By Darren McDonagh
The question “is it pronounced ‘della’ or ‘dee-la’?” is one you’re sure to have heard around Galway over the past number of years.
Other monikers include “the place with the tree” and “the place with the queue”; the former a reference to the elaborate silver birch at the centre of the restaurant, the latter a testament to the now legendary brunch on offer.
Dela restaurant has gone from strength to strength since opening its doors on Lower Domnic Street in 2013, but like most other businesses its been rocked by the pandemic, and has been mostly shut since March of 2020.
“It was a very scary and fearful time for staff, customers and our family,” says owner and manager Margaret Bohan. “With no real guidelines in place at the time, we chose to stay closed throughout most of 2020.”
“We did click and collect for a short time in June but it’s not the business model that we’re accustomed to and while it went well, we felt that our only chance to get back to normal was to stay closed and focus on a full re-opening,” she says.
What makes Dela stand out from the crowd is the accompanying farm a couple of miles away in Moycullen. The ‘farm to plate’ aspect of the restaurant is now intrinsic to its sustainability ethos.
Margaret also credits the farm with helping them get through the pandemic.
“We’re very lucky to have the farm. It’s kept us busy and has provided a sanctuary for our whole family,” she says.
Indeed, touring the holding is an escape from reality. Surrounded by a whole host of exotic vegetables, from floridor squash to padron peppers, one would be forgiven for temporarily forgetting our pandemic-punctured lives.
While Margaret runs the business in-house, her husband Joe is “at the helm” of all farm-related activity.
“When we opened Dela in 2013, we had a small supply of our own herbs and veg. Each year, the farm has produced more and more of the produce that we use in the restaurant,” Joe explains.
“We grow everything organically, and while we’re not certified organic, we are totally chemical free. We succession grow, meaning we have a constant supply of fresh produce. We also harvest rain water and have created a composting system”.
Margaret chimes in: “Which is based on the farm at Ballymaloe cookery school”.
It’s clear to see that there’s been a lot going on at the farm of late. There’s an aura of activity and production about the place and an undeniable enthusiasm from the owners.
“This year, we have been able to grow the farm from roughly 50 beds to about 170. We have enough this year to supply our restaurant as well as our other new projects,” Joe teases.
The pandemic has made the couple adapt and helped them to realise that there are other opportunities out there that fits their business model alongside the restaurant.
“Our first new venture is our Dela Farm Veg Boxes which we aim to have out from June onwards. We should have a nice selection of salad, herbs and veg available to order online with a couple of collection points both in the City and in Moycullen,” Margaret explains.
“We are also very excited about our new food truck which we should have up and running for the summer. People can look forward to some fan favourites as well as some new Dela-style street dishes too. We have some locations secured and we’re really looking forward to a busy summer on wheels”.
And still, there are even more plans in the pipeline for the ever-growing enterprise.
“Not ones to rest on our laurels, we have a few other endeavours coming up,” Margaret assures.
Having recognised the importance of good quality coffee given the high standard in other city establishments, the innovators are now looking to create their own.
“We have a coffee roaster coming soon and will spend some time perfecting roasts later in the summer or early autumn when the farm calms down,” she says.
Trips to local vans and cafés became a mainstay of lockdown life for many people, so this will undoubtedly come as promising news to customers, both new and old.
Margaret urges people to keep an eye on social media for updates on all these upcoming ventures.
The couple also have their eye on the proposed Connemara Greenway which, all things going well, will pass near Dela farm and continue right to the restaurant’s doorstep in Galway’s West End.
Indeed, businesses in the West End are currently working with Galway County Council and Fáilte Ireland to accommodate outdoor seating in the area and are hoping to get some areas pedestrianised.
“This would be a huge plus for this side of the City in showcasing all of our beautiful restaurants, cafés and bars. We have gorgeous walkways along the canal and the bridges too which aren’t currently being utilised to their full potential.
“There is a great sense of community in our pocket of the City we are all small businesses with a love of our area and a love of Galway,” says Margaret.
While there are many positive develop- ments, the pandemic also gave Margaret and Joe plenty to consider on both a personal and professional level.
“It’s given us time out to reevaluate everything, not just the restaurant. It’s given us time to catch up with family, with our lives outside of work, and to think about our own personal plans.
“We are lucky to have a great team with us and we’re all looking forward to hitting the ground running once we open,” says Margaret.
And in case you’re still wondering, it’s pronounced ‘dee-la’, but Margaret assures that “we don’t mind how you pronounce it, as long as you enjoy it!”.
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