You’ve had a busy few weeks. How’s the new space in the George’s Street Arcade going? What’s on offer there?
Yes, it has been a busy few months really. Between hiring and training new staff, the setup of the bakery in George’s Street Arcade and re-opening the cafe, we’ve been getting little sleep. But, it has been exciting and reignited our passion for the industry after such a grim year. The Bakery is going really well. It’s starting to build real momentum with lots of customers coming back each week to get the goods. We always offered take home loaves from the cafe on a fairly ad-hoc basis but I felt we were not reaching the passer-by who wanted to grab and go. The Arcade seemed like the perfect spot to create this new arm of the Pepper Pot. With its eclectic mix of stall holders and an already established passing trade we have felt right at home from the beginning…Feels like we’ve been there forever!
During lockdown myself and Sarah Forde, our head baker, spent some quality time in the kitchen developing, practicing and tweaking croissant recipes and creating a well balanced menu for the Arcade spot. The menu includes some market staples such as sourdough loaves, hand rolled seeded bagels sold singly or in a bag of four, free range pork sausage rolls and the now iconic pear, bacon & cheddar danish which is a reinvention of its sister sandwich sold in the cafe. We also sell classic sweet pastries such as almond croissant, pain au chocolat and custard cream tarts! The early mornings are well worth the result and it’s truly a labour of love. Coming towards Christmas we’ll have a range of plum puddings, mince pies and our very own range of Pepper Pot linens including aprons, tea towels and napkins. It’s all very exciting!
You’ve teamed up with the Irish Design Shop crew also. Can you tell us about this?
While we don’t have our own outdoor seating, we were keen to get on the streets during the summer months. We teamed up with our friends over in The Irish Design Shop on Drury Street. They were looking to occupy the space outside their shop and approached me to see if we could collaborate and come up with an offering together. For August and September our customers merged and were able to enjoy our filled bagels and a cold drink served from the shop and perch themselves on our now distinctive pink tables. Drury Street was a hive of activity after the reopening of retail and hospitality and it was so lovely for myself and the Design girls, Laura and Clare, to help and support each other. With the weather getting colder and things getting busy in our shops we are going to hibernate the outdoor seating for the winter and bring it back in the spring.
The Pepper Pot is a mainstay for most folk visiting the Powerscourt Centre. How do you approach the fine balance between consistency and evolution in your offering?
When we opened The Pepper Pot, we knew the bakery was going to be the backbone of the business and that hasn’t changed since 2010. Our style is fairly traditional, Irish but with a twist! Our staples never change. We once took the pear & bacon sandwich off the menu to change things up and there was a Facebook campaign to bring it back – we learnt our lesson. With every new chef comes new creativity and I’m keen to encourage them to flex those muscles, so using seasonal ingredients we have an ever-changing specials board to keep things interesting.
What does a usual day look like? When does it kick off with the in-house bakery?
4am starts are the norm these days…Sounds horrendous but we love it, working away while everyone sleeps. The Bakery and cafe open at 10am so it’s a race to get everything ready. Croissants and pastries take the longest time to prove so we start with them.
Our sourdough spends 48 hours in the fridge proving so they are ready to bake when we come in. We have a small kitchen, so we have to have a very strict regime and everything is timed to the minute. Baking finishes at 10, after which the savoury prep begins! Both places close at 5pm.
There’s a lot to be said for good crockery, which is part of the allure of the Pepper Pot experience. Can you tell us about sourcing and particular finds and favourites?
As with most things in the beginning of Pepper Pot, cost determined our decisions. Basically, we had very little start up cash, so we trawled through charity shops and ‘acquired’ crockery from my mother’s attic instead of investing in brand new stuff. What started as needs must ended up adding to the atmosphere of the cafe and quickly became our trademark. Often, we’d see people lifting up a cup to check the make underneath. We still encourage customers to drop in any unwanted china cups in return for a lunch on the house. We also have a lovely friend Michael who travels from Holyhead every couple of months with a suitcase full of bone china gems. He delivers the full sets over to the antique quarter of Powerscourt and then we get all the miss-matched ones of which there are many! There’s nothing like a Barry’s tea from a china cup….
How are you feeling about the city right now? Any particular hopes for it?
I’m Dublin born and bred and I love this city. I live in the Liberties and I was very sad to see the city so quiet and down- trodden on my walks during lockdown.
It brings real joy to see life in it again; to be honest the buzz around is better than ever. Just like the 2008 recession, there’s a real feeling of community and sense of camaraderie. People and businesses were so innovative during the pandemic, and that enthusiasm and creativity seems to be sticking around.
Powerscourt Centre & George’s Street Arcade
01 707 1610