The little village of Union Hall is a real place with real people in it. Unlike some of the coastal villages of Ireland that have been solely given over to summer tourism and become desolate in winter, Union Hall has a thriving resident population all year round. Mainly due to the fishing fleet and working pier, plus the fish shop and processing factory in the village.
In the heart of the village, not overlooking the sea directly but just a stone’s throw walk to the causeway which crosses the open mouth of Glandore Harbour and leads to the pier, lies The Coffee Shop. Opened in 2015 by Jessie Kennedy and her husband Billy Flaherty, the pair met through a shared love of music. Both play instruments and Jessie is also a stunning vocalist who often features in local concerts and recitals. She grew up in Maria’s Schoolhouse near Union Hall, a legendary B&B back in its day, located in an old school house owned by her mum and dad.
“From the age of 13 I was working in the house with mum, serving guests and helping out,” says Jessie. Billy is a qualified baker who spent many years working at an old family bakery in Skibbereen. When the chance came to take over The Coffee Shop, which had been lying empty for some time, they both thought it would be the perfect place to work for themselves and raise their family in the area they both love.
“We are in our third season now and there’s been a great response to what we do. We’re passionate about quality, we make absolutely everything here from scratch. Billy makes all our bread, scones, quiches, cakes and desserts. Home baking is something people always love.
“We use local producers like Avrill Allshire at Caherbeg Free Range and Rosscarbery Recipes in Rosscarbery. We have Glenilen dairy, Gubbeen and Toonsbridge cheeses and our fish is from down the road. We try to do very simple foods that people can enjoy casually,” says Jessie.
Food at The Coffee Shop is simple cooking done extremely well. Breakfast comprises pancakes, waffles, French toast, poached eggs, avocado toast, eggs Benedict and the like. For lunch, you’ll get soup of the day and a gorgeous chowder with Union Hall fish. There’s always a quiche of the day with varying salads.
The menu changes with what comes in and this allows Billy total free rein to be creative. Enjoy all this fare in a small, bright dining space with local art on the walls and Irish artisan produce and books on the shelves. The Coffee Shop is a little surprise in this idyllic village.
Jessie feels this third season is really beginning to make them both feel like they have settled and found their stride. “Union Hall can be busy in summer but quiet in winter, so you do rely on good relationships to survive. People love it here because of the quaintness. I don’t think anyone really understands the amount of hours you put in when you do everything yourself. Our days here can be from 7am to 9pm. On Fridays and Saturdays we open till 8pm serving our homemade pizzas to eat in or takeaway. But the upside to the long hours is meeting so many amazing people. It would be very hard for either of us to go back to working for ourselves now.”
For more information on The Coffee Shop at Union Hall, visit their Facebook.