I have one recommendation for any Australian who visits Ireland – get out of Dublin. Dublin is a beautiful old city, but the beauty of Ireland is in its countryside, with stunning green fields, cute little farmhouses, and picturesque landscapes. It’s easy to see how Ireland got the name of the Emerald Isle.
The beautiful thing is that you actually don’t need to drive that far out of Dublin to experience a slower pace of life. You only need to drive fifteen minutes out to start seeing green fields with cows and fifteen minutes after that, you’ll come to the small town of Maynooth west of Dublin. We dropped into Maynooth for a quick lunch before heading on to Trim in the afternoon, a town with the largest surviving Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland – as well as the home of some of K’s second cousins who we were going to meet for the first time ever.
For a smallish town, Maynooth has plenty of different cafes and restaurants which are all quite reasonably priced, appealing mainly to the university students who make up much of the population throughout the year. We chose to stop into Avenue Cafe on the main road – part daytime cafe, part nighttime restaurant, and day-round cocktail bar. It was quite busy while we were there, especially as a large family group took over half the upstairs dining area after attending a christening at one of the many nearby Catholic churches.
Neither of us were particularly hungry, so we decided against ordering any of the larger main meals. Instead, we started with one of their share plates – a basket of Spicy Chicken with Blue Cheese Dressing. Aussies will find these chicken wings and drummies rather small when compared to the hormone-plumped chicken we’re used to at home. However, these smaller bits of fried chicken means you get more of the delicious fried crumbing and much more of the surprisingly hot chilli sauce (the blue cheese dressing comes in handy to soften the tangy chilli sauce!). With over twenty pieces of chicken in the basket, it’s a very generous serving for two.
We also chose to share their daily lunch special, which is the Soup of the Day with a panini or sandwich. We had the Thai Carrot Soup that day, not something you would find on the menu of an actual Thai restaurant, but surprisingly delicious all the same. The waitress talked about how it was a creamy carrot soup blended with herbs like coriander and lemongrass, but after tasting it I suspect that it’s actually just carrot soup with a red curry paste stirred through. That’s not a bad thing, because the curry paste did provide a great flavour booster, and gave me some ideas for spicing up our own home-made vegetable soups!
The sandwich we chose to have with the soup (choose anything off their panini/sandwich menu!) was the Tuna Melt On Ciabatta. This was a great mix of tuna, sweetcorn, diced capsicum and mayonnaise on a toasted ciabatta roll, topped with a melted four cheese mix. The type of simple meal that we should make at home more often given we already have tuna sandwiches quite often – adding some diced capsicum and sweetcorn to plain tuna really makes it much yummier. We ate this as an open-faced sandwich, and dipped the other piece of ciabatta into the soup.
Included in the lunch deal is a cup of tea or coffee, and the waitress kindly upgraded the plain black breakfast tea to a more aromatic Earl Grey Tea for me at no extra charge. Interestingly they served milk on the side with the Earl Grey, rather than the more customary lemon and honey – so I chose to have it plain rather than run the risk of the milk curdling in the citrus-based Earl Grey. K ordered a Green Tea – a pleasant palate-cleansing blend.
We finished off our meal by sharing a dessert – the Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on the side. This is toffee the way it should be made – strong, caramely, and just that little bit smoky and burnt. The light and crumbly pudding acted as the perfect vehicle for the toffee sauce, as it just soaked up all the syrup effortlessly. The ice-cream was more icy than creamy – which worked out well as I think a creamier blend would have been too heavy on the palate with the sweet toffee sauce.
Avenue is one of those neighborhood cafes serving up delicious fare at a reasonable price. It’s a step above the more casual eateries serving the town’s university students, making it the perfect destination for large family groups celebrating a christening, girlfriends catching up over a coffee or a cocktail, or a date destination for couples. A real gem in a small Irish town.
Avenue Cafe is located on Main Street, Maynooth Ireland.