As we linger over making the decision to order some lemon tart in Stef Hans, in Thurles, the waitress, Joanne, tells us this story:
“It was my eldest’s first holy communion last Sunday, and on the Friday night, who comes to the house with a whole lemon tart for us but Steffi!”
And the pair of us simply melt into a puddle. But not before ordering the lemon tart.
“Nice people making and serving nice things”, could be the motto of Stef Hans, the third outpost of the Matthiae boys' food world. Chez Hans, in Cashel, has been with us since 1968; Café Hans has been around for a decade; and Steffi Matthiae and Ruth Mulhern got Stef Hans up and running last year.
It’s an in-between-the-auditorium-entrance-and-under-the-stairs space in The Source arts centre, just by the river in Thurles, but a lot of imagination has been used by Ms Mulhern to make an unpromising space funky and welcoming.
The food is quintessential Hans: smart, well-sourced, satisfying, and direct. The specials are chalked up on the board, and from them we choose Duncannon smoked sea trout, and felafels with salad from the menu. The sea trout comes with good potato salad and excellent leaves, with a jingle-jangle of capers, guacamole, pickled red onion and gherkins. It’s a happy plate, and one can only say the same about the felafels, served in a pretty, deep bowl with beetroot hummus, tomato salsa, some more of that guac, and nicely toasted sesame seeds.
The lemon tart is a beaut, fleshed out with vanilla ice cream and stewed rhubarb, and at each point of our lunch, from the basket of breads to the fine espresso, everything is simply delightful. The space of Stef Hans may be a bit of a sow’s ear but, with ingenuity and imagination, Ms Mulhern and Mr Matthiae have fashioned a silk purse for Thurles.
1 Cathedral Street, Thurles, Co Tipperary 0504-58858 thesourceartscentre.ie/visit/cafe-bar