You’re assured of a warm Emerald Isle welcome at O’Toole’s, the newest addition to Earlsdon’s café family! Majoring on hearty breakfasts, but also offering a range of omelettes, pancakes, panini, batches and baked potatoes as well as family recipe cakes and soda bread, O’Toole’s is named in tribute to owner Isobell’s mother and aunts.
“My mother always wanted a café” says owner Isobell when we meet. “She came from a family of fabulous baking sisters. They could make anything out of nothing, as they had to do when times were hard. They were born and raised in Ireland and although they made their homes here, they still went back every year”.
In keeping with Isobell’s heritage, the emphasis at O’Toole’s is firmly on Irish hospitality and Irish food. “It’s what I was brought up on and it’s what I like” says Isobell. “We make our own soda bread to my mother’s recipe” she continues “so it’s called Bridie’s bread. The apple pie is Auntie Rita’s, and the scones are my godmother’s. She lives in Liverpool and she still bakes!
“As for the sausages” she continues “they’re an Irish recipe and we do black pudding, white pudding…I’m really looking for authenticity. It has to taste right. If you’re going to put that stamp on it, that’s what it has to be. I don’t think you can have just have any pork sausage”.
Readers who are familiar with Cheylesmore may already know Isobell from the old Spires Supper Bar and Cafe Delicia on the Queen Isabel’s Avenue bit of the Cheylesmore Parade. “I worked there for twenty six years” says Isobell. “I sort of managed it and I was in and out of the three shops, so that’s where I learned my craft. It closed when the owners retired, but this came up for sale at about the same time”.
Located on the corner of Earlsdon Avenue North and Westwood Road (in the old Ramkins Cafe), Isobell says O’Toole’s is not targeting any particular customer group, but as she greets regulars by name, it’s clear that the new venture has already built up a loyal following. “As far as cafés in Earlsdon go” she says “I think there’s room for everyone as long as we all do something a little bit different. I try, as much as I can, to be aware of the businesses around me, so as to not tread on too many toes. I will be doing meals in the summer, but they will be what I would call basic fare, so you’re talking liver and onions, stews, quiche, salad…”
And it’s a formula that seems to be working. “We have a group of between three and five people who are working locally” she says “and they’ve been in every day for the last three weeks because they’ve got healthy appetites, it suits their price bracket, and they say it’s exactly what they’re looking for”.