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.