In the pretty village of Clarinbridge, cafes come and go with alarming regularity. With its retro-modern cottage style, decorative shelves of chutneys and wooden furniture, Poppy Seed Cafe is one constant and reliable part of village life, tucked back from the main street behind the shopping complex.
Towards the front of the shop, where they make hundreds of bespoke hampers at this time of year, there are tables stacked with fancy crackers and posh lollypops, but this is more bustling cafe than it is gourmet food store. There is no such thing as a typical customer - you will see families with teenagers, young mothers with toddlers and friends of all ages chatting over a coffee and a slice of cake.
On a street already full to the brim with good cafes - Poppy Seed on Eyre Street has just added to the numbers. A staple of city dining for the last three years on Eglington Street, Poppy Seed now boasts a charming ground floor restaurant in a bistro style. It's a long, cheery room with high ceilings and plenty of room between tables, bright cushions and clean lines. Upstairs there is a spacious light filled function and meeting room, all just steps from the Square.
This is the third branch of the popular cafe, having opened earlier this year in Oranmore. All have the same great food as the Clarinbridge kitchens – daily home baking, fresh soups and lunchtime specials, a take-away menu and more. At Poppyseed you are guaranteed delicious food and a warm welcome.
The food at Poppy Seed is fresh and tasty, offering a wide range of options for breakfast, lunch and dessert. Signature dishes include their english muffin with tomato relish with eggs and black pudding, two perfectly poached wobbling eggs, the luscious yoke cascading onto the Herterich's creamy black pudding and the lightly toasted muffin spread thick with their own relish (€7.95 ), warm salad of chicken tikka on puy lentils (€10.95 ) and Poppy Seed burger with House fries (€9.95 ), a very affordable and filling lunch time option.
The breakfast menu is filled with favorites. The classic 'Irish' at €8.95 comes with their own brown bread, tea or coffee and excellent black pudding. For a good, hearty start to the day choose from 'Irish champ potato cakes with sausages and poached eggs', 'English breakfast muffin with Kinvara salmon' or a 'Spinach and feta omelette', all under €8.00. For a lighter choice, there is granola or porridge with either berry compote or honey and seeds, fresh fruit with yogurt, or something from the tottering piles of 'warm from the oven' muffins and scones.
The lunch menu is a lesson in how, if you get the details right, you can elevate even the humble sandwich into something special. There is focaccia, sourdough, ciabatta and more. The various fillings, such as grilled halloumi cheese, rocket and baba ganoush; or pulled pork with beetroot and apple slaw, illustrate how Poppy Seed is a cut above the average. Outside of its inventive salads and homemade chicken burgers, the daily specials might run to a quiche with salad or a slowly braised lamb dish, always given an unusual new flavour dimension with the addition of a few aromatic cardamom pods or a punchy salsa verde.
On my most recent visit I sampled one of these blackboard specials, a duck confit salad filled with well seasoned roasted vegetables and other hidden treasures. A goats cheese sandwich has a spiced apple relish nestled inside the toasted focaccia with a black pudding crumb and crunchy mixed greens - a few pickled red onions add another layer to an already delicious dish. There is a bowl of creamy tomato and basil soup to round it all off.
Poppy Seed comes into its own with bakes and desserts. Blueberry scone, dark chocolate biscuit cake and indulgent looking cheesecakes are all lurking behind the glass counter. Hot drinks include all the usual coffee variations and there are loose leaf teas, lemonades and smoothies while the service is second to none. Choosing from the icing topped sponges and array of tarts, I finish with a nice hot chocolate and a pear and almond tart which hides thick chunks of fruit within its squidgy middle. Poppy Seed cafe has much going for it – convenient location, friendly atmosphere, great menu and value for money. Whether it's breakfast or lunch, coffee or cake, it is always a pleasure to eat here.
This cafe is doing it right. Diligently building up their regular customers, their objective is simple. Anyone who visits has a good dining experience, they get value for money so they will come back and recommend them to their friends. Their success is built on hard work and good cooking with real ingredients, keeping prices keen and the atmosphere unpretentious. They believe in going the extra mile. Poppy Seed is a real success story, the Avoca of the West of Ireland.