Home » Etaoin’s Café from Heaven 

The proud town of Callan basks in the glow of a big win for Fennelly’s of Bridge Street, named as ‘best café in County Kilkenny 2024’ at the Irish Restaurant Awards.

This is the latest in a string of honours bestowed on Fennelly’s and though it came as no surprise, it has boosted local morale and again catapulted Callan onto the national stage as a town to be reckoned with.

Since Etaoin Holahan acquired the former pub and waved her magic wand it has proven a runaway success, injecting new life and vitality into a street ravaged by the downside of 21st century progress.

For decades Margaret Fennelly had run the pub that doubled as a grocery and thriving farm enterprise right in the middle of the town. 

The capacious courtyard once echoed to the sound of hens clucking as Margaret kept locals well supplied with eggs.

As if that weren’t demanding enough, she also ran an undertaking business, so you might enter the yard some days and find hens casting beady eyes at freshly-crafted coffins, or darting aside to avoid being run over by a hearse. 

Late night card games often turned fowl when the back door was blown in and hens came fluttering into the lounge. 

Aces and jokers were dispersed into the smoke and pipe-filled air and many a glass had to be refilled when the hens departed.  

The closure of Margaret’s pub prompted an attitude of resignation in Callan. Expectations of any revival of the great Fennelly’s tradition were dashed and dereliction looked a real prospect.

Etaoin Holahan with actor Stephen Rae and novelist, the late Tom Kilroy.

Then Etaoin arrived, with a vision of a lively arts centre to fill the vacuum. The venue began its new life as an artistic oasis where painters and sculptors exhibited, poets recited, puppeteers entertained, story-tellers weaved yarns and musicians of all genres regaled.

Occasional productions of major plays also featured. Then Etaoin took Fennelly’s onto a whole new level by opening a café on the premises, though one which would continue to serve as a creative hub for the community.

The café has been at the heart of Callan’s artistic forays from day one, including the mammoth Bridge Street will be drama, in which the ghosts of Callan past re-emerged from the buildings and spell-binding fantasies were spun around a mixed heritage of dark, comic, and occasionally riotous episodes.

Fennelly’s was to the fore again when a zany adaption of Tom Kilroy’s The Big Chapel was enacted in Callan, with the infamous true-life face-off between a rebel parish priest and a stubborn bishop transferred to a dystopian futuristic society.

Apart from running the café and hosting a range of dramatic and musical events, Etaoin is devoted to safeguarding our precious biodiversity. 

She was part of a tree planting project on the historic and picturesque Moat Field and leading conservationists have given talks at the café.

The day after the conferral of the much-coveted award, Etaoin returned to her beloved café where she and her highly motivated staff continue to extend a warm welcome to customers. 

Visitors keep coming back to savour what’s reputed to be the streakiest bacon for miles around, a variety of old fashioned Irish stews, wild garlic sourdough, homemade cakes, a cheesecake to die for, and an assortment of fresh fruit from the district, to mention a few attractions.

Etaoin thanked growers, farmers and producers who nominated Fennelly’s and The Irish Restaurant Awards for the accolade. 

She makes a point of supporting local produce and availing of sustainable ingredients…her own contribution to saving the planet.

Whatever about climate change and its ill-effects, Etaoin has helped to change the social climate of Callan for the better with her Café from Heaven.

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