Myo a melting pot at heart of Cork culture

In his weekly series, RICHARD GORDON meets the folk fuelling Cork’s love of caffeine. This week he visited Myo Cafe on Pope’s Quay, to find a glorious combination of Irishness and multi-culturalism
Myo a melting pot at heart of Cork culture

Myo Cafe owner, Liam Mullaney, and Head Barista, Nico

WHEN Liam Mullaney was shown the building at 34, Pope’s Quay and given an insight into the history of the place, he couldn’t refuse the opportunity of proprietorship.

It quickly became a labour of love for him, and so its metamorphosis began into a colourful melting pot steeped in rich symbolism and culture.

“I could see three letters above the door, I just didn’t know what they were,” he recalls.

When someone explained to him the meaning of Myo, it clicked immediately. As well as it having quirky phonetics that fit beautifully into Corkonian twang, the under-lying Buddhist meaning spoke profoundly to him.

Buddhism isn’t the only international influence here. If you peruse the walls and shelves closely, you’ll spot Arabic scripture, a Hawaiian Tiki God, as well as Irish history and mythology.

There is an homage to ancient ogham writing, spelling Seandún (Shandon), as well as the Salmon of Knowledge painted along the banks of the Lee.

It speaks to the fine balance of the place, seamlessly swerving between Irishness and multi-culturalism, with all nationalities feeling at home in Myo, as well as it being a hot spot for Gaeilgeoirí on Sundays particularly.

The alleyway to the side of Myo has been filled with charm thanks to a heart-warming mural. It reads ‘Peace’ in countless different languages resting atop sunflowers.

Nico, barista and in-house poet, AKA 'Chasmic' in Myo Cafe
Nico, barista and in-house poet, AKA 'Chasmic' in Myo Cafe

The mural was painted by local children. Liam informed me that some chess pillars will be semi-permanently installed soon, with limestone reclaimed from an old Cork home, and the actual chess pieces designed and carved by the local Simon Community.

This avid respect for the locality, as well as his ever expanding mosaic of colour and vision for his premises, is a testament to the soul of Myo Café.

The space is a creative refuge also, with Nico the barista/in-house poet (AKA Chasmic) exemplifying this ethos - she’ll even recite a verse for you if you’re nice!

There are regular music and open mic nights held in Myo, with Chasmic hosting her own ‘Journey Through Poetry’ evening on November 30 at 7.30pm.

Not only is the lounge area of the café an interactive space with a plethora of books and instruments to dabble with, but the café is fully engaged with the Shandon community and beyond.

With an old school Italian roasted coffee style, delicious food whipped up by Jean the chef, a cosy lounge area, and, dare I say, probably the most idyllic location of any café in Cork city, Myo is a personality bonanza unto itself.

I met with Liam for some insight into his business.

Q: What’s the meaning and inspiration behind the name, Myo?

Myo comes from the Buddhist chant ‘Nam-myoho-renge-kyo’. Myo is the mystic law that underlies the workings of the universe, the indefinable, intangible thing that drives everything.

Q: What did you do before getting into coffee?

I’ve been in hospitality one way or another from a young age, coffee has always been a part of that. I’ve watched the development of the coffee scene and I had my first coffee shop over on Washington Street called, Polos, 20 years ago. We were making cappuccinos that looked like baked Alaska.

Q: How long has your café been open?

Eight years. We opened in 2014 on Halloween night with a céilí, there was a Siege of Ennis outside the café.

Q: How old is the building? And do you know what the premises was in the past?

As far as I am aware, the building is from the 1700s. From the 1950s onwards it was a local store called Vaughan’s which two sisters ran and was an integral part of community.

The beautiful setting of Myo Café on Pope's Quay.
The beautiful setting of Myo Café on Pope's Quay.

Q: Where did the inspiration for the design and aesthetic of the café come from?

It came from an intuitive process on site. I’m interested in sacred geometry so the café has lots of elements of that in its proportions, curves and its opposites; for example, the black and white floor, the straight edge of the counter and the backside is waney and rough, the sun and the moon and the black and white.

Q: Can you pinpoint when you fell in love with coffee?

No, I’ve always liked a good strong cup of Joe.

Q: What are the most important factors for serving quality coffee?

Quality of the coffee and the roast. We use an organic Italian roasted bean.

Q: What espresso machine do you use?

Rancilio installed a new 5 star machine.

Q: How do you choose your espresso blend, and how often do you change it?

We’ve been working with a Cork family since we opened who have an agency with an Italian company, Caffé Continental. Our coffee is an organic coffee called Bio by Pascucci.

Q: What are your three bestselling drinks?

1. Americano

2. Flat white

3. Mocha (made with chocolate by David all the way from Ballinlough)

Q: What’s the favoured drink amongst your team of baristas?

An oat milk flat white.

Q: What’s an ideal barista to you?

The interior of the cafe
The interior of the cafe

Someone who is humble with attention to detail.

Q: What’s your ideal morning café playlist to get the blood flowing and the punters happy?

The Good Ship Kangaroo by Planxty. Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life by Monty Python.

Q: What’s your daily caffeine limit and do you have a cut-off hour?

I usually have three coffees a day and cut-off about 4 or 5 pm.

Q: How would you describe the spirit of your café?

Homely, friendly and welcoming.

Q: One final word to customers and the people of Cork city…

We have managed to stay open through thick and thin so all I can say is, thank-you so much to the people of Cork, keep the flag flying!

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