be put off, we all returned again a week later. The food was great, but the service really needed attention. Very uneven. Asked for glasses that came wet. Then came dirty. Then came with attitude. The salad special said “mixed baby leaves” – it was all spinach. Perhaps things will improve with time and I will try it again in the future, but not in a hurry. Good food is always a draw, but poor service puts me right off, especially when other nearby places can do both well.

Good Luck to Daniel and Team – its great to see new place opening with a real emphasis on food and atmosphere. The menu is really interesting and the decor certainly different (albeit a bit dark downstairs for daytime). Just be sure to train your staff really well and ensure standards are set, monitored and maintained. Next time I’ll have a go on the swing upstairs!