- a blog about food and value

Review: Cafe Formenti, Carlow Town


Photo: Carlow Town, from

Our great Carlow correspondent Roisin McGarr sends us this lovely review of Cafe Formenti:

It’s a rare and precious thing when you step into a café and are overwhelmed by the inexplicable feeling that you’ve always belonged there. I used to get this feeling in Café Irie in Temple Bar long ago
before the horrible change of management wiped out the amazing value, fabulous food, great staff, interesting music and relaxed carefree creative atmosphere. I grieved for years.

Café Formenti in Carlow has restored my faith in the possibility of businesses with heart and soul and top-notch offerings to boot. Going to Café Formenti during a weekday lunchtime is akin to what I’d imagine it would be like to walk into a big country kitchen of a massive Italian family on a summer
Sunday. It bustles with the cheerful chatter, friendly waves and robust banter of old friends. There’s an unmistakeable sense of a homely nest where both the people and the food reflect a warm wholesome affection and unconditional acceptance. It has the kind of food that can only be made with generosity, love and Mediterranean passion for life and good food.

It’s not surprising to learn that theyoung owners are an Italian woman and her northside Dublin husband. Café Formenti’s food exclaims in delight when it sees you appear at the door. It declares that you’ve become even more beautiful since you last visited.  It sweeps you up into a huge bear hug, pinches your
cheeks with a broad smile and ushers you into a circle of friends and laughter. Then it spreads its arms and bursts into a pitch-perfect aria from Così fan tutte before laughing at it’s own easy talent and moving on to the next loved-one, leaving you feeling lucky and full of hope.

The walls are adorned with artwork by local artists curated by a local children’s book writer. Neither the café nor the curator take any sales commission. Local organic farmers and cheese-makers hold talks and cheese and wine evenings. Musicians play low-key gigs there.

And oh yes, the food. Bread, scones and amazing cakes are home baked daily and will break any Lenten resolve. Around €8 will get you a chicken focaccia sandwich with chips and salad that is incomprehensibly delicious. Every day there’s a choice of lunch specials -full meals for around 10 euro which are consistently inspired. The portions are enormous. The coffee is top-class. It’s worth taking a lengthy detour to pass through Carlow town just for this place.


  1. Sounds great, makes me wish I had a reason to pass through Carlow more

  2. I’ve been there a few times, and I surely can confirm this review.
    I’d add some more on the food: being Italian, this is a very important topic to me.
    Well, just go there and enjoy the dish of the day, whichever it might be. You won’t be disappointed !

    This is definitely a place to be in Carlow, wherever you’re there for a quick lunch, for a cup of coffee or a proper meal.

  3. I totally agree with this review, i’ve been here loads, great for saturday lunch with the girls, and fab food that never lets you down!! chicken focaccia is really nice and you get loads 🙂 the people working there are very welcoming also

  4. Can anyone tell me where exactly in Carlow town this place is?I can’t find a website for them. Thanks!

  5. @Sarah: Cafe’ Formenti is on Dublin Road in Carlow, can’t remember the number. It’s painted in green on the outside…

  6. My comments are about Brookes Cafe in Carlow Town. I usually have a coffee when out and about with the baby and today I order a large ordinary black coffe and two slices of toast. The receipt showed that they charged €3.15 for the coffee and €2.00 for two slices of toast not even properly toasted.
    With these prices its clear to me that Brookes which are part of the Dinn Ri Hotel are not interested in repeat business and have no understanding of competition!! I think that €3.15 is by far the most expensive cup of coffee in Carlow. (and by the way the coffee was cold and not strong!!)
    Can anyone out there let me know if its just me or does anyone else think this is really expensive!

  7. I am thinking of spending a couple of nice relaxing days in Mount Wolseley soon and was wondering does anyone local know how far it would be from there to Cafe Formenti?