Award for Cork restaurant where food is grown metres from the table

A West Cork restaurant picked up The Best Newcomer Award from Georgina Campbell, having only opened in June. CHRIS DUNNE catches up with the owners to find out more
Award for Cork restaurant where food is grown metres from the table

Deborah Ni Chaoimhe at Camus Farm Field Kitchen, Camus Farm, Camus, Clonakilty, Co. Cork. They recently won the best newcomers awards in Georgina Campbell Award. Picture: Larry Cummins

FINDING Camus Farm Field Kitchen is an adventure in itself. However, once you locate the 30 acre organic holding, centred on three large stone built barns dating back from 1850, you’ll be captivated by the boreen-lined native hedgerows alive with wildlife and on one side framed by the farm’s vegetable beds.

The rare breed of Dexter cows contently mooch around the rich grassland meadows.

“You’ll need Google Maps to find us!” says Deborah Ní Chaoímhe, co-owner with her husband Vic Sprake, who is an art therapist.

“If you drove around it, you’d only see trees, the rest is a best kept secret!”

Deborah Ni Chaoimhe and Vic Sprake at Camus Farm Field Kitchen, Camus Farm, Camus, Clonakilty, Co. Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins
Deborah Ni Chaoimhe and Vic Sprake at Camus Farm Field Kitchen, Camus Farm, Camus, Clonakilty, Co. Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins

Not anymore.

Ireland’s leading independent hospitality guide, Georgina Campbell’s, found the Farm Field Kitchen all right.

They were obviously impressed with the culinary experience like no other because the Farm Field Kitchen was awarded best newcomer 2021 by Georgina Campbell.

“We’re still in shock!” says Deborah of the win.

“We heard through our manager that we were shortlisted, then all the texts and emails started coming in that we had won best newcomer.

“It’s great news - and so positive for us, we only opened the restaurant in June.”

But the labour of love began before that.

The couple bought Camus Farm over 15 years ago and spent time and effort nurturing the green fields, planting thousands of trees and native hedgerows on the 30-acre organic beef farm, creating the ideal habitat for West Cork wildlife.

 Craig Scott, restaurant manager with proprietors Deborah Ni Chaoimhe and Vic Sprake with a selection of craft items for sale at Camus Farm Field Kitchen. Picture: Larry Cummins
 Craig Scott, restaurant manager with proprietors Deborah Ni Chaoimhe and Vic Sprake with a selection of craft items for sale at Camus Farm Field Kitchen. Picture: Larry Cummins

The organic on-farm licensed restaurant serves home-grown locally sourced fresh food from the land.

There is more good news. Under 5s eat free and under 13’s eat for half price!

“We cater for a lot of family groups and holiday-makers,” says Deborah.

“And we cater for older clients who love the ethos of farm to fork. Our restaurant caters for all and it is fully accessible.”

It is well tested.

“I did a test drive with mummy in the wheelchair!”

People can almost touch the fresh vegetables served with their meal on their way in to eat in the restaurant.

“Walking in the lane to the restaurant, you see the cows grazing and the poly-tunnels - you could nearly dig your own spuds on the way in!” says Deborah.

“The food is literally metres away from the table!”

It was five years ago that Deborah and Vic began thinking about sharing their passion for biodiversity and good food through the creation of a unique culinary experience. The project took time to reach fruition but it has paid off in spades.

“The timing seems right because of our extensive outdoor space,” says Deborah.

Vic Sprake at Camus Farm Field Kitchen. Picture: Larry Cummins
Vic Sprake at Camus Farm Field Kitchen. Picture: Larry Cummins

The couple, who have four children - Kate aged 31, Liam, aged 25, Fiadh, aged 24, and Liam aged 17 - have an amazing team running their restaurant.

“Craig Scott is at the helm as our manager and Bob Cairns is our chef; the pair head up a great team.

“Most of our team are local and for some who live on the farmland, it’s a case of going to work through the fields. At full tilt we have 17 people working here, including three women who work on the farm,” says Deborah.

There are lots of hands on deck.

“Fionn is a great farm-hand and he loves driving the tractor around the farm. All our children were thrilled when we won the Georgina Campbell Best Newcomer Award.”

Deborah and Vic make good use of the great outdoors.

“We like to support local artists and local crafters,” says Deborah.

“We run workshops in weaving, felt-making, ceramics and basket-making. We run live music events, farm walks and organic beef and cattle sales; there’s always something going on here! There is no typical day.”

Vic Sprake and Deborah Ni Chaoimhe. Picture: Larry Cummins
Vic Sprake and Deborah Ni Chaoimhe. Picture: Larry Cummins

Every day starts off in the fresh country air.

“Vic and I get up early,” says Deborah.

“I check the hens and collect the eggs. In the evenings we walk the land and harvest produce for the restaurant.”

The Camus organic 100% grass-fed 30 day aged Dexter beef is in big demand.

“A friend of ours, Diana Dodog, master chef, said to us, why not open your own restaurant and show-case your beef yourselves? And we did.”

Things are evolving down on the farm.

“We have plans to get a wedding licence so that we can host small private weddings,” says Deborah.

“We are looking at hosting corporate events and we have guest chefs in the pipe-line to do a winter wonderland of themed food.

“When the ban lifts, we want to have a long table where people can sit together and share bowls of delicious food.

“We are very lucky to have both indoor and outdoor space. We are looking forward to having themed evenings and music events on the menu.”

The Farm Field is a dream come true for Deborah and Vic.

“It was always Vic’s dream to own a farm,” says Deborah.

“He grew up next door to a dairy farm. This was supposed to be his retirement project!”

But the retirement project grew legs.

“He’s just loving it!,” says Deborah.

Proprietors Vic Sprake and Deborah Ni Chaoimhe and Craig Scott, restaurant manager in the restaurant which is also used as a gallery and crafts workshop at Camus Farm Field Kitchen, Camus Farm, Camus, Clonakilty, Co. Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins
Proprietors Vic Sprake and Deborah Ni Chaoimhe and Craig Scott, restaurant manager in the restaurant which is also used as a gallery and crafts workshop at Camus Farm Field Kitchen, Camus Farm, Camus, Clonakilty, Co. Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins

Does Deborah, from Kildare, who loves working the land, come from farming stock?

She laughs.

“I didn’t know one end of a cow from the other!”

But she has knowledge of ‘the field’.

“Vic and I met in a field in Wales at a gathering where African and European drummers were performing!”

Everyone is happy for Vic and Deborah having won the coveted award for the Farm Field Kitchen.

“All the people in the industry are so happy for us,” says Deborah.

“We have had so much positivity from neighbours and friends and a local politician even congratulated us. Everything we’ve done has been so worth it.”

With so much done, there is more to do.

Vic and Deborah have to decide where to hang their prestigious award, the Georgina Campbell plaque for Best Newcomer 2021.

“It’ll take pride of place!” says Deborah.

The Farm Field Kitchen is located 7km from Clonakilty. It is a piece of heaven.

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