Victorian Tea Times in Arklow, Co Wicklow, offers guests the chance to dress up in costume before enjoying afternoon tea in an authentic parlour setting, complete with uniformed "maids". The experience has been created by local businesswoman Audrey Whelan, who also bakes and makes the cakes, pastries, scones and sandwiches that are served.
“I set out to create something that is truly different, something elegant and memorable,” says Whelan, who runs the tea rooms on Main Street with her granddaughter Karla.
The menus can be tailored to individual dietary requirements, and prices start from €24. The Christmas afternoon tea menu launched last week. Roast turkey and stuffing sandwiches with cranberry butter; winter Waldorf salad on brioche; Christmas cake, sherry trifle and mince pies all feature, and the €32 per person price includes mulled wine.
Up to 18 guests can be accommodated at each tea sitting, and reservations must be made in advance on 089-4285848. Gift vouchers are available, and there is a 10 per cent discount for senior citizens.
Chow down in Carlow
Carlow is celebrating Christmas on December 6th-8th, with a three-day food and drink festival at Visual, the town's arts centre. TV chefs Rachel Allen and Martin Shanahan headline a series of cookery demonstrations; comedians Karl Spain and Gearóid Farrelly will compere a mystery bag cook-off, and there will be a food village open nightly. Tickets for the evening events at Carlow Culinary Christmas cost €19.50, to include a €5 voucher for use in the food village, where there will also be workshops running throughout the day on December 8th. visualcarlow.ie.
You don't have to be vegetarian or vegan to enjoy the plant-based frozen food range from Strong Roots, which has now expanded to include nine products. Cauliflower hash browns and broccoli and purple carrot bites (both €3.99) are the latest additions, and they are both extremely tasty, as are the Irish company's frozen burgers, which come in kale and quinoa, pumpkin and spinach, and beetroot and bean varieties. Oven-baked sweet potato, garlic roasted sweet potato, mixed-root fries and spinach bites complete the range, which is available in Dunnes, SuperValu, Tesco and independent retailers.
FX Buckley’s new bar
With the December festivities just around the corner, and restaurants and bars gearing up for their busiest time of the year, the newly opened Xavier’s Bar at FX Buckley’s Pembroke Street restaurant could be a handy spot to meet up with friends and family for pre- or post-dinner drinks. The Georgian-style bar, with comfortable seating and a fireplace, is reserved for those eating in the restaurant.
Ham it up this Christmas
A collar of bacon smoked over beechwood chips, from Hugh Maguire’s The Smokin’ Butcher range, would make a good Christmas ham option for smaller families or couples. The sweet, dry-cured bacon (€15) is a little fatty, but with long, slow oven cooking (80 minutes for 1kg to 1.2kg), it turns into a very distinctive joint.
Maguire has just announced new retail partnerships with Avoca, Sheridan's and SuperValu, which will see his range, including smoked black pudding – voted best food product in Ireland and the UK last year – on sale in 18 shops nationwide. It is already available at his shop in Ashbourne, Co Meath, and from a selection of independent retailers. thesmokinbutcher.com.