Fabulous Fia!

IMAG6158

A few of my hipper (not hipSter, hipper) friends had mentioned Fia to me weeks ago. One of them knows the chef/owner. The other of them just knows things. I was cycling back from an appointment the other morning and I realized I could go exactly in the direction of Fia on my way home.

Fia is not exactly in central Dublin striking distance. I like this. It sits in a no-man’s-land on Rathgar Road between Rathmines and Rathgar. When I lived in Dublin in 2001-02 as a Trinity student, there was a shop on the corner where Fia is now. I would swing into the shop on my way up to visit friends in Rathgar and stock up on peanut M&Ms. This corner has some happy food memories for me.

Instead of peanut M&Ms, though, I treated myself to a delicious flat white and some sour dough toast with butter and homemade marmalade. It was an “elevenses” meal, as I was far too early for lunch and had already eaten my breakfast. The lunches looked great, though, as they started to parade out while I got ready to leave.

It’s a simple, small menu, but they’ve picked items that work. The Peas on toast looked especially inviting for a spring afternoon. Good eggs, great cheese and free water packed with mint and lemons: what more does any sweet café need?

The space is simple and light. The bathroom (important for pregnant women of Dublin!) is clean and spacious, and the clientele is mostly middle-aged locals. The staff are upbeat and on it, the prices are fair, and the Peas on Toast will be my next order.

IMAG6157

 

 

Fabulous Fia!

MOOCH!

IMAG6143

I had a small obsession with Pink Berry when it first landed in New York City. There was something totally addictive about the tangy, sharp taste of the frozen confection. I liked that I could add whatever toppings I wanted. During the summer of 2007 I probably frequented NYC Pink Berries once a week. Not great for the wallet.

Frozen Yogurt shops had their moment in NYC and LA about 7-9 years ago. There are now two in Dublin, and both are usually pretty busy. For a country that is never very warm, I think this is a success.

Mooch is located on Dawson Street which is ideal for catching the Trinity crowd. In fact, when I went I was certainly the only person over 30 who didn’t have a child or two in tow.

There are six frozen yogurt flavors to choose from along the back wall OR you can opt for a myriad of shakes and smoothies. The topping options are all laid out behind glass so no one can sample before they buy. There’s the usual nuts, berries, candies and chocolates. There are also a good number of sauces and compotes to add colour.

IMAG6142
Alligator Interior Design.

I opted for a natural flavor with sliced almonds and mixed seeds. Keeping it healthy (in so far as frozen yogurt is “healthy”). The yogurt itself tasted not dissimilar to the Pink Berry of my memory. Tangy and refreshing.

The purple/pink atmosphere of Mooch is a bit off-putting. I sat outside amid the Trinity Students trying to be as cool as they think they are. I enjoyed the pile of out of date fashion magazines to peruse as I munched my Mooch.

I don’t think my frozen yogurt obsession is re-ignited, but it s a great spot to keep hanger at bay if you are between meals.

IMAG6144

MOOCH!

Little Bird

IMAG6141

The South Circular Road between Portobello and Cork Street is really stepping up it’s café and restaurant game. It’s long been home to classic go-tos BiBi’s, Nelly’s, Sister Sadie, and Noshington. Little Bird has recently joined the happy party, located just up from Leonard’s Corner.

Little Bird’s “something different” is the fact that it is a yoga studio as well as a coffee shop. One does not have to do yoga to enjoy the café or drink a coffee to get a free handstand workshop. The two are one, but function independently. Something for everyone! But if you happen to be a coffee drinking yogi, it doesn’t get better than this.

Little Bird has a generous front garden/patio area that faces south. I suspect this will be the scene of many a brunch time rumble on warm days this summer. The other day, even in the weak spring sunshine, five people were sitting out there. I didn’t opt to sit outside, but I was thrilled to find a tiny puppy curled up under a table on a blanket next to my inside table. Yoga, puppies, and good coffee!? They know exactly what is happening in my head!

It isn’t a huge space so if you don’t like puppies, a) who are you? and b) you won’t be able to get too far away from your neighbors. It’s well designed, though, so it feels very comfortable. My favorite detail is the massive glass jugs of flavored water. One day was mint and cucumber or basil. Another day, instead of the basil was thyme and lemon. Hydration Station Taste Sensation. That’s not what it’s called, but it should be.

They serve porridge and scones and toast for breakfast. I had the porridge that arrived with a very generous amount of homemade berry compote and cinnamon on top. Super way to start my day.

I sat there long enough to watch what the early lunchers ordered from the simple, straight forward menu. Open faced sandwiches, a big salad and a soup. Lots of rocket, pesto and sundried tomato options.

The coffee is very good and there is a selection of Wall and Keogh loose leaf teas to choose from. There are also protein balls and various baked treats to keep your blood sugar up pre or post stretching.

I have yet to try a yoga class there, but I have heard the studio is lovely. Any excuse to have a cozy breakfast in a cute neighborhood sun trap, though. Not to mention discovering what new flavors they will create in their tap water!

Little Bird

Dinner at The Fumbally

IMAG6123

Lunch at Fumbally is an obvious weekday go to not only for me but for most of the people I know in Dublin. Plenty of people I don’t know frequent Fumbally as well. Sometimes there is an Irish celebrity of some form or other. I have never heard anyone say that they were not a fan of Fumbally.

Now Fumbally is serving dinner on Wednesday evenings from 7-9. The menu has two options: meat or vegetarian. The same dish is made two ways. I love the fact that I don’t really have to choose. I also love that I know what will be placed in front of me will more than likely be delicious.

IMAG6124
Main Event

This Wednesday was Korean night. The option was a huge rice bowl filled with kimchi, scallions, spicy peanuts, and either crispy tofu or pork belly. Nothing is more comforting than being handed a big bowl of steaming, spicy, sticky rice when it’s chilly outside. The whole place smelled of pickles and spice.

There were sides available as well. Various pickled vegetables, peas and more spicy peanuts and seeds, and (slightly off theme) burned butter with sourdough bread. We made the very easy choice of ordering one of each.

IMAG6125

I opted for the vegetarian option as we were eating late and pork belly seemed a bridge to far if I wanted a relaxed dream land adventure. I had to stop myself from eating to quickly. Luckily the food arrived all at once, which saved me from eating ALL of the burned butter and bread. It is hard to be polite around Fumbally’s homemade burned butter.

IMAG6126

There was nothing that arrived to our table that wasn’t a taste sensation. I sipped on the in-house turmeric, ginger and lemon kombucha and there is wine available too.

We ordered the dessert because didn’t want to be the people who left one untasted item on the menu. It’s not a big menu! Might as well try it all! So we did. We were delighted with ourselves and our incredible peanut butter mousse, chocolate soil and a dark chocolate crisp. Fluffy, nutty, rich, chocolaty goodness that no Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup could hold a flame to.

IMAG6127

Fumbally’s vast interior dresses up in coziness for the evening quite successfully. Lots of candles, low lighting and all the mismatched furniture make it feel like you are at a friend’s house. The service is a bit like that too: attentive but not at all fussy.

There are some fantastic places to dine in Dublin and Fumbally is certainly at the top of that list. For day or night.

Dinner at The Fumbally

Café at Industry

IMAG5963

It is nice  to walk into Industry on Drury Street and not have to leave 10-15 minutes later feeling angry that I simply cannot afford to pay over 50 euro for some nesting wire baskets. Happily for me, the food at the café is affordable and delicious.

The menu is like an upmarket Blazing Salads (Industry’s neighbor) with the added carnivore offerings of meat or fish. There were seven salad options the other day and two protein options. Salad options included a beet and goats cheese, c0uscous, grilled sweet potato, grilled broccoli, green lentil, carrot, and green beans with sugar snaps. Protein options were cold chicken breasts smothered in an herb yogurt sauce and cold grilled salmon.

IMAG5960

I had the chicken and two green salads. An extra broad bean salad was brought out when I was about halfway through my meal which I thought was unfair. It looked like a mountain of creamy orange bean goodness.

There are four vegetable juices to choose from, all the coffee confections you could hope for and plenty of flourless dessert treats. So if you just want a snack or a quick coffee, you’re taken care of. Whatever your choice, you’ll be hard pressed to choose badly. The food is fresh and tasty, the coffee is good and according to an overheard conversation the cookies are “excellent”.

IMAG5961

It’s nice to sit in Industry and watch the people walk by. Even though I cannot afford the candles, blankets, or hip leather backpacks they sell, sitting amongst those treasures, eating yummy food is some consolation. If you’ve got a cape or giant scarf that can be slung around like a cape, you’ll be even closer to fitting in with your surroundings.

Café at Industry

Cobalt Café

IMAG5774

Last night I went to see a production of The Dead, as an Opera. James Joyce’s story was set to a string quartet and a quartet of actor/singers sang and spoke some of his words. It was pared down and elegant and evocative. I need to read the story again. You should to. Let’s all do it!

The Dead is set in a large Georgian townhouse on the Dublin quays at Christmas time. There is dancing, live music and a large, festive supper including a goose, a leg of lamb and a ham. Snow falls outside as the guest’s personal dramas unfold in the warm interior.

IMAG5775

Cobalt Café is on the first floor of a house that could easily have been Aunt Julia and Aunt Kate’s in The Dead. It is the kind of place that American tourists dream Dublin is filled with. Located in the two front rooms of a grand old house with views out to a garden terrace out one window and across to a handsome line of Georgian houses out the other.

IMAG5777

Cobalt Café is in a part of town I am not overly familiar with. I was walking up North Great George’s street to our office the other day and spotted a sign out front. As I was leaving the office hours later, and wanting some lunch, I popped my head in to see if it was just a coffee and tea place. No, there is a wide selection of sandwiches, soups and salads. The menu is simple (ham and cheese, tuna melt, chicken club), but there is always a special plate of the day that is more involved. When I was there it was chickpea and potato curry.

 

IMAG5778

The café has some Celtic Tiger decorating schemes that don’t add any charm, but overall I felt I could sit happily for a lot longer than time allowed. It did help that it was decorated for Christmas and the sun was streaming in and it wasn’t too busy.

It got a bit more busy in the time I was there, mostly groups of older women and a threesome of Spanish tourists.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the café is run by a daughter and her parents. At least a mother daughter team. That wouldn’t necessarily make the food taste better, but there is something nice about it. My tuna melt hit the spot, by the way.

IMAG5780

It is special to be in these big old houses and to see them being kept up and filled with people. There might not have been dancing and a goose, but hey, we can’t have it all.

IMAG5776
A Hat for All Seasons–Parked Outside
Cobalt Café

The Good Food Store

IMAG5733

Late last year and early this year saw the closing of many small shops along George’s Street between Fade St and the Arcade. Some were more emotional to see go than others. Although I hadn’t been into Laser Video since 2002, it still stung as the shutters went down. The Asian food store I was less emotional about; there is another one around the corner.

Following the world wide trend towards “cute” and “attractive” and “oh I didn’t know organic wine could be so good!” health-food stores, The Good Food Store lands just behind the 65 bus stop.

I was reaching level 3 (of 5) Hanger Factor when I passed TGFS on my way to somewhere else. I ducked my head in to see if there was  a place to sit. There is! And there was a vacant stool! Fate, obviously.

IMAG5730

I ordered a grilled halloumi sandwich with spinach and roasted red peppers. The service was efficient. While I waited I perused the specialty juices, yogurts and myriad olive oils and vinegars on offer. It took all my will power to not to open (and then pay for) a bag of Sweet n Salty organic popcorn.

Will power sufficiently lowered, I did spring for a “healthy” fruit and nut bar to have after my sandwich.

IMAG5735

There are a few seats along a bar area in the back and one large table that serves as a place for customers to enjoy their food and drink, as well as a display table for the very involved Christmas Hampers that are for sale. I had to move one just to have a space for my little sandwich.

The store also sells Turkish blankets and beautiful bowls in various sizes all made in Tunisia. There is wine for purchase and the paper lanterns that are the main design feature in the store.

It’s a nice, if slightly distracting place to sit. A friend came to join me and I had a hot chocolate that hit the spot. Bullseye!

IMAG5734

When I sit in a place long enough to really look at what’s on offer, obviously I won’t walk out empty handed. I grabbed a bottle of wine and a very amusing greeting card. One stop shop!

It’s great to have another place in town to grab a healthy lunch or a perfect hot cocoa. Or a star lantern. Or a turkish blanket. Or an organic soap. You know, whatever you might need at lunchtime!

The Good Food Store

DeSelby’s

images

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.

imgres

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.

IMAG5720

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.

DeSelby’s

Avoca Café

IMAG5517

“Should we go to Avoca for tea, then?”

“Oooohhh, will we?”

“We deserve it! We can share a scone!”

“Ok! What a treat!”

Then my friend, Charlie, and I would giggle and excitedly make for Avoca on Sussex Street. This was when we were at Trinity and going to Avoca for tea and a scone was a big treat. It made us feel fancy. It made us feel grown-up. It was so cozy and certainly a place where we wouldn’t run into many—if any—Trinity students. Avoca was the perfect place to feel unlike a student while getting to catch up on all the gossip and news of student life.

IMAG5518

What we like best about the trip to Avoca was walking through the shop on the way up to our tea and scones. There are books, socks, scarves, blankets, jewelry, nail polish, kitchen stuff, jam, teapots, greeting cards and mittens that fill the floors below the third floor café. It was a feast for our eyes, fingers and wish lists before we even got up to order our scones.

Avoca scones are legendary, and they deserve such high standing. They are big and fluffy and soft and chewy. They are the antithesis to the horrifying “cold scone” you are lumped with at 4am as you make your decent into Dublin airport on an Aer Lingus flight. Note to all readers: I strongly recommend avoiding this cold scone at ALL COSTS. Please wait the few hours until Avoca opens and go there.

IMAG5519

But Avoca also serves wonderful proper meals as well. I rarely go to Avoca. It is always busy with tourists and Ladies Who Lunch. I walk past it frequently, I duck out of a passing shower to finger the new scarves and socks, and I tell absolutely everyone who is visiting Dublin to put Avoca high on their list. But when was the last time I had actually been?

I couldn’t satisfactorily answer that question, so I took myself on a little date there this past weekend. I waited twenty minutes for a table. I thought my 2.15 arrival would mean that I missed the lunch rush but I was wrong. I was also stupid. Who abides by the 1-2 lunch hour on a Saturday?

I didn’t mind the wait as I got to sit under a plethora of silver teapots and read the Irish Times. Many copies are scattered about for the overflow of guests. Also I had time. Don’t aim for lunch at Avoca if you have somewhere you Need To Be.

The menu isn’t too large, but full of plenty of interesting—all healthy—options. There’s chicken, smoked salmon, pulled pork, and lamb as well as a mélange of veggie options and the necessary soup of the day.

I had the vegan option. Not because I’m a vegan but because I felt like a giant salad and I knew I’d be having a lot of meat at dinner. I ordered the quinoa butternut squash cakes. They themselves were a tad bit bland, but the salad that came with them was fantastic: greens, thinly sliced cucumber, fennel and carrot with some herbs and pomegranate seeds. There was also some beetroot and horseradish crème that was delicious. I could have used approximately 100% more than I was given.

IMAG5520

I didn’t partake of a scone and tea on this visit. I need Charlie or Cian or Aoife or Jane—or all of them!—for that.

PS: Avoca Cafés also exist in other various locations around Ireland. Here for more: http://www.Avoca.com and you can take home their recipes in the form of many cookbooks and jams and chutneys, etc from the shop downstairs!

Avoca Café

Coppa at the Royal Hibernian Academy

IMAG5412

Ok, ok, ok, another gallery I didn’t know existed with another lovely Dublin café. Will wonders never cease? How long have I lived here (five years) and how often have I walked down Baggot Street (many) and how often have I turned up the road to the RHA (never)? Well, I did it today.

My sister suggested we meet there. I’d never heard of it. What? I said to C, “hey, Biz just got me about this awesome café at the RHA. Where even is that?” C said, “oh yeah, Coppa! It’s great! Duck and I used to go there a lot when our office was around the corner.” Ok, so maybe I am the last to know?

IMAG5413

I went specifically to go to Coppa. I needed a middle of the day place to get lunch and a coffee and sit and do some writing. Coppa is perfect for this. The modern facade of the RHA, with it’s glass floor to ceiling windows looks out onto “classic Dublin” Ely Place. It’s a quiet, beautiful Georgian street with carnations in the first floor window boxes. CUTE.

IMAG5415

Coppa is cozy, but sleekly designed. Good wood, grey details, a chalkboard and a pile of cakes and scones. The coffee is good, the menu is not too large, and I was happy to find a good range of cookbooks to peruse as a form of procrastination.

The clientele looks like a Fumbally overflow: young, busy, attractive Dubliners getting a healthy lunch. All the sandwiches come with soup (which I had. Tomato and basil. Very hearty and lightly spicy) or a choice of salads. The prices are in line with all the cafés in town.

IMAG5417

I arrived about 11.30 and it was fairly quiet without being slow. It got properly busy and buzzy at lunch time, then at about 1.45 it started to quiet down again.

I had the smoked salmon sandwich: open faced, beets, horseradish creme, avocado, rocket and a generous helping of salmon. It was all on homemade Guinness and treacle bread. Win.

IMAG5416

The only thing that was not perfect was that the service was slow. I wasn’t sure (and I’m not positive they were either) about whether to order at the counter or at my seat. Both times I got up and had to find someone to take my order. It’s busy, but not really busy enough for that nonsense.

On this particular trip I didn’t get to visit the gallery. I will be back though. Coppa is pretty sweet, and from what I saw of the gallery already, I’m itching for more. I love a new Dublin discovery!

Coppa at the Royal Hibernian Academy