HE HAS worked with the famous British chef Heston Blumenthal creating intricate gastronomic delights, but now Paul Williams has opened a ‘pop-up’ cafe and restaurant in Limerick.
Paul, originally from Tipperary, is dedicated to serving healthy fast-food at lunch-time, meaning there will be no hot chicken rolls, or ham and cheese sandwiches on the menu.
Canteen, at No 30 Mallow Street is now serving up dishes such as mild Thai fish curry, meatballs and couscous, and Mediterranean chicken, as well as wraps, and salads such as broccoli, feta and hazelnut, or mackerel, pea, and walnut. All are priced at a recession-conscious €4.50 to €8.
While Mallow Street is not a prime destination for eateries, it is already gathering a loyal following from the ‘Twitter-ati’.
Paul initially went to college to study engineering, but a change of heart led him to do a culinary arts degree in Dublin Institute of Technology. Now living in Limerick for six years, the 35-year-old chef has worked in the the Shannon hotel school, in Blumenthal’s famous Fat Duck restaurant for two years, the neighbouring pub also owned by the famous experimental chef, and the Four Seasons in Dublin, as well as restaurants in France.
Then after a stint of importing wine and selling it in Limerick, he eyed the premises on Mallow Street, which has been open for just two weeks.
Paul based his idea for Canteen upon a similar chain of healthy fast-food restaurants in London, and while the Limerick outlet has an initial shelf-life of six months, he is keen to expand their stay, move to a bigger location or broaden the menu depending upon their initial success.
“I was looking for about six to nine months to see what was coming up in the city and what I could afford. It took about a month and a half to get it painted and ready. You have a few slow days as well, but everyone that comes in seems to like it and get the concept. I was worried that people wouldn’t, with the take-away boxes. It’s a cheap lunch or dinner. It’s not a place where you’d go for a formal dinner, but if you’re finished work and fancy something quick this is a good choice,” he said.
Canteen, which has a staff of four, is one of the few restaurants in Limerick offering ‘superfoods’ on-the-go, with many established restaurants offering food that is all quite “the same and a bit limited in terms of choice”. For those with a sweet tooth, there are also low-GI treats like flourless double chocolate brownies, banana and walnut bread, and flapjacks.
Canteen is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 10am-5pm, with lunch served from 12.30pm to 3pm. Its opening hours are due to be extended in the coming weeks to include evening dinners, served with wine.