Caifé Mhacha have been crowned as Best Café in Armagh at the Ulster Regional final of the Irish Restaurant Awards at a ceremony this week.
The award winners were announced on March 21 at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan, which hosted almost 800 restaurant and hospitality business owners and staff.
There were winners for each of Ulster’s nine counties across a range of different categories, including; Pub of the Year, Best Chef, Best Customer Service and Best Restaurant, to name a few.
When the announcement came that Caifé Mhacha – which is based at the Aonach Mhacha Irish Language Centre in Armagh city – had been chosen as the winner for ‘Best Café’ in county Armagh, the staff were “over the moon”.
Caifé Mhacha is run by a small workers’ cooperative – SEACHT – and all proceeds go back into the local community for Irish language and social justice projects.
Máire Ní Phronntaigh, the manager at Caifé Mhacha, says that the award is something that the team will “cherish for many years to come”.
She commented: “To receive recognition for our work in the community means the world to us. I’m just so happy for the team at Caifé Mhacha. They are a joy and pleasure to work with every day.
“I’d also like to thank our local customers and patrons who have supported the cafe since we opened three years ago this month. Our repeat conference clients come from as far away as Belfast, Fermanagh, Dublin and Monaghan. They always compliment the service, standards and unique cultural atmosphere in the café.
“Even though we are located in an Irish language and cultural arts centre, most of our clients have little or no Irish. They just love the vibe and cultural experience of the Cultúrlann.”
All of the county winners now compete for the Regional and All Ireland Titles, which will be announced at the Irish Restaurant Awards All Ireland Final on May 15 in the Clayton Hotel in Dublin.
Speaking to Armagh I about the win, Gearóid Ó Machail, the Director at Aonach Mhacha, says that there is something special that keeps bringing people back to Caifé Mhacha.
He said: “It has good service, it’s uniquely cultural and unique in the cultural sense – in that it is bilingual – and it has a high standard of quality for both coffee and food.
“That’s what seems to have gained it quite a lot of momentum and its reputation has spread pretty far and wide fairly quickly.”
Describing the awards ceremony itself, Gearóid explained: “We knew nothing about the Irish Restaurant Awards and we didn’t realise the scale that it was on. It was a pretty glittering ceremony.
“Half of Armagh turned up for the awards! There were representations from all over Ulster….. And, lo-and-behold, about an hour int0 the ceremony, we heard out names being called out.”
With Caifé Mhacha now in the running for the final on May 15, Gearóid paid tribute to the staff at the Café, saying: “We’re really excited. It’s a great tribute.
“We have a small dedicated team in the café. It’s a little café and they don’t take any profit from it. They put all the proceeds back into community projects.
“They have a social mission as well. They’re not motivated by profit or big wages or anything like that. They do what they do to benefit the local community.”