End of an era as regulars bid farewell to the Crawford Gallery Café

It’s been a bittersweet reunion for a group of longtime friends as their favorite restaurant prepares to take its last orders on Saturday after nearly 40 years serving the city.

As they reminisced about another great meal at the famous Crawford Gallery Café in the historic Crawford Art Gallery in Cork City on Friday, the former nursing colleagues who trained in the same class at the former North Infirmary Hospital he more years ago than any of them were willing to admit. , admitted that it will be very difficult to find a replacement place for their catch-ups.

Customers in the cafe at the Crawford Gallery, Cork City.

Mary Joyce, from Tipperary, said: ‘It was just a lovely place to meet friends and relax. And the food is very good. We will miss it. Having the art gallery attached made it such an interesting place to visit.”

Waterfall’s Mary Nyhan Quaid has been a regular visitor to the cafe for many years.

“I love the culture of the place, the vibe, the decor, the dishes,” she said, holding a vintage metal sugar bowl by its delicate handle.

“It’s the little touches like this. And of course the food, the delicious food. It was always a pleasure to eat here.

“Hopefully someone will come and take over but keep the same vibe, the whole experience. But it will be difficult to replace. »

Early days

The gallery cafe was opened in 1986 by the late Myrtle Allen and taken over by her daughter, Fern, who has built an impressive reputation based on her Ballymaloe philosophy of using the best quality food and cooking it simply but beautifully. .

At first, food was prepared at Ballymaloe House in East Cork and transported in a small red van to town each morning.

Many Ballymaloe chefs and cooking school graduates, including Rachel Allen, have worked in its kitchens, but Ballymaloe’s involvement in running the cafe ceased many years ago.

But it regularly features in the McKenna Guide’s Top 100 Irish Restaurants.

The gallery has leased the space to operators over the years, but has been run by celebrity chef Sinéad Doran for more than a decade.

Struggles

In a surprise move this week, the cafe announced on social media that it will not reopen after closing for the holidays this weekend.

It prompted a flurry of goodwill messages, but Ms Doran declined to comment publicly on Friday.

Sources said it was a difficult decision for her, given the impact it will have on her loyal staff and loyal customers, many of whom she knew by first name and by their orders.

She said the decision must be seen in the context of the struggles during and after Covid, and in the longer-term context of the gallery’s prolonged closure from the end of next year for a regeneration project for the capital of several million.

Ms. Doran plans to take some time before deciding what to do next.

royal climax

But she said helping prepare the banquet for Prince Charles and Camilla during their historic visit to the city in 2018, when 60 VIPs dined in the gallery’s long room, remains a personal highlight.

Gallery director Mary McCarthy paid tribute to Ms. Doran and her team.

“We’re sorry to see them go. The cafe was a quality experience and was a big part of attracting visitors to the gallery – they made it a destination gallery for many people,” he said. she declared.

“We’re going to regroup over the next few weeks and see how we can deliver something in space.”

As former nursing colleagues ordered coffees and shared their last memories at their favorite cafe of their time in nursing and their lives since, Geraldine Crowley, said she, her friends and even the town as a whole would miss the ‘place.

“It was something unique in Cork – in the city centre, with a fabulous setting, great food and good wine, what more do you want?” she said.

“It will be difficult to replace.”

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