The Parlour Tea Rooms, Athenry

There must be something in the air that has prompted the recent spate of tea rooms/cafes. Maybe it is a hankering after a slower pace of life and taking the time to relax rather than grabbing a paper cup of your favourite beverage and drinking it on the go. Maybe it is simpler? During my visits to eating establishments over the past year or three, it is impossible not to notice the fact that the female population dominates. With that in mind, any clever restaurant proprietor should be catering to this sector and that is why in my humble opinion we are seeing the growth of places like the Corrib House Café I visited a couple of weeks ago, and now this new one in Athenry.

This cafe is located in the New Park Hotel on Cross Street, right across from where I started my working life in what were once the old ESB offices. The rooms are very Laura Ashley in style, lots of floral prints, old fashioned china, and a simple but well executed menu. It is a place to bring the paper with you and relax, all it is missing is a roaring fire (I did not see any fireplace ). You can park in the car park at the rear, making it extremely easy to access, especially in the pouring rain, as it was when I was there. I decided to sample the afternoon tea for €8.50, and as you can see in the photo it really is enough for two. My tip is that if there are two of you visiting, order the afternoon tea plus one coffee and you will be well satisfied. I am sure there are many who would devour the whole thing but I certainly would not.

Afternoon tea can sometimes mean very dainty, but very skinny, sandwiches; not so the salad sandwich on my plate. It was a triple decker, freshly made up on my choice of bread, and really good. The coffee was so good I asked what make. It was Java Republic and they do make some of the best coffee beans (yes, you can substitute coffee for tea when ordering ). The scone was a giant fruit scone, and what made it really good was that instead of the usual jam it was served with a portion of warm mixed berries, very clever and very nice. I think it could be improved on by serving the scone warm, and if doing so to warm it in the oven and not the microwave, as I have experienced in several places. There was also a selection of mini cupcakes, which, I think, were homemade also.

The cafe also serves a cream tea for €4.50, which includes two fruit scones, cream/jam, and tea of coffee, now that is a bargain. If two of you were out for elevenses why not order this plus one coffee for an even better deal. There are some savoury items, such as quiche of the day with salad and red onion marmalade for €7.95, and the one I saw at the next table looked lovely, particularly the quirky plate it came on. There was also a dish of smoked salmon and Parma ham with caper and red onion dressing that sounds interesting, I have never tried that combination but might do so at home over Christmas. The selection of teas is excellent, everything from Earl Grey to liquorice tea to white peony tea to rooibos vanilla tea, all costing €2.20. If you are in the area over the holidays why not call in and see what you think.

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