Bally Bia

Meet Faye Bolger, owner of Bally Bia in Ballydehob, West Cork.

This is her story.

Faye Bolger opened the Ballydehob restaurant in May 2018. What is the secret to the delicious food served at Bally Bia? West Talk finds out.

(Faye Bolger, Owner and Head Chef of Bally Bia in Ballydehob)

As you enter the town of Ballydehob you are welcomed by the iconic 12 arch bridge and colourful buildings. In the centre of the town there is a fork in the road. At the junction where the statue of World Champion wrestler “Danno O’Mahony” stands you can continue right up main street or go left up the historic Staball hill. On Staball hill you will find Ballydehob’s hidden gem, Bally Bia. Bally Bia is a restaurant that serves a wide array of tasty food. From Eastern themed Thai dishes to Irish home favorite’s Bally Bia has it all.

I spoke to Head Chef and owner of Bally Bia, Faye Bolger. Faye has been working in the Food and Hospitality industry from a young age. “I started working in a café near Goleen when I was 13, that was my first job in the industry”. She had a passion for food from an early age and was determined that one day she would be her own boss. Her work ethic is one of her strongest qualities.

Faye has worked in numerous restaurant’s such as Summer Salt (now Antonio’s), The Porcelain Room and An Chistín Beag. She tells me about her mentors that have taught her the skills she has today, “There has been so many great people I’ve learned from. There are a few such as Joanne Cassidy, Stephen Canty and Chris Hedges. I did catering with Stephen and we did a lot of wedding catering which started my interest in Wedding planning and Catering.”

(A couple dishes you will find at Bally Bia)

Credit: Kate Bean Photography

Faye owes a lot of her success to Joanne Cassidy she mentions, “I worked with Joanne in the Porcelain Room and The Gourmet Store for years and she taught me a lot and I’m very grateful to her”. Bally Bia is now the restaurant where Joanne Cassidy had The Porcelain Room.

In Kinsale College Faye studied Hotel and Catering for one year before moving onto her studies in Cork Institute of Technology. In CIT Faye spent two years studying Culinary Arts. After receiving her qualifications she went to Australia for a couple years.

Faye returned to West Cork in 2017. She enjoyed her experience of catering for Weddings alongside Stephen Canty and decided to do Wedding Planning upon her return to West Cork. Faye was looking for something more permanent. She decided she wanted to do her own thing. She had planned on setting up her own catering company but when the opportunity to open her own restaurant arose Faye jumped on the chance. She spoke to me about how it all came about, “One night I was speaking to Joanne and the idea just came from there. Joanne owns a couple of businesses and she agreed that I could rent the building from her. We got the keys in March 2018 and began renovating.”

Faye mentioned the huge part her Dad Leo played in the renovation of the building, “My dad was great during the renovation he did a lot of the work and does all the maintenance”. Faye’s mother Sally plays a huge role, “ My Mom is a huge support to me too, she helps out with minding my little one Leo when I’m working and helps out around the restaurant. I couldn’t do what I’m doing without both of their help.”

Bally Bia has 4 staff members that are the heart and soul of the restaurant. All 4 staff were able to work through Covid-19 safely and Faye expresses her gratitude for them, “They are a great group and we all get along really well. There is a great atmosphere in the kitchen and I love working with them.”

(In the Kitchen with Faye)

I was interested in finding out what a typical day in Faye’s life looks like. Between running a restaurant and having a young family it is a very busy schedule. She talks about her daily routine, “I wake up and get Leo ready for creche. Between making him breakfast and his lunch for creche there is only time for a quick cup of coffee before I’m out the door. I drop Leo to the creche and when I come back it’s straight into the kitchen. We are preparing and cooking all day then. At the moment service starts at 5 and finishes at 8:30pm.”

Quick Fire Questions:

Q1. Most popular dish? “The Beef Penang”

Q2. Favourite travel destination? “It would definitely be Portugal”

Q3. Where do you see Bally Bia in 5 years? “I’d like to still have Bally Bia where it is right now and hopefully our heat at home range will expand into other shops around Cork”

Q4. Favourite part of your job? “Working with such a great group of friends. Also when people tell you that they really enjoyed their food and when you walk through the restaurant and you see everyone having a great time”

Covid-19 Impact:

Bally Bia’s newest feature is their “Heat at Home” range. These delicious ready made meals are available to buy from Bally Bia on Staball Hill or in Camiers Gala, Ballydehob. Faye hopes to expand the stores that stock these ready made meals. Since their release three weeks ago they have been a huge success, selling out every day. I was curious to see how good they really were.

(Faye outside Bally Bia with their new Heat at Home range)

I’m no food critic but we all have to eat out every now and again. I got the Beef Penang and it was divine. I wouldn’t be used to Thai cuisine but I definitely will be from now on. The flavour was spicy but not too spicy that I would’ve had to drink pints of milk after it. It was flavoursome and you could sense the quality and time that had went into cooking it. I really enjoyed it and I would strongly urge you to get some Bally Bia food whether it be dining in, Take-Away or the heat at home range.

(If Thai food isn't to your liking these options defiently will be)

Bally Bia is currently offering Take-Away food and their heat at home range. When the restrictions allow for restaurants to have indoor dining they will definitely be back to having people in their restaurant. Bally Bia is open from Thursday to Saturday 5-8:30pm every week. The heat at home range will be available to collect from Bally Bia and Camiers in Ballydehob from 2pm every day. I suggest you get their early rather than later because they sell out fast due to high demand.

My final question to Faye was “What was her message to her customers and to the people reading this?”, Faye says “I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us since we opened and we are looking forward to welcoming you back into the restaurant when we can. Our Take Away is still open and the heat at home range is also available. Thank you to everyone.”

Bally Bia serves high quality tasting food that will leave you wanting more. I really enjoyed my meal there and I can’t recommend it enough. The heat at home range is a great way of getting quality food for you and your family for the days you don’t feel like cooking.

Bally Bia is a great restaurant and you definitely have to try it out.

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