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Food on the Road to Cork

2009_0606food0015On the very tedious road from Dublin to Cork a few weeks ago, I inevitably got a bit peckish. Since the motorway opened, Abbeyleix and Durrow in Co. Laois are now the two main stopping points.

In Durrow, there’s the Castle Arms Hotel, which always seems to attract a fair amount of business. I ate a lovely bowl of Leek and Potato Soup and a Ham and Cheese sandwich here, with real thick slices of ham, for about €7. The rest of the menu seems a little bit expensive for what it is although, in fairness, I haven’t tried anything else on it. A few friends have praised Durrow’s The Copper Kettle as a good spot for cheap eats.

There’s a great old man’s pub in Abbeyleix called Morrissey’s, where I’ve had a few sandwiches and bowls of soup over the years. Plain, simple, old-fashioned pub food, but grand for a bite of lunch. Just around the corner from the church on the hill, where my friends Kieran and Elaine recently got married, there’s a lovely looking cafe – Cafe Odhran – which I’ve yet to try. Also yet to try: the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel, which appears to serves your average pub grub.

Then there’s Quinn’s Tearooms, which has all the charm and grace of a wake for demons. I was greeted by a rather limp display of sandwich ingredients and slices of quiche on small plates. After questioning the waitress at length about what was on the menu before she finally, almost grudgingly, handed one over.

One of the items immediately caught my attention: that small slice of quiche, served with chips, cost €11.90. Pass. Not particularly enticed by anything on the menu but too hungry to leave, I eventually – stupidly – chose the Vegetable Soup.

For the life of me, I’ve no idea why I didn’t send it back. This small bowl of watery and tasteless soup, with two stodgy slices of brown bread, cost an obscene €4.90. I’d had better soup in the UCD canteen, back when it was really piss-poor indeed. The staff were cold and unfriendly, and almost seemed to resent that they were working there at all. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out but, even though there were three staff and there were only two other tables being covered, I had to wait for five minutes to pay.

When you go into a cafe with a bright and sunny disposition, and leave feeling annoyed and glum, you know it’s best not to return. And I won’t be.

Over to you, readers: any recommendations for the Cork-Dublin road?


  1. My experience of Quinn’s is much better – lovely scones with home-made apple jelly, or scrambled eggs with toast as good as you would make at home, and always served with a smile. I hope you will try again.
    Café Odhran is also very good – try their raspberry muffins. I wouldn’t bother with the food in Morrissey’s, but it’s worth calling in to savour the ‘atmosphere’.

  2. Cafe Odhran is good, I’ve stopped there a few mornings on the way to Cork.

    The Copper Kettle is great for fish and chips, huge portions and ideal on a Sunday evening after a weekend in the South.

  3. I’ve only heard very good things about Cafe Odhran so I hope to try there myself soon. Morrisseys is fine for what it is although I wouldn’t go any further than the sandwiches. They don’t skimp on portions either. If you go through the bar they have the rest of the house opened up and you can have your coffee and sandwich in comfort in the conservatory or beside the fire in the winter.

  4. My advice is to bring some sandwiches and a flask of tea with you. Seriously, most of the cafes and diners that depend on passing trade for their business are usually overpriced and underwhelming. Have a good strong breakfast before you hit the road that usually does the trick I find. I’ve been travelling the Dublin to Cork road for years and I’ve learned fast.

  5. Will try Cafe Odhran if I ever stop. Forever up and down that road, but rarely stop. I get in the car in Bandon, West Cork, and 4 hours later I’m in County Down. Before the motorway, used to use Monasterevin as a rest stop.

  6. copper kettle does really nice scones with homemade jam and cream in the mornings and they have other great home baking as well.

  7. Used to stop in the forge in urlingford for chips and sausage before. They were quite tasty as i recall. Of late i’ve just ploughed up and down w/o stopping or been on the bus. Urnlingford’s not far from the shiny new motorway, and joephines there does a good bad breakfast.

  8. Jill, I have to agree with you. I have had nothing but great food in Quinns and thought the staff were lovely and the toilets clean. (The most important thing!)

    There is an old georgian house in Durrow too, I think its called the Ashbrook. Has anyone been there?

    If you have the time or inclination, there are some lovely places in Cashel. Baileys hotel on the main street is very nice.

  9. You should stop at Cafe Odhran, i always stop there on my way to Cork for lunch, gluten free options on the menu also which is good. lovely home made soup also

  10. I have to disagree re Quinns also, we stopped there just 2 weeks ago as well and the food although basic was very good. I had a very good toasted sandwich with a nice side salad that wasnt just lettuce leaves for less than €4. My friend did have the soup and I was disgusted to see it cost more than my lunch which is highly unusual.

    I would def go back, found the staff friendly and helpful and the coffee very good which is always a bonus when you don’t expect it.

  11. Peter,
    Quinn’s Tea Room’s in Abbeyleix is trading for 26 year this year. It is mainly family run business with local staff and also Russian staff, all of whom are dedicated, and hard working and good at what they do. The majority of the food is homemade at the shop to traditional family recepies. Quinn’s prides its self on this homebaking, good coffee, tea and a quality service, other wise it would not be as busy as it is and would be surly gone out of business long ago. Most days it is hard to get a seat there, especially weekends. It is very fairly priced for the quality of food and service provided. Perhaps Peter you were just having a bad day. All salads and breads scones quiche tarts soups etc are made fresh daily, not from a packet like some places.

  12. I agree with Marie – Quinn’s has been a delightful place to stop any time I’ve been there which is about once every two months or so. The staff are polite and attentive, the home-made bakery is fantastic, the toilets are very clean, the indoor and outdoor seating areas are very pleasant (weather dependant) and the whole place has a very homely feel. Prices have never struck me as being excessive and most people don’t appreciate the effort and quality of ingredients that a family-run, quality focused cafe like Quinn’s puts into its product. The only problem is the generally bumper-bumper traffic a short distance from the entrance but I presume this is most of the customer-base as well. Keep up the good work Marie; I discovered this thread by accident and was irritated by some pratt pedalling a pointless review of a great establishment. Hope places like yours are the ones to last through the present ‘quality recession’ as a reward for not joining in with all the rest in the race to the bottom of recent years!

  13. Hi Marie. Thanks for your feedback. It’s good to see restaurant owners comment on the reviews. But, with respect, I was having a very, very good day. Unfortunately, my meal at Quinn’s was very poor indeed, and I don’t think it’s fair to blame me, your customer, for that. I didn’t imagine the poor service, I didn’t imagine the watery soup.
    Granted, other customers seem to have a very different experience over the years. Everywhere has their off days, and for every ten customers who have a great time in a restaurant, there will always be some who swear not to return. But CheapEats readers, I’m sure, will weigh up my negative comments against the many positive comments here, and make their judgment accordingly!
    Eamon, irrespective of your experience, I did not enjoy Quinn’s. I’m sorry if that irritates you, but I am entitled to present my opinion. If reading things you don’t agree with causes you to abusively call people a pratt (sic), I suggest you avoid sites such as CheapEats and MenuPages. Oh, and newspapers too!

  14. I travel the Dublin Cork route a few times a year for holidays mainly. Again like many of the comments I found Quinns good for any food that I took out.The coffee is also very good compared to other options on the trek.
    The Copper Kettle has a very good standard for what it does.The kiddies menu at €7 is not cheap but there is enough for two and the nuggets were the best I have ever tasted. Apparently a company in Co Wicklow make them -Glen something or other.

  15. cafe odhran …food not great and very over priced, staff very friendly although 4,50 for a slice of stale apple tart is a joke!

  16. Bramleys in Abbeyleix is very nice.

  17. Ive a new one for you in Abbeyleix, The Gallic Kitchen. It is a deli / bakery / coffee shop. There is limited seating but everything is available for take away. The prices are very reasonalbe, and everything is home made. I had a duck confit pie and a cheese & herb scone. Both were absolutely delicious and filled me up for the day. The pie was a fiver and the scone was €1.20. Its a few doors away from Morrisseys and is well worth a visit.

  18. I stopped by Cafe Odhran yesterday and wasn’t very impressed. The food was fine, although a bit overpriced, but service was slow (even though there were 3 staff members hovering around the counter area) and fairly unfriendly. Furthermore, it was a rainy day and there were leaks into the toilet area, so all the floors were dirty and wet. I’ll definitely go elsewhere next time!