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Following the Bronte trail to Banbridge and to Blend and Batch

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

The little town of Banbridge has always been blessed with a thriving food culture. Local butchers, Quails, have provided legendary service to the community for decades, and recently opened a pizza restaurant in addition to their cafe and deli. There has long been good home baking in the form of The Windsor, on the main street, whilst the two best country houses in the province, Blackwell House and Newforge House, are nearby.

And now this jigsaw of good food has been completed with the arrival of Blend & Batch, run by Marion and Peter Fairbairn, a cute modernist coffee shop, where locally roasted coffee is brewed with care and contemporary cooking knocks out extended breakfasts, and light lunches.

The room overlooks a busy roundabout at the southern end of Banbridge, with two huge windows that meet in the corner, and fill the room with natural light. Oak trimmed formica tables and modernist metal and leather seats sit smartly on a floated concrete floor. There are unadorned light bulbs, and a simple table setting with a little wooden block where you can reserve your table while you order at the counter, and a plain white bowl of sugar sachets.

On the day we visited the room was filled with ladies lunching on rich looking baps of brioche bread with pulled beef brisket; parents with buggies ordering sausage and toast; and couples in smart exercise gear ordering protein shakes. B&B make a demon quesadilla, which manages that elusive yet perfect balance between light and satisfying, and their salads are carefully constructed and come at the right temperature with fresh leaves and bright toppings.

There are fourteen teas to choose from, served in dinky little glass teapots for one. The coffee is from local roaster 38 Espresso, whilst their bread is from the Yellow Door bakery.

Banbridge is home to the Bronte Homeland Drive, where you can tour and discover the family roots of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte and Emily, great Victorian women writers, whose father grew up amongst these fertile drumlin hills. Spend the morning discovering what may have influenced the deep background of Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights, then head to Banbridge for a great cup of coffee and some smart Blend & Batch cooking.

104 Newry Street, Banbridge Tel: 028 40 238050

Sally McKenna

Wwild atlantic way

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