Saturday 18 November 2017

Food, glorious food to add flavour to Sligo's Fleadh

Above: Lily's and Lolly's Café in the Yeats Memorial Building; below: Molly's Diner on Markievicz Road.
Above: Lily's and Lolly's Café in the Yeats Memorial Building; below: Molly's Diner on Markievicz Road.

Eleanor Kennedy

Sligo town is home to some of the Northwest's tastiest cuisine.

Now restaurants and cafes are preparing to cater for the influx of an estimated 400,000 people for the All-Ireland Fleadh.

Stock is being doubled, hours are being extended and employees are being added.

Des Faul, of Café Fleur on O'Connell Street, said they are right in the middle of the festivities.

"We are at the centre of the Fleadh here at Café Fleur," he said.

"You have the Fleadh and tourist offices within walking distance and we are on one of the busiest streets in Sligo.

"Judging by what it was like the last time the Fleadh was here, we will have a lot of work on our hands."

The busy cafe is doing all it can to make sure it is able to cater for the large number of people expected in the area.

Opening hours have been extended from 7.30am to 11pm and more people have been employed part time.

A double order has also been placed on stock.

Des said: "We are going to stick to a simple menu here for the week of the Fleadh.

"We will have six of our best products on so we can get people served quickly at affordable prices.

"So really our focus is to keep things simple, tasty and at good value."

Des also worked the last time the festival was in town so he knows exactly what to expect.

Another Sligo food business adding more staff is Shenanigans on Bridge Street.

The popular student bar is tripling their workforce, taking on 30 more people.

Although the venue was not around the last time the Fleadh was in town, all measures possible are being taken to ensure business runs smoothly.

According to Seán and Trisha Cunningham, this includes a special Fleadh menu.

Trisha said: "The items on our menu will be items we can prepare quickly.

"We will have the likes of Beef Strogonoff and Chicken Curries."

She added: "The Environmental Health Officer will even be making regular visits to make sure everything is in order."

Like Café Fleur, disposable products will be used.

This is something that is very important to the venue, according to Seán.

"I think we are one of the only pubs in Sligo that uses a rain water harvest," he said.

"As one of the official venues of the Fleadh, it is important we get everything right."

And get it right Shenanigans will be ready to do, as staff are well used to dealing with large numbers.

Trisha said the atmosphere will be similar to that of IT Sligo's Rag Week - an event which sees thousands of students flock to the pub yearly.

But Joe Grogan of Hargadon's Bar and Restaurant admits he faces a fear of the unknown.

While he expects business to be a lot busier, he doesn't quite know what to expect this time round.

He said: "At the moment we are just getting geared up for the Fleadh as best we can.

"More drink has been ordered and food stock has been doubled.

He also said 10 more staff will be on to help deal with the crowds.

Jessie Smith of The Model had smilar thoughts.

While stock is being trebled, staff is also being increased by five people.

But Jessie said stories of Cavan and Derry have made her nervous.

"We have heard horror stories of restaurants at other Fleadh locations running out of food completely.

"That is the word around town anyway!"

Business at The Model is expected to be three times as busy to cater for all the events the venue is hosting.

To keep in tune with this, the menu is being refined and simplified.

This will ensure quicker service.

Likewise, Lily's and Lolly's Café can already see the benefit of Sligo hosting the Fleadh again.

Nuala Healy was working in a pub the last time the festival took over the town.

Her memories are helping her gear up for this year, but this time in the food business.

She said: "A lot of jobs are definitely going to be created.

"We have seven working here at the moment, and are adding four more.

"We will be open from 8am to 10pm which is an extra five hours of business."

And although she can sense the chaos that is just around the corner, Nuala said she was "delighted" when she heard the Fleadh was making its return.

Similar thoughts are echoed by Molly MacArthur of Molly's Diner.

When the Fleadh was in Sligo 23 years ago, Molly and her husband kept the restaurant open 24 hours a day.

It was an exhausting time, she admits.

She said: "We kept the place open pretty much all day.

"We would close for maybe two hours to restock on chips, but we were on our feet for the whole thing."

This year, Molly hasn't ruled out doing the same.

But this time she will have help from her nine staff as well as family members called in to help out.

"We are just going to do as much as we can between us. It is only for one week.

"It will never make up for the economic downturn so everything at this stage is a bonus."

With additional stock being ordered, Molly ensures customers will get "good food fast".

And this seems to be the case at restaurants, bars and cafés throughout the town.

While some business owners have experience from twenty odd years ago, others are completely new to the game.

One thing is for sure, everyone will be in the same food boat once the Fleadh begins.

Sligo Champion

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