ARDKEEN QUALITY FOOD STORE
Phone: 051 874620
There’s only one Ardkeen Stores. It may look a little like a supermarket but in fact it’s a brilliant celebration of all that is great about local and artisan produce – while also being somewhere you can do the weekly shop. Unique.
You might think that my second city, so to speak, would be Cork but, in fact, it’s Waterford. A born Dubliner, now living in the depths of North Cork, I started coming to Waterford over thirty years ago. My children have gone to school there, we have family and friends there. It’s a city – a small, compact city but a city nonetheless – of which I am very fond.
If you were to ask me to name the two major attractions of the Urbs Intacta for me, I’d have to say Newtown School (the only Quaker secondary school in the Republic) and what everyone calls Ardkeen Stores. Or even just Ardkeen (although we must avoid confusion with Waterford Regional Hospital, which also goes by that name, just across the road).
The Ardkeen Quality Food Store, to give it its full title, is – now that I try to do it – very difficult to define. You could possibly confuse it for a moderately sized supermarket; there are superficial resemblances.
But it’s much, much more than an indepdendent supermarket. For a start, there’s the vast commitment to local produce (and the entrance is, in a sense, a shrine to that). Tomatoes are grown at Grantstown expressly for Ardkeen and they are fabulous, just one example of fresh produce from within just a few kilometres of the store.
And there’s the outpost of Sheridan’s, so you can buy perfectly handled and matured cheeses, Irish and otherwise, that have been through the affineur process (and glorious olives and other delicious nibbly things).
There’s free range pork, dry-cure bacon, local black pudding, smoked things from Sally Barnes, organic meat, proper chickens, locally landed fish.
And there’s the wall of craft beers and ciders and the wine department lovingly selected and tended by Carmel who is a fount of wisdom and who also buys very cleverly; there are always some brilliant bin ends that she has prised from various wine merchants, always at keen prices.
I think you have probably formed the impression by now that Ardkeen is very special. It is, but I would add that it’s also unique in Ireland. I have never been to any other “supermarket” in the land that even comes close. And let’s be clear, this is not just a specialist food and drink retailer, it’s also somewhere you can do your weekly shop.
How long has this been going on? The business started in 1967 but the present premises, the core of the Ardkeen Shopping Centre, opened in 1998. It is still a family business, owned by run by the Jephsons.
Essentially, what Ardkeen does is to make life easier for people who really care about what they eat and drink. Ardkeen searches for, investigates and chooses, with great care, what they sell us. And, in a nutshell, if it has been chosen by Ardkeen, it’s good enough for the most demanding palate.
These producers and suppliers are Ardkeen’s Food Heroes and you can find all of them listed here. This is a veritable Who’s Who of the great and the good (but often very small and self-effacing) artisan producers in the South-East, with a few from slightly further afield.
Frankly, if every town or city the size of Waterford had something even roughly equivalent to Ardkeen, Ireland would be a better and a happier place.