A celebration of all that’s good and in season in fresh organic produce, local where possible – the food at Organico Café in Bantry is renowned for being wholesome, healthy, and full of flavour. Sisters Rachel and Hannah Dare have now added something new with the introduction of a more efficient kitchen system that means less food waste and an exciting new menu.
“When we moved the Cafe downstairs five-and-a-half years ago, we moved the kitchen in from the shop next door, which was a big change but we still had our old system in place,” explains Rachel. “The only way we could change it was to remove the salad bar and take control of the food and plating up from the kitchen. I was really nervous because of the visual aspect that the salad bar lent to the cafe, but it is working: We’re able to provide more interesting food and the quality has also improved. We made little changes to a lot of things.”
Rachel is now in a position to add more exciting options to the menu and the front-of-house team has more time to look after customers. “We can cook to order now, so something like grilled halloumi or a warm poached egg on a salad is possible,” she explains.
“I’m also attempting to challenge people by trying out new toasted sandwiches,” she says. Last week’s menu sported a toasted sandwich on their sourdough bread with roasted local pumpkin, house made beetroot apple relish, Durrus cheese, mayo dressing and a side of pickles.
“We have lots of warm salad plates and rice bowls with vegetables, pickled and fermented in-house. For example ‘warm salad of roasted veggies, local leaves our own chorizo, Macroom buffalo ricotta, a fried egg with our mayo dressing and house made sauerkraut’. For those in need of comfort, the ‘seasonal hash: roast potatoes, local leeks, Ballinrostig cheese, fried Gubbeen ham and a fried egg topped with house sauerkraut’ is sure to satisfy.
Many of the old favourites are still on the menu – the falafel salad and lots of soups, stews and curries. “A lot of these are soups and curries that I would have grown up eating,” says Rachel. “They’re not written-down recipes.
“My mum was a great inspiration to me,” she reveals. “Our parents ran a yogurt making business from home and mum home-schooled us. Twice a week other kids came over and we had a home school and cooked together.”
It was at home that Rachel’s respect and passion for food developed. “Anyone who has a parent who grows their own food has a built in respect for ingredients. As kids, all had a little patch of ground in our garden, which we would successfully and not-so-successfully grow things in. That was the foundation of my interest in food, a real life-lesson,” she says.
Rachel left school before her final exams and was working full-time in the family business from the age of 16. “I’m not very academic so I really struggled in school,” she says. “I hated the rigidity of it and I knew I needed to do something practical.”
It was around this time that Rachel also met her future husband, Keith. “Our food experiences at the time were polar opposites. He only ate pasta for the first time after meeting me,” she says laughing.
After spending some time travelling (Australia, Thailand, Malaysia) while also working and saving hard, Rachel, 21, enrolled at Ballymaloe Cookery School, which she said was an amazing experience. Hannah was on a more academic path, doing her Masters in UCC at the time.
The café opened in 2004. Rachel was already working in the Organico bakery while travelling.
Sadly, both their parents passed away, Caroline and then Alan, so the girls had to make a decision about running the business. “About fifteen years ago we decided to really make a go of it,” says Rachel.
“Hannah is the real thinker and planner, who is great at looking at the bigger picture and overseeing things. I kind of the opposite and I just want to get stuck in and make things happen,” says Rachel. “The challenge of siblings working together is learning to appreciate those differences. We make a good team. The differences are what makes it work – we can’t all be everything!”
Although life is busy enough right now, the sisters are always looking ahead and cooking up something new, so don’t be surprised if you see an ad for supper clubs in the future. “I’d also really love to restart our cookery classes,” says Rachel, who admits to having an embarrassingly large collection of cookery books. You can never have too many recipes,” she says laughing.