GALLERY

PICTURES: Sneak peak inside stylish new Spanish tapas restaurant opening soon in Portlaoise

Former Laois footballer Colm 'Wooly' Parkinson and his partner Itxi are opening the restaurant just eight months after welcoming their first baby

Michelle Hogan

Reporter:

Michelle Hogan

La Lola, an exciting new Spanish tapas restaurant in Portlaoise is set to open its doors for the first time on Friday, December 8.

A vibrant, driven, 26-year-old Spanish lady named Itxi (“pronounced ‘itchy’ like Itchy and Scratchy on The Simpsons,” she said) is behind the opening of the stylish restaurant alongside her well-known partner, former Laois footballer turned sports journalist, Colm 'Wooly' Parkinson.

The picture gallery above (click through) shows the restaurant unit at 37 Main Street less than two months ago when they first decided to take on this project and inside the unit now just three days ahead of opening. It has been a quick turnaround for the couple who just had their first child, a little boy, eight months ago.

Having sold her apartment in the industrial port city of Bilbao in northern Spain to embark on this new adventure, Itxi said that she hopes to bring a homely and welcoming Spanish atmosphere to Portlaoise’ Main Street just in time for Christmas.

“La Lola” is a concept inspired by Spanish women enjoying themselves eating food and drinking wine without a care in the world. It also refers to the grandmother of the family who might secretly slip you money in good spirits, according to Itxi. These warm, carefree feelings are what she hopes to embody in the restaurant.

“We decided to do this just two months ago we were talking about it and looking for places, we looked at three different places and I fell in love with this, it is just fantastic. We started telling our friends that it was going to happen and we were thinking of opening by February but everybody said ‘no, you have to open by Christmas’ so now we are here!” she said.

“My mother owned a restaurant in Spain so I grew up in there but I am a graphic designer. I was working from home and I was working in O’Loughlins Hotel and The Blue Door which opened this town up to me, I met a lot of people. I fell in love with Laois.

“It is not just for work for me it is a point for me to meet with my friends because I always have them over at home, it is great but then you have to clean the next morning,” she laughed.

The restaurant is taking bookings for four to six people and it is nearly full for its opening weekend.

“I just hope the food is going to be as I think. That is the thing that terrifies me the most. I chose beautiful wines and I just really want people smiling and I want my friends to feel like they are in my house when I cook for them and feel like they are in Spain. La Lola is like my house I want people to see it like that,” she said.

Three people will work behind the scenes creating the tasty food in the kitchen and three more as well as Itxi will work on the restaurant floor over the Christmas period.

Itxi said that the people of Laois need a place where they can go to socialise in a comfortable environment to enjoy food and drinks, she can see the demand for a tapas restaurant serving as much or as little food that a group might need. The restaurant will serve wines chosen by Itxi and some craft beers specifically chosen to go with the food.

A tapa is an appetizer or snack in Spanish cuisine. In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into an entire, sophisticated cuisine. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. Customers can order a small amount of dishes or a larger amount depending on the mood and the event. There is no starter, main course and dessert but instead there are up to five or six small dishes with many different flavours that can be a light bite or a big meal. 

“Everyone is going to Carlow for tapas at the moment. The option to go out with friends in your thirties is just to go straight to the pub because you can’t manage a big dinner and then going out but tapas is for everyone. If someone is really hungry they can get more tapas or if someone is not really hungry they can get one or two and all sit down together at the table. They need that, if you go to Dublin everyone is going to a place like that,” Itxi said.

Itxi’s mother came to Portlaoise to train the chefs, one of whom is from Poland living in Portlaoise for 25 years and the other is from Portlaoise. All of the recipes that will be used in the restaurant have come from Itxi’s mother and grandmother.

Boxes of Spanish ingredients have just been delivered to the restaurant at 37 Main Street, Portlaoise where they will be combined with local produce to create tasty Spanish meals this weekend and every weekend for the foreseeable future.

This is an exciting new move for Portlaoise as the town continues to grow, the demand for new ways to socialise grows with it.

The restaurant, which will seat up to 30 at one time, has been a labour of love with tables that they made themselves from flooring they bought locally in Telfords.

There is still some work to be done over the next couple of days, the signage is due to go up outside on Wednesday and the menus and prices have been finalised.

Another restaurant, Bloom, recently opened its doors just across the street offering high-end Irish food in a casual environment. Read more about that here.

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