Roundwood Stores

Yellow wall with arched doorway. Painted signage reads "Roundwood Stores - Artisan Grocery - Bakery - Local Produce - Coffee" in a clean, modernist sans serif font

Ride distance: 87km
Beverage: one espresso, accompanied by an excellent sandwich

The weather was still absurdly warm as I headed out the following day on my second coffeenée (is that a word? it is now) of the week. Haze softened the autumn sunlight as I climbed to Sally Gap, light breezes playing over my bare arms, strands of spider silk hanging in the slow-moving air. At this time of year, I’d often be bidding farewell to the Gap for the year, farewell to the gales and drizzle and bone-chilling descents. But not in 2023.

Following the Military Road down past Glenmacnass waterfall to Laragh, I turned back towards Roundwood. Around Annamoe, Wicklow County Council were hard at work eliminating the last remaining stretches of smooth asphalt in the county. One can only imagine that an influential member of the Council also owns a gravel quarry — they’d gravel-dress the M11 given half a chance.

I stopped at the Roundwood Stores, where the tasteful choice of font on the signage advertising “Artisan Grocery” betokens the kind of bourgeois luncheon experience I’m looking for in a cafe. The yellow wall hides a sunlit courtyard with enough space to stash your bike. I ordered an espresso and a croque monsieur — a blackboard on the counter reassured the Plain People of Ireland that they were being threatened with nothing more exotic than an ham-and-cheese toastie.

The croque monsieur was the Platonic ideal of a toasted sandwich, the thick bread grilled to a golden-red, crisped in the fat running off the cheese and thickly sliced ham. The espresso, on the other hand, was deeply odd. I can best describe it as a hazelnut praline emulsion — thick and finely aerated, but no hint of coffee to the flavour whatsoever. I’ve had a lot of weird, funky shots over the years, but this was a new one on me. Still, it was nowhere near enough to ruin the pleasure of eating a good lunch in the sunshine.

Sadly, once it was done I had to climb back on the bike and waddle the thirty kilometres home.

Toasted sandwich on plate with salad leaves and small pot of mustard dressing.

Thoughts, hopes, exhortations?