When Imelda Tynan starts to talk about pastry, she speaks as if channeling a higher order. Her language is rapturous, immersed, bewitched. All of a sudden Ms Tynan ceases to be the boss of the hugely busy Tynan’s Restaurant, in The Store Yard, in Portlaoise, and she becomes an apostle, an acolyte, a true believer in the deliciousness of good things. But you don’t just need to listen to Imelda. The proof of the pudding, have no doubt, is in the eating.
So, order a slice of Ms Tynan’s rhubarb tart. The rhubarb is enfolded in pastry, and the pastry is dusted with icing sugar. There is a little soupcon of whipped cream on the side. Take your fork, and take a bite. Now, when did you last enjoy a slice of rhubarb tart that was so perfectly made, that so perfectly expressed the power and the delights of an almost vanished culinary craft: the art of Irish domestic baking. You can travel the length and breadth of Ireland and never find something like this. It is a dish that stretches back through time, back to your mother’s rhubarb tart, and her mother’s rhubarb tart, and her mother’s rhubarb tart. Ms Tynan’s baking is the taste of an ancient art.
Ms Tynan learnt her stuff from one of the best bakers in the Midlands, her late brother, Jim Tynan. Before his too-early death, Mr Tynan’s baking in The Kitchen and The Food Hall in the centre of Portlaoise was legendary. When there was little good to discover in the Midlands, Mr Tynan’s food was revelatory. But it was his baking, and his pastry, that were particularly notable. Imelda Tynan is continuing that proud family tradition.
Of course, there is a lot more to enjoy in Tynan’s, and the people of Portlaoise know it. When we visited, the place was jammers, full of people who know when they are on to a good thing. We enjoyed the most delicious honey roast ham and Mossfield cheese sandwich, with squash and butterbean soup. The brie and spinach tart was benchmark. Salads were fresh and lovely, and the staff are beyond good.
Ms Tynan has a team of 10 full-timers and 4 part-timers working with her, and they have clearly been sent to Portlaoise by an angel. In fact, we marvelled at how the staff managed to conceal their own angels’ wings whilst working, which can’t be easy to do underneath those aprons.
Tynan’s Restaurant is smack in the centre of an intriguing, 25,000 square foot emporium called The Store Yard, a phantasmagoric emporium of bricolage and architectural salvage. But be careful: lulled by a delicious lunch in the restaurant, you could spend money here like it was going out of fashion. A fantastical collection of good things for kitchen, house and garden.
Kea-Lew Business Park, Portlaoise, Co Laois