Over the past few weeks (a month? More?) we watched as the outside of a shop front on Camden Stret was painted maroon and stained glass windows were put in. “Next hipster café coming up!” said C to me. He wasn’t wrong. But here’s the thing: what was this place before it was a café?
This one has a different feel to the other hip new cafés around town. De Selby’s feels a bit like the old Bewley’s Grafton Street. Before it was Café Bar Deli and then Bewley’s again. It’s dark, and the furniture is more old fashioned. The tables and chairs are like the older places in town. There is wine along one wall and preserves and nuts and seeds along another. The ceilings are high and the walls are paneled with dark wood. Really, what WAS this place?
It does have hipster touches like chalkboard menus, open kitchen and vintage bottles of water. Old timey clocks, more than any one café needs, are dotted around.
There is a lot of fish on the menu. Tuna, fried fish, and crabmeat are sandwich options as well as a fish special of the day (confit tuna salad when I was in). There is a sausage sandwich option, ham-hock (which didn’t arrive that morning) and a Caprese for the true veggies. One soup. The menu simple but sophisticated. There is an odd balcony space above the counter. You can buy coffee makers. Roasted brown coffee is on offer and at the same prices as its other outlets around town.
De Selby’s sign above the door outside looks like a vintage NYC diner. It doesn’t feel like an NYC diner, though. It’s a bit confusing at first because it looks more formal than an “order at the counter” café. Buts that’s what it is. A helpful man told me to drop my jacket at the table and come up and order. Then the food is delivered to you.
I felt a bit guilty ordering the fried fish sandwich. It was cold out. It’s what I wanted, if not what I needed. Imagine my relief then when it arrived and I saw that it was NOT breaded and fried, but a gorgeous open face pan fried fish sandwich. Lovely fresh caught cod lightly pan fried, well seasoned and delicious. The peas and salad were dressed really well and the whole thing was minty and lemony. There was a really decent amount of fish for a small-ish sandwich.
I’m still not totally sold on the staff telling me that a sandwich is “really, really good” or “this is one of our best, it’s amazing”, but I suppose if you are excited about the product you’re selling other people will be too.
I arrived at about 12.30 pm and stayed until 2pm. It never got too busy. I suspect it’s hard on Camden Street–quickly becoming Dublin’s Hell’s Kitchen–to nab customers from the more established lunch places up and down the street. But I also suspect that DeSelby’s won’t stay quite for lunch for much longer.