Life

Eating Out: Just my luck to come across somewhere as nice as Serendipity in Omagh

Serendipity in Omagh – the kind of place that suggests quality as soon as you get there. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Dominic Kearney

Serendipity Artisan Cafe Bar

2 John St

Omagh

BT78 1BX

028 8225 2230

HOW is your intake shutter valve? Are you concerned about it at all? Does it keep you up at nights? Have you not given it a moment’s thought and yet from now on will be unable to think about nothing else?

I must confess I didn’t realise I had one – or, to be exact, that my car had one – until a letter arrived from the manufacturer telling me that I did and that it might be on the blink and that I needed to get it checked.

Which meant a trip to Omagh, my car being of such a rarefied marque that Derry isn’t considered worthy of an authorised dealer. Ah, Omagh! Base camp of the Sperrins, nestling ‘longside the Strule, how many hours have I spent stuck behind tractors as I travel to thee?

As it happens, I didn’t mind giving up the best part of a day to confirm that my intake shutter valve was working perfectly. A friend had tipped me off about a café in Omagh that was worth a visit, so this manufacturer’s recall meant that events fell together quite happily.

Serendipity has been knocking around Omagh for some time now. If I’ve got this right, it used to be mainly a gift shop that started to do cakes and such. Now, having moved recently to new premises opposite the courthouse, it has become a café that does a little sideline in gifts.

It’s quite an easy place to miss. You could – and I did – walk past it and not know it was there, as there’s only a small sign next to the door opening onto a flight of stairs that take you up to the first floor café. But it is the kind of place that suggests quality as soon as you get there.

That’s largely down to the décor and furnishings, all soft seats and deep blues and rich golds, a touch of the exotic and luxurious which would be incongruous on the ground floor but, lifted above street level, make the place a secret hideaway from which to look down on the grey comings and goings of the courthouse.

My brother and daughter were with me and we found a place easily, despite the snugness of the café. At first glance, the menu looks pretty standard – paninis, sandwiches, soup, and so on – but, when the food arrives, the touch of style and extra care suggested by the décor is confirmed.

My flatbread was crisply toasted, giving a pleasing contrast in texture to the creamy, melting cheese, while the sweetness of the pear matched the thick chunks of salty ham nicely. That same blend of tastes and textures was there in the panini my brother ordered, the generous pieces of chicken going surprisingly well with the pineapple.

It was the salads that stood out for me, though. We’re not just talking about a few bits of lettuce chucked on the side of the plate. We had crisp apple, sharp orange, crunchy peppers, and peppery leaves all held together by a delicate dressing. And this quality was there with bells on when it came to the goat cheese, walnut, and pear salad bowl we ordered to take home for my wife. Complimentary flavours and textures producing something rich and satisfying.

It might just be a quick bite at lunchtime, but that doesn’t mean it should be bland and ordinary.

Best of all were the puddings. We got these to go, and they made for a terrific treat once we were back home. The chocolate cake was rich and light and full of flavour, while the lemon cake was just great. Such a moist sponge, dripping with sharp lemon juice, then a grounding coconut bite.

Drinks include a range of light, refreshing green teas, but there’s also prosecco if you’re not driving back to Derry, not to mention a selection of gins, vodkas, and cocktails, although I suppose they come into their own on the Friday evenings when Serendipity is open for dinner.

You’ll chance upon Serendipity when you’re not expecting it, but you’ll return again and again.

THE BILL

Ham, pear, cheddar flatbread £4.95

Chicken, pineapple, mozzarella panini £5.95

Cheese and tomato tortilla £5.50

Tomato soup x 2 £2 each

Goat cheese, pear, walnut salad (takeaway) £3.99

Lemon and coconut cake £2

Chocolate cake £2

Chocolate and pistachio square £1.20

Erupting volcano tea £2.99

Total: £32.58

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