Out To Lunch: A taste of old times

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Mary Anne's Tea Rooms, Denny Street.

Mary Anne’s Tea Rooms, Denny Street.

Mary Anne’s Tea Rooms

Denny Street

SO there I am in downtown Tralee, a sunny April afternoon, an hour to go before giving a big work presentation, and the tummy starts to rumble.

Some say you should never eat before a big event. But personally, I’m a bag of cats if I’m hungry.

And so I find myself wandering into Mary Anne’s Tea Rooms on Denny Street.

First impressions are good. A smiling waitress hands me a menu and guides me to a table where I’m surrounded by old family photos on the wall and, if I crane my neck ever so slightly, an impressive view of Tralee town park.

The first thing I notice, is that they serve real tea. Real tea! You see, I’m an old fashioned kind of gal – none of your fancy Skinny Lattes and Cappucinos for me. I like good old-fashioned tea, and if it comes in leaf form and is served in a china cup with a strainer, all the better.

I peruse the menu, and find I’m torn between a few options. The list of ‘Gourmet Sandwiches’ are tempting: Open Tiger Prawn with creme fraiche, chives, crispy lettuce, spring onion and tomato. Also in with a shot, is Open Smoked Salmon with baby capers on brown soda bread.

It’s a tough call, but I go for the Avocado and Mature Cheddar with apple chutney, mayonnaise, fresh green leaves and sundried tomatoes.

It takes me ages to decide, because I pretty much fancy everything on the menu – and that’s unusual for me. I cross my fingers and pray that the brown bread is as fresh as they promise.

After ordering I sit back and take in my surroundings. The decor is deliberately from a bygone era – oilskin tablecloths, net curtains, china tea pots and Doris Day singing in the background.

I feel as if I’ve floated back to the last century, and my long-dead Granny might appear at any moment. But it’s a nice feeling – a welcome break from the frantic pace of the working day.

It’s just outside of lunchtime hours but the place is still buzzing. Two young students are chatting nineteen to the dozen a table away; and there’s a cosy gathering of three ‘senior’ ladies at another table.

It looks as though they finished their food ages ago, but no-one is hovering around them, rushing them out the door.

Opposite the hallway where I came in, there’s another part of the same restaurant, with a big open fire. I picture myself returning in the winter with some of my best pals, hogging the seat by the fire and gossiping away some rainy afternoon.

Then I see the delicious-looking array of freshly-baked cakes and buns on the nearby counter. There’s a mouth-watering coffee cake that’s positively begging me to abandon my diet and sample it.

My food arrives, and it doesn’t disappoint. The combination of flavours in the sandwich work incredibly well together and the bread is so fresh, it might well have just come out of the oven. I get a small side salad on the plate too, always a bonus.

I knock five cups of real tea out of the pot, a rare occurrence nowadays when you’re lucky to get two – and usually made with cheap tea bags. This tea though is the real McCoy. (I’m thinking a new law should be introduced, making it compulsory for tea to ONLY be served out of pots and into china cups and saucers. )

The bill comes to a very reasonable €7. I’m feeling well fed, ready to face the presentation, and satisfied I got value for money.

Very reluctantly, I haul myself out of the chair, step out of the cosy cocoon of Mary Anne’s and back to the 21st century rat race.

I’ll definitely be back again. And next time there’s no resisting that coffee cake.

4/5

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