I have visited Castlebar only a few times in my life, and never by choice. I don’t mean to knock the Mayo town, but I have never heard anything good about the place that would encourage me to get into my car and drive up there, until recently.
Rave reviews from a couple of tuned in people indicated that there was indeed a reason to visit Castlebar – a smashing cafe and deli called Cafe Rua, and to add to it this weeks Nationwide exclusively covered food in Mayo, another undiscovered truth for many.
Cafe Rua was not mentioned in the program as it focused on the award winning black pudding of Dominick Kellys over in Newport(which I will cover in a future blog), and the artisan food producers of Westport. This got me thinking that I had to checkout why people had began talking so highly of the food industry in Mayo.
As you approach Castlebar from Galway you will find Cafe Rua on your right, just before you hit the town square. The hungry and inviting red facade of the building draws curiosity immediately, like that of a water fountain in the desert.
The ground floor of the cafe/deli is what a proper deli should be, plenty of local produce, beautiful homemade in-house pesto, jams, salad dressings, vinagarettes, breads, cakes etc you name it and they have it covered. The traditional tiled butchers floor really made me smile, indicating that these guys love what they do, and take pride in bringing pedigree to the food world of Castlebar.
Upstairs is a busy cafe, homemade cakes, breads, and the days menu displayed on a blackboard – the menu is for children – I’m not sure if it changes completely everyday, but if it does, hats off to the chefs!!
The menu is not exactly life-changing or cutting edge, and I have to say I was disappointed after hearing so many wonderful things. BUT, all was not lost.
I ordered a steak sandwich, which turned out to be the most awesome steak sandwich I have ever had. Tender minute steak adorned a hunk of freshly baked bread, the most amazing homemade coleslaw with celery and mustard seeds, roast potatoes, and fresh salad, pickled cucumbers, and watercress. Everything on my plate was incredibly good quality, and most appetising. Presentation also got top marks as my disappointment at the menu changed immediately when I saw my luscious plate.
Not being impressed with the menu either Lorna settleed on bacon and potato croquettes, which turned out to be very nice homemade quality croquettes, not the usual dissapointing breaded rubbish synonymous with greasy finger food style croquettes.
For me the greatest touch was not only a fab kids menu, but the fact that the guys at Rua are thoughtful enough to have a daily kids special, which comes with a peanut cookie. River had penne bolonaise with garlic bread – a dish I would have been delighted with myself.
Service was OK, the cafe was full from when we arrived until we left. Friendly, but slightly disorganised, I used my trick of getting River to remind the girls he was thirsty after we had asked 3/4 times. The cafe itself was bright airy, and laid back, perhaps it’s wrong to question the level of service on a busy Saturday lunchtime, but impressions last, luckily the food was good enough to excuse the service.
Much to Rivers dissapointment the cookie which came with the kids special had just run, but to his advantage they offered any cake he wanted in exchange(a much better deal!!) Instead he choose a ‘cookie cake’, which was best described as a smashing modern Bakewell, loaded with moist almond flavour, and topped with stewed plums – YUM. I kindly helped him finish it off!!
Finally Lorna had her favourite, a traditional Italian style chocolate brownie with homemade icecream, and there were no complaints but an empty plate within seconds.
I have to take my hat off to the guys at Cafe Rua, they are doing a great thing for food in Castlebar, the menu represents what people in the town are looking for, but Rua style.
Food is presented in an uncomplicated fashion, disquising exemplary, high quality cuisine. It’s not adventurous, and it’s far from pretentious, it is simply smashing cafe food, Irish style – feeding the people what they want, Rua style.
And what is Rua style? Rua is high quality, locally sourced, lovingly prepared, thoughtful, beautiful, and creative.
Rua is ahead of its game in terms of local and Irish produce. It presents an extensive range of its own produce through the cafe and deli, as well as supporting other small and artisan producers both in Mayo, and throughout the country.
Is it worth driving to Castlebar just for lunch? I can honestly say that as there is NOTHING else to do in Castlebar, make it part of an adventure. Rua took us to Newport to get some of Kellys black pudding, and then on to Westport to check more cafes and restaurants, and that is a great way to spend a lazy Saturday!!
Cafe Rua ta an bia go hailainn…….