LOCAL, top-quality produce has never been so popular and The Dairy, with its farm shop, butchers and bistro’s gastronomic offering, certainly has taste buds in Gleno and the surrounding area flowing.
The Dairy is built on the former site of a co-operative creamery, which was founded more than a century ago. The name for the business, ‘The Dairy’, is a welcome reminder of the building’s former history.
When business owner Sandra McDowell, along with her late husband Robert, decided to breathe new life into the area by creating a coffee shop and gift shop, she soon found that the project was taking on a life of its own.
“My late husband and I bought the original dairy building over 30 years ago,” said Sandra.
“It was really important to us that the new business retained the charm and history of the old. And so while we had to demolish and rebuild the site, we were conscious to merge the new with the traditional to create a place that felt like it fitted perfectly in our rural surroundings.
“We stripped the old building, retaining all of the items that we could salvage, such as slates and beams.
“We kept the old stone to build the fireplace, the windows to create dividing sections in the restaurant and my brother-in-law even handcrafted the tables from the old beamwork – if we could use it again, then we made sure nothing was wasted.”
To keep the operations as sustainable as possible the building also uses 100 per cent eco-friendly gas (Calor BioLPG) for all its heating and cooking.
“While our initial vision was to create a quaint little coffee shop with a neighbouring gift shop, as the project began to develop we realised that there were new, wide-ranging opportunities.
“We instead opted to develop the building as a bistro, butcher’s shop and farm store.”
Passionate about sustainable agriculture and traditional free-range farming, owner Sandra takes pride in personally curating and sourcing all items.
All the beef and lamb sold at the butchers are reared onsite on the family farm.
“I’m also a big advocate of top-quality, locally-sourced produce and so, naturally, we wanted to provide such products both in-store and in our bistro.
“Our shop showcases quality local suppliers in our varied range of artisan products, ranging from chutneys to chocolates; from breads to sweet treats.
“On our menus we have also marked the local items or produce that you can purchase behind our butchers counter or in the store to take home.
“Visitors can pick up a gourmet hamper in store or online, choosing from a range of ready-made options or you can assemble your own when you visit.
“Our great chefs pride themselves on being able to cater for everyone and so our menu offers a wide range of breakfast and lunch dishes that are suitable for meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs alike.
“The Bistro now has its own alcohol licence and so diners can pair their meals with a wide range of wines, not to mention our speciality, local craft beers, which are available on draft.
“Our fantastic culinary team cooks everything fresh every day using the top-quality local-sourced products from the shop and we also have a dedicated baking area where all of our scones, cakes and tray bakes are made by hand by our new in-house pastry chef.”
The Dairy is proud to offer its own signature roast coffee beans, the ‘Gleno Blend,’ having partnered with local Wild Heart Coffee Roasters to offer a truly unique coffee experience.
As with most ingredients used at the Bistro, the beans are available to purchase in The Dairy Farm Shop.
“We’ve really developed a reputation for the quality and standard of our food, and our customers and visitors alike are all greatly appreciative of – and complimentary about – our home-cooked food.”
The Dairy – bistro, butchers and farm shop – is located in the heart of the Gleno valley, and is situated only a few minutes walk from Gleno waterfall.
The area’s proximity to the Causeway Coastal Route means that it’s a real ‘go to’ venue for locals and tourists alike, and Sandra loves the fact that the customers are so wide-ranging and from a diverse range of backgrounds.
The attractive, pet friendly, courtyard dining area is perfect for those visiting with their four legged friends or popping in for a coffee break on their cycle route.
“I just love meeting and chatting with our customers,” said Sandra.
“We pride ourselves on providing a warm welcome to everybody. Obviously it’s great to see the locals coming in, but we love it when customers mention how far they have ventured to visit us.
“We get a lot of groups who are in Gleno to visit (or swim in) the waterfalls and who then come in for a bite to eat, not to mention cyclists who seem to enjoy a coffee break on their journey down to the Causeway coastal route.
“It’s a real ‘social centre’ for the area: a community hot spot if you like.”
There’s no doubt that ‘community’ is a buzz word for Sandra and her contribution to the local community is invaluable.
“I’m delighted that I’ve been able to create employment in this rural area,” she said.
“I’m currently employing 20-25 people in the bistro, butcher’s shop and farm store.
“Together we’re shaping a new and important chapter in Gleno’s history by breathing new life into the area and I’m so proud to be playing my part.”
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