A place to savour the moment
A new café called Fika33 has injected a new lease of life to Killeshandra’s Main Street.
To avoid causing a disruption, the Celt arranged to call in after the lunch time rush, but sitting over a coffee, there were still plenty of customers. A constant chatter from the many people - many seemingly dressed for work but in no hurry to leave, others are maybe a retired couple are savouring their desserts. There’s a good vibe about the place, the chat could spill from one table to the next.
“This is where I grew up,” says Tomás O’Reilly with obvious affection for the former Shamrock Inn. His parents ran a pub and B&B until they retired about 12 years ago, the family leased it out for a while, but it’s been closed for a few years now.
“We always had an itch to get something done with it,” says Tomás as we head into a quieter backroom. “We came up with this idea, but we had to get the right person.”
The right person is seated beside him: Olivia Raftery from Castlerea, who now calls Enniskillen home. She inherited a love of cooking from her mother, “a great baker, and great cook,” and after a three month in intensive course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2010, went straight into Neven Maguire’s MacNean House where she remained for 12 years.
“I kind of worked myself up from the bottom to the top, as far as I could go. So that was a fantastic learning curve and experience, learning from one of the best,” she says before correcting herself, “the best chef in the country. He’s a great man. I have to say I have such respect and time for him.”
She left Neven’s and took a position in Folk Boulangerie, the amazing French style eatery in Enniskillen for a year.
Olivia’s past informs Fika33’s menu. Confined to one page, it’s a simple selection of fresh, honest, delicious food. There’s nine options for breakfast/brunch, and offers everything from porridge through to eggs Benedict. Of course there’s the full Irish on offer too, and a veggie option where the saltiness of haloumi offers a delicious alternative to bacon. Lunch is a clutch of light dishes - salads, fish cakes, or a smartly dressed baked potato.
“The menu is basically what I wanted to put on myself,” says Olivia, “I just didn’t want it the same as every other café in the country.”
She is very complimentary of the Fika team: “They’re a huge part of it. It’s not about one or two people, it’s about the whole team. Nothing would happen without everyone working here.
Between greeting walkers having built up an appetite holiday makers venturing out from CABU, or even locals who now have a new meeting place, Fika’s now making a noticeable difference. So many cyclists call in that Tomás has had racks installed for bikes.
“It’s just nice to get life back into the town – that’s the whole idea,” says Tomás, who is also a sales rep for an agricultural company.
Killeshandra’s woes have been well documented with closures of vital cogs for a once thriving town. Can Tomás see this as the start of a change in fortunes for the town if this a turning point for the town?
“I have already seen it - if you drive down the town now at this time of year on the weekends you see a line of cars, whereas before this, for a number of years you could park a number of artic lorries on the length of the town.
“We get a great kick out of that, being able to come in here and see friends and family, and to come in and see a lot of strangers travelling here too. It is very pleasing.
“It’s the only way towns like this will survive – if people like us try this.”
And what of the curious Swedish name Fika? A sign on the wall explains: a coffee break with friends or colleagues, accompanied by pastries - a moment to slow down to appreciate the good things in life... and savour the moment.