The morning light winks over the lid of Grow HQ, letting me in on the little secret that I’m about to enter the best new cafè in Ireland. Now, before you accuse me of being biased, I am! But my pals at GIY didn’t even know I was going to visit, nothing like a surprise attack from Fiona the Dublin Food Growing Ninja (that’s now my official title) to go with your breakfast coffee.
I’m not one for writing reviews here so this is something different from my usual posts but as most of you know, I’m a pretty huge fan of GIY. When I first got my allotment, I joined a local GIY group, we would meet in a local library once a month to talk food growing/composting/seed swapping. It gave me a lot of confidence as a new grower and I learned a huge amount of the plant knowledge I now possess from their website and other resources.
In September, GIY opened their doors to the world with their new food education centre, GROW HQ in Waterford. Situated just outside the city, right across the road from the hospital, GROW HQ is a pretty unique space. It boasts a café, food gardens and a retail area where you can buy tools, books and seeds to help you get growing. The gardens are extensive, with training gardens, an orchard, fruit garden and an edible boundary.
The building itself is really cool with a slanted grass roof, the run off water from which will be collected to water the plants in the garden. Nifty! It also boasts a kitchen garden where the veggies for the café are grown. As such, GROW HQ offers purely seasonal food with the menu changing each week to champion a particular vegetable in season. As an advocate for seasonal eating, this the first place I’ve seen in Ireland doing this and it’s a testament to how GIY are positively educating people about where their food comes from.
GROW HQ is the antithesis to all the pretentious coffee shops that have popped up the past few years. Walking in the door, you feel at ease, this is in no small part thanks to the warm staff and the beautiful setting; from the floor-to-ceiling windows, the colourful chairs and even the adorable tables, it’s a happy place, free from snobbery or pretension but serving seriously good food.
I had myself a really nice breakfast, organic poached egg, bacon, spinach and cottage cheese on a blaa. Yep, you read that correctly, a blaa. I had no idea what it was either. So I did a bit of digging and I was told that the blaa is a Waterford staple, a lovely floury white bap that is unique to the area. The method of making the blaa is a highly guarded secret, or so my sources tell me. When I read up on it, I found out that the The European Commission awarded the Waterford Blaa with a Protected Designation of Origin. Notions! It was pretty yummy though. The egg was divine, the bacon was quite frankly the nicest bacon I’ve had (and I am a big fan of bacon, it is the sole reason I’m not a vegetarian) and the spinach was really rich, fresh and full of flavour. It really was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had, the food was all homemade, locally sourced and organic and you can tell. You can keep your jumbo breakfast rolls lads, this is the food we should be writing songs about!
Grow HQ is a project four years in the making, the brain child of GIY founder Michael Kelly, it’s a welcome addiction to the Irish food scene and the first project of its kind in the country. In addition to the café and gardens, GROW HQ also boasts a great line up of growing and cooking courses.
If you’re looking for something fun to do, you can check out the upcoming courses here. I think I may need the cooking courses, particularly the blaa making course. I must know how to make them and I must know now! I promise I won’t share the secrets with the rest of Dublin. I’ll call mine a bleh or something.
If you’re in Waterford, I’d highly recommend a visit, in fact, even if you’re not, take a little day trip, you won’t regret it. Next on my agenda is to visit again to try the lunch! Yum.