The Market Square was busy with a farmers market as we arrived for Friday lunch and we picked up some farm fresh eggs on the way. The Pantry Cafe is a fine double fronted building on the edge of the square, and it was already busy with the lunchtime crowd.
Inside it is a large space, with the main dining area to the right. Walk down the corridor and there are other rooms or spaces, and out the back is the most beautiful garden with outdoor seating placed around. It's a large garden and there is obviously a green fingered person about, as the flowers and planting are beautiful.
All the food here is home made, even the beautiful cakes are baked on the premises, and a lot of care and attention goes into everything, from the decor to the garden to wehat you get on your plate.
Specials change daily and are listed on the blackboard. Each main dish comes with a choice of two salads and they look wonderful, I could see minted chickpeas, purple coleslaw, crispy leaves and a tomato and cucumber salad that looked divine.
There was a spiced chicken pie, cottage pie topped with sweet potato mash while the staples included spinach roulade, goat’s cheese and red onion tart, Spanish tortilla with courgette and peppers and a selection of sandwiches and rolls.
Pride of place in the display is given to the cakes, which looked scrumptious and when ordering we were keeping a little room for them. It seemed amiss not to try the two specials, and I brought up the research by ordering a slice of the spinach roulade and the goats cheese tart, all of which came with two salads each.
We helped ourselves to fresh water from the filter tap and in no time our lunch arrived. Abigail had the spiced chicken tart, which did exactly what it said. Deirdre had the cottage pie which was comfort food at its best, and the spinach roulade was light and very good vegetarian dish. So was the goats cheese and red onion tart, which in its simplicity and stunning flavours was a stand out. The salads were all well put together and balanced and a special shout out to the chickpeas in yoghurt and mint which were perfectly cooked - that's code for not like little bullets - and beautifully flavoured.
Let them eat cake, said the Queen, and so we did! A coffee and caramel confection was delicious, while the two ladies shared a strawberry and chocolate roulade, which was light and creamy. We finished with tea and some great FE coffee in the garden before taking our leave.
The Pantry is a very fine restaurant. Portlaoise is lucky to have it; you'd do well to find daytime food of this quality in central Dublin, and a friendly team and delightful surroundings finish off the package perfectly. A stop off for breakfast or lunch and a stroll around this pleasing town would be a pleasure any day.