Birch & Co provides dining choices away from town centre

There can’t be many cafes as nicely appointed as Birch & Co which opened at Jocelyn Place earlier this spring.

oused in an elegant Georgian townhouse which had already been extensively refurbished as a restaurant, this new venture by Dubliner Ken Nolan brings welcome business back to this part of Dundalk.

Having moved to Blackrock with his wife Claire and family, it was a logical step for him to set up his own restaurant.

“We were looking around to start a food connected business and this building was already here as the previous restaurant had closed due to Covid,” he says.

“There was a gap in this end of town yet there’s a lot of people down here, with the schools, the Quay Business Park, offices and local residents.”

“What we’re doing is trying to build up a local neighbourhood cafe,” says Ken, who has a background in the catering industry, both in Dublin and locally, including The Clermont, Blackrock.

He admits that it’s a challenging time for the hospitality industry but is pleased with reaction to Birch & Co, which is building up a good customer base throughout the day, which even includes teenagers from local schools popping in for speciality coffees.

“The student demographic is very different these days and they like their iced caffe latte!”

The menu is built on the simple premise of good food, freshly made on the premises, using quality ingredients.

Ken lists the mouth-watering options which range from eggs benedict for breakfast, to scones fresh out of the oven for morning coffee, to salads, quiches, tacos, paninis and flatbreads for lunch.  The latter, he says, are proving particularly option, offering a healthier option to the traditional sandwich.

Birch & Co is now broadening out into evening dining and Ken says that their ambition is to eventually serve a full dinner menu.

The industry-wide shortage of catering staff, particularly chefs, has meant that they have had to take baby-steps as they expand their offering.

“We going to start opening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 5pm to 7pm, for a supper club,  serving charcuterie meat and cheese platters. We will be doing a BOYB so people can bring their own wine or beer.”

Eventually, the plan is to have a full evening menu and Ken says they might do pop-up dinners for a few weekends and see how they go.

While the lifting of the pandemic restrictions means that people are delighted to be able to go out and meet friends for coffee or a meal, he finds that some of the older generation are still a bit wary but venturing out more than they were six months ago.

With its high ceilings and seating spread over two floors, as well as an outdoor area at the back, Birch & Co is somewhere that allows people to dine with plenty of space between tables.

The restaurant, which seats 75, is available for private parties and functions, and could even host small weddings.

“We also do deliveries for offices and workplaces at lunchtime, and catering for events, and our evening platters will also be available to takeway.”

The cafe currently employs around nine staff, some of whom had previously worked in The Clermont, and Ken says he is always on the lookout for new talent.

Finding staff is a difficulty faced across the hospitality industry, with chefs in particular being in short supply.

It has held them back from evening opens but he is willing to wait until they find the right chef who is able to deliver the vision he has in mind.

The increased cost of food is also affecting the food sector, with everything from beef to potato chips gone up since the start of the year.

“It’s definitely a tough time for business,” says Ken but his enthusiasm for this new venture is undiminished. 

“We are trying to do good food at reasonable prices and so far our customers are happy!”

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