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Dublin: 12°C Friday 12 August 2022

The family behind the Rye River Café share their shutdown story, and some recipes

Shona Bourke of the Rye River Café shares some recipes and says closing in March broke her heart but they’ve moved the business online.

Shona Bourke

I GREW UP in the hospitality sector. My parents ran hotels, restaurants and industrial catering units. I was exposed to every aspect of catering from a very young age and I suppose I took for granted the knowledge base that I consumed.

Over the years I tried moving my career into other areas but the biggest draw to catering is the hospitality that you get to provide to customers. I thrive on the interaction and I have always wanted to feed people.

In 2009 I opened the Rye River Café in Kilcock, County Kildare. It was always a dream of mine and looking back, maybe there was a little bit of lunacy involved. I had four children under the age of nine, the youngest was nine months.

The goal was to have a little income on the side of my husband’s full-time job and cook fresh ingredients to order. What I didn’t realise at the time was how the business would grow to what it is today.

side cafe Source: Rye River Cafe

We employ 13 people locally. One is my husband who is now the head chef and two of my sons. Craig, 19, works front of house and Cian is the budding chef in the kitchen. I suppose I never really stopped to appreciate just how fantastic my life and business were. Often, I found myself focusing on stressful work events or the one negative review.

Everything shifted

That was until Sunday 15 March, the day we realised that our business could not go on as it was and we had to tell our staff that we would be closed until further notice. It broke my heart. I have always referred to the café as my fifth child and our team feels like an extended family.

The irony of the situation was that we had just received notification that planning had been approved on the premises we had purchased with my brother to expand the business. When we should have been celebrating we were commiserating.

I spent Monday feeling sorry for myself for about an hour and then my eldest brother sat with me and created an online order section to our website to trial a takeaway menu. Within 24 hours we had turned the business from sit-in daytime to take-away evening. We focus on what
we do best, cooking fresh local produce to order.

We are proud of our menu and feel it consists of high-quality Irish minced beef burgers, slow-cooked Irish pulled pork, real Italian pizza and much more rolled into a value package. We like to think that we are the opposite of fast food and orders can take from one hour to 90 minutes to process because we insist that your food will be cooked to order. 


It has not been without its challenges. You feel vulnerable when you have worked so hard to secure your business and you’re in this new territory so quickly. Planning a menu and securing suppliers is also hard work, but it’s keeping everyone safe from staff to customers that is the most important focus in all of this.

It has been one of the most stressful events to take place during the course of the 10 years of the cafe’s history but also the most rewarding. We have completely changed our business overnight and thanks to our customer loyalty, it has really taken off. My conclusion from this whole experience is how amazing people can be in a crisis. 

Family, friends and our dedicated staff have all been there from day one and it is something that has completely humbled me. I believe when everything does and hopefully, it will return to some type of normal we will all have a new perception on life. I for one have started to appreciate the little things. The birds singing, the dog jumping up for acknowledgement but most importantly, every time a customer makes a decision to place an order with us.

I would advise other food businesses to not give in to fear, to plough ahead. The fear can paralyse you. Ask your customers what they want and don’t be afraid to limit your services. Work in whatever way you can.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy our recipes.

Rye River Café Super Easy Scones

1589872369113blob Source: Shona Bourke

I always use a mug to measure a cup. It’s a good way to teach children without worrying about measurements.

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●4 cups self-raising flour
●1/2 cup of sugar
●1 & 1/2 cup of buttermilk
●1 egg
●120g butter (buy butter with measurements on it)
●vanilla extract
● sultanas or whatever you like.


Preheat oven to 190 Degrees. Pop the flour in a large bowl. Add the butter (cube and pop in the microwave for 20 seconds). Rub together.

Add in the sugar (granulated or caster doesn’t matter).

Add 1 egg.

Then add buttermilk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Roughly bring together and empty contents onto a floured surface. At this point, you can separate for plain or fruit. I usually add a handful of sultanas to a larger portion and leave a few plain. But you can try the raspberry and white chocolate or dark chocolate and orange.

Bring together to form a smooth surface on top and gently press down using your palm to level off slightly lower than your scone cutter. I use a small cutter to control the portion sizes but you can use a cup or anything you have. Lightly flour a tray or use baking paper. I get 15 small scones out of this recipe.

Before I put in the oven I rub a little buttermilk over the top and sprinkle some sugar.
190 degrees for approx 20 minutes depending on size. You’ll know they are ready when you slightly tip them and they pop up easily off the tray and feel light. Hope you enjoy. Get baking. Full video instructions on our Facebook page.

shutterstock_1079471744 Source: Shutterstock/DronG

Rye River Café Hollandaise Sauce


  • 3 egg yolks
  • 100g melted butter
  • 3/4 soup spoon of white vinegar
  • Good squeeze if Lemon juice
  • Pepper

Simmer a pot of boiling water. Melt the butter in the microwave. It needs to be hot hot not just melted.

Crack some pepper into the bowl with the egg yolks and add the vinegar. Whisk until it becomes slightly paler. Add in the lemon juice and whisk again.

Put a tea towel under the bowl to stop the bowl moving. Slowly pour in the hot butter and whisk. You may only need 3/4 of the butter, it depends on the size of the yolks you use.

When you are fairly happy with the consistency (coating the back of your spoon) sit the bowl on the pot of simmering water and whisk again bearing in mind it will thicken slightly.

Your Hollandaise sauce is now ready to eat. If your sauce splits try adding a couple of teaspoons of hot water and whisk again. If this doesn’t work try adding another egg yolk. Hollandaise can always be rescued. You can add a 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard and some cayenne pepper but we prefer to keep the flavour simple.


Shona Bourke is a mother of four who opened her own café almost 11 years ago. 

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