Airfield farm, cafe and gardens in Dundrum is Dublin’s only working farm open to the public. It re-opened a couple of months ago following a big refurbishment.
We’re not too far from the farm so having found ourselves at a loose end last Friday, myself and the small boy decided that we’d toddle along for a look at some animals and maybe a nice brunch afterwards.
I had never been to the previous incarnation of Airfield but all the positive coverage of the launch had my expectations raised and I was also impressed by the concept of the specially designed play space for 0-4s advertised on their website. You don’t often see a play area specifically for the smallies and I was looking forward to some age appropriate playground fun, rather than the usual heart-in-mouth squeaks I try to keep to myself in the bigger playgrounds when I’m trying to pretend I’m more laid back than I really am.
We arrived up just in time for the scheduled egg-collecting at 10am and the cow milking in the parlour at 10:30am. First impressions were really good. Everything looks absolutely beautiful. All of the buildings on the farm blend in beautifully with the landscape and everything is bright and warm, yet discreet looking. It has a touch of Avoca about it but more muted.
The woman at the ticket booth was more than helpful and I paid a tenner for entry with no charge for the little man because 0-3s are free. She directed us to where the egg-collecting would be and mentioned that everything was well sign posted anyway so we shouldn’t have problems.
Now maybe if you’re working there all day everyday the signage makes perfect sense but we were immediately off to a bad start. There is indeed beautiful, well-appointed sign posts around the place but even though the farm itself isn’t huge, the map provided needed to be consulted a number of times. The small boy even said “check the map mama” at one point. We ended up missing the egg collection in the end because we were waiting around at the hen enclosure – where the hens were – but we only discovered an hour later when we were on our way to the cafe that the egg collection was somewhere else. We weren’t the only ones because there were three other family groups with small children also loitering around.
We moved on to the new farmyard to try and catch the milking. This is lovely small courtyard which had calves, dairy cows, two goats and a huge pig with a bunch of the cutest baby piglets you’ve ever seen. But that was it. I’d say we were done with the animals in about 20 minutes. Now I know it’s not a zoo but compared to the likes of the extensive Newbridge Farm with its generous playgrounds, or the modestly presented but enormously good fun Blackwater Open Farm which we have visited before, Airfield is a bit, well, meh. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely beautiful and most enjoyable to take a stroll through but if you’re looking for some farmy entertainment for your small children, I don’t think Airfield is going to cut it for you.
The biggest disappointment of the visit was the Grey Barn, the specially designed play area, which – I can only presume – was created by childless people. It consists of a roofed but open barn which has two small playsets, two natural wigwams, two wooden wheely bug ride-ons and a bunch of, again, beautifully appointed wooden, wall mounted mobiles. There were about five toddlers at the time and that was plenty. I’d say there’s only killings in there at peak times. We played for about 20 minutes but the novelty quickly wore off.
In complete contrast, we spent the guts of an hour gallavanting up and down the fairy ring mound and managed to not only destroy a pair of jeans with grass stains but also rip two holes in them. You know a good time has been had by all when you have to throw out a pair of trousers 😉 But I don’t need to spend €10 to run up and down a grassy hill.
And on to the cafe! This place is just beautiful. As with most newly launched establishments there were so many staff they were falling over themselves but in fairness, the place was jam-packed with the well heeled of South County Dublin who clearly had absolutely no interest in taking in a few cows.
We started off on the wrong foot initially with the kitchen timetable. We arrived at 11:50am to be told that the kitchen wasn’t taking lunch orders til 12pm but had stopped serving breakfast at 11:30am so I was trapped in a 30 minute twilight zone of being limited to a selection of baked goods that were displayed on the table at the entrance. This wrecks my head. When a cafe or restaurant is attached to a facility that is open all day and clearly makes a packet from food and drink, there’s no logical reason to randomly close the kitchen for half an hour. There should be food available all day, end of. Sure look it, here I am blogging about it! It couldn’t possibly be worth the complaints they receive.
So I ended up having my meal backwards – first a coffee and a scone, and then when I realised I was ravenous and the kitchen was now indeed open, I had their lunch special of 1/2 the sandwich of the day, 1/2 a cup of soup and 1/2 a flapjack. (Two treats! I know! C’mon, it was my day off 😉 ) My scone was a bit too flaky for my liking but the lunch was absolutely delicious. The bread was superfresh and all the ingredients are sourced from the farm.
Airfield also has one of the most impressive children’s menus I’ve ever seen. Although the descriptions sounded typical enough, what arrived on the plate was just gorgeous. So healthy and so tasty. He only ate the mash mind you, but that’s not Airfield’s fault! I also very much enjoyed reading “gingerbread person” on the menu. We didn’t order one so I’m not sure what the “person” looks like.
One final observation was how kind and friendly the staff were. Crayons and colouring paper came out straight away. They brought children’s cutlery too, which rarely happens I find and you end up comforting a fork injury at some stage. Every single staff member that served us went out of their way to stop and talk to the small boy. It was a lovely touch.
All in all, it was a lovely morning out together. We had a lot of fun despite my quibbles above. It’s a really lovely place to visit but I think Airfield is a dining option first and a farm second.
Have you been? What did you think?