When Nuala Hickey walked into her family bakery business as a very young woman taking over the cooking and baking, she didn’t really think she’d still be there twenty two years later. But that’s nothing compared to how long the Hickey family has been in business here. Ownership spans four generations of Hickeys, running a proper bakery which still bakes proper bread, cakes and barm brack along with an array of other lovely things to be proud of. We just love it when we find this kind of establishment – and we are only to happy to welcome the owner into the happy Good Food Ireland fold.
Nuala is a vibrant lady at the helm here since those days she walked in to help her father out. The family added a café to the bakery side of things and Nuala jumped in headfirst with just the old Aga, in what was once the kitchen of her childhood home for company. As a young family this generation of Hickey’s lived over the shop, just like others before them. From her humble start in the hospitality trade, Nuala embarked on a culinary journey of education into what would serve her public best. Then she just got on with it. She’s that type, is Nuala - and we love her for it! No nonsense here just honest decent food, made with love, care and attention. And it all starts with the great bread, cakes and buns, Hickey’s famous brack, and some smart patisserie too.
The bakery, which is out the back of the café still employs traditional methods for its yeast and soda breads. Rising and proving takes hours and all breads are hand moulded and placed into loaf tins used by the generations before. There’s the Hickey’s Crusty Grinder, Cob and Vienna Loaf as well as brown, white and fruit soda breads, French sticks, scones and the seriously fruity Barm Brack which has a reputation of its own. Ireland’s most influential dignitaries have been presented with this on visits to the town. And now it has a super smart new black and gold packaging which sets it apart altogether. If you want to take a taste of Clonmel home with you wherever you are headed, this is one great foodie gift – wrapped in crackly cellophane in its own box and sleeve and packed into a stylish but sturdy branded cardboard box which makes it perfect for transporting.
But now to the café – and what a lovely café. A light airy space with cottage style furniture has a selection of tables and chair arrangements for small and larger groups and some counter seating at the rear. Big windows to the street also take in the rolling hills of the region – this is the only place town with unobstructed mountain views – due to small car park opposite the shop so no high building has taken place. Customers here are local workers and shoppers so you get a real sense of the true personality of Clonmel. There will always be somebody here who knows somebody else and if you get involved in conversation, pretty soon you might find you’re related to someone you never even knew about! It’s that kind of place. While you’re waiting for food take a look at the photograph on the wall which shows Hickeys from the early 1900’s when the old town fair took place outside. It’s a hark back to the past and shows the place steeped in history. There was always a liquor licence here because on fair days, farmers would come into Hickeys original small snug to enjoy a drink after a successful day selling and buying livestock outside the shop. The food style is a combo of simple Irish cooking given a modern slant with a few fresh ideas. Nuala likes to travel and often comes back brimming with enthusiasm for new dishes. Enjoy tea and a homemade scone and jam for a morning snack or indulge in something a bit more substantial – rashers and sausages come from local suppliers. For lunch, Nuala’s Spinach, Cheese and Tomato roulade is delightful served with a selection of fresh salads such as couscous, pickled cucumber, pasta, fresh vegetables, crunchy raw carrot and seeds which are all made here on the premises every day. Or try the home baked quiche or tart of the day, Ham and Leek Pie or wonderful Tortilla packed with layers of fresh spinach, potatoes, and Gortnamona cheese. There’s always a homemade soup of the day served with Hickey’s bread and of course a fine selection of home made cakes, desserts and pastries to enjoy with tea or fresh coffee made from award winning beans. Wines are sold in quarter bottles too, if you fancy a little tipple with lunch. Nuala Hickey is carrying on the family tradition in her own inimitable style – and we like it. We really do!
Read more about Hickey's Bakery & Coffee Shop, here is their Food Shop and Restaurant Reviews