Cafe Hans review: This restaurant is well worth a detour off the motorway

This tiny spot proves that when you build it well enough, they will come - just don't forget to bring cash

   
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Cafe Hans

  • Moor Lane
  • (062) 61177
  • Irish

Chez Hans sounds like a member of the Tipperary hurling team. But it’s one of Ireland’s oldest restaurants. Hans-Peter Matthiae came to Cashel from Paris in 1966, aged just 19. Originally from Germany he worked in the Cashel Palace hotel. Two years later he opened his own restaurant in the former synod hall on Moor St. Michelin gave him a star in 1983. The star didn’t last but the restaurant did.

Hans-Peter has retired to Capetown and the next generation is in charge now. Son Jason runs the fathership that is Chez Hans. Another son Stef opened Stef Hans restaurant in the Source Arts Centre in Thurles a year ago. Hansie is the son who runs the place where I’m headed. Cafe Hans is housed in a tiny pink cottage on Moor Lane.

It takes a lot to lure me off the conveyor belt of the motorway to amble into the rainy streets of Cashel but a good reputation and a Bib Gourmand will do the trick. There’s no backwater feel to this cafe. It’s the middle of a Friday afternoon and Cafe Hans is rammed. They have chairs in the tight squeeze of little stepped up lobby outside the bathroom that feels like a shrunk down dentist’s waiting room.

The walls in the restaurant are painted face powder pink and a lovely set of Pauline Bewick prints of women lounging in lakes hang along the nearest wall. Above me a skylight prevents the small low building feeling too dark and huddled.

Then a small disaster. It’s there in italics and underlined on the menu is a sentence that starts with the words: “Please note”. They don’t take cards. Holy sainted rocks (or words to that effect) I’m cashless in Cashel. The waitress, who is in the running for country’s busiest waitress, reassures me kindly that I can come back and pay after my lunch. But I’ve plans to be back on the motorway by then so I head out into the rain in search of readies.

By the time I lift the first spoon of soup to my mouth I’m hungry and rained on, and have started composing tart “please note” sentences of my own about the value of card machines in long established cafes.

But all is forgiven with the first mouthful of soup. And yes soup does not typically have this kind of of effect on me. It’s lovage and potato soup, as green as fresh spring leaves, with that delicate mineral celery flavour of lovage on a base of expertly made stock. It’s served with a dollop of creamy yoghurt and some panko crumbs on top for a little crunch. It’s soup fit for a very posh bowl with a rim the size of a race day hat in the fine dining world. Here it’s served in a large cup on a saucer with a paper doilie between cup and saucer. Underneath the placemats feature Sharon Dold fat lady cartoons. Time warp stuff.

In the Friday rush a couple of the express lunch dishes have sold out so I’m teaming up a couple of “lite bites”. The best of these is a warm quinoa salad with soft chunks of butternut squash and goats cheese so creamy it has almost dissolved. There’s a pepper jam and some chilli heat to cut through it all and a mix of red and creamy quinoa which tastes as good as it is good for you. A smoked salmon, crab and shrimp plate is a little more assembled food, but fine nonetheless. The salad on top is more impressive with mustardy hot little mizuna leaves that taste like they came from a nearby garden very recently.

There’s a sophisticated chocolate cake that slices with a spoon more like cheese it’s so dense. It comes with a lemon balm sorbet with grassy flecks of the lemony herb. The two make for clashing mouth partners but I make like I’m in a posh place and eat the sorbet first.

Lunch is finished with good coffee and still more people streaming through the door looking to be fed even though it’s pushing towards four o’clock. Cafe Hans is no secret round these parts. The food on the plates and in the cups rises above the parts of it that are dated and twee. It’s a tiny place that proves that when you build it well enough they will come. Put it on your pitstop map. But don’t forget your cash.

Lunch for one with desserts, coffee and a juice came to €27.50

Cafe Hans Moor Lane, Cashel, Co Tipperary (062) 61177
Verdict: 8/10
Well worth factoring in some extra time to visit.
Music: Jazz
Facilities: Small
Food provenance: Limited Ardsallagh goats cheese, Dingle cod and Bannow Bay mussels
Wheelchair access: No
Vegetarian options: Fine