TEELINGS

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Dublin 8 has a new café that is also a distillery and is also a tourist trap.If it’s walkable and out of my house, what care I for packs of Americans in chinos and sensible walking shoes? Teelings would probably like it if I mentioned that it’s a distillery first a foremost, but it’s the café and clean baby changing facilities that has me excited.

A café that has three different sausage rolls on the menu also tickles my fancy. Sure, there are soups and three sandwich options as well as a hot pot that changes daily. There is coffee and tea and some fun soft drink options. Yes, there is whisky, but again, I was not there for that.

I will say that Teeling’s whisky is tasty. I am no whisky aficianado, so if you are, you’ll have to come and see for yourself.

I went for a sausage roll on my recent visit/esacpe from an unexpected rain shower.  (I still refer to any rain shower in Ireland as “unexpected” is simply a turn of phrase.) The space is open and modern. There was a mix of tourists and folks who work in offices locally. It was busy if not packed. There was ample room for buggy maneuvering.

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The sausage roll lacked heft, but then I’m hungrier than normal at this time in my life. In six-nine months the size of the Teeling’s sausage roll might be just right. It was, however, tasty.

Perhaps one day I will have a reason to take the Teeling’s distillery tour and form a more perfect opinion on the whisky. For now, it’s a great place to take refuge from Irish weather, change a diaper, have a coffee and check out all the different maps of Dublin tourists seem to carry these days.

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TEELINGS

Dalkey Adventuring

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Here’s what I know about Dalkey: if you’re driving, you should be in a Jaguar. As we sat on a corner eating our lunch in the sunshine I counted at least four in an hour period. That isn’t a ridiculous amount, true, but it still tipped the scales as the most common car that drove past us. So that’s the kind of place that it is. Dalkey is picturesque. There are huge flower baskets on every street light, it’s clean, it’s cute, it’s super fancy. It’s a nice stop for a “nice” lunch.

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After a trip down to the sea in Killiney, we found The Corner Note on a crossroads to sit and watch the world go by. And to eat our lunch. Inspired by our seaside adventure, C had mussels. They were delicious in a rich and tangy broth. I had a simple sandwich that was made much more exciting by the skinny sweet potato fries that came with it. The combination of the sweet potato fries in the mussel broth was actually the big win of the afternoon’s eating adventure.

I’m not going to say it was one of the best lunches of our lives, however Dalkey is a great place to walk around and to be in. It felt a little like we were on holiday; it certainly doesn’t feel like you’re near a city. And if you need some seafood or just a sandwich, the Corner Note will work. If you want to play “count the Jaguars”, even better.

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Killiney Beach Towards Bray Head
Dalkey Adventuring

Union 8

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When we moved to Dublin 8, we knew what we’d miss most about Rathmines was the plethora of dining choices right at our finger tips. Dublin 8 has some great cafés and lunch spots but not many nice dinner options. Union 8 saves the day.

On the crossroads in Kilmainham, Union 8 doesn’t seem like the ideal place to stop. Located at a busy intersection that most people fly through on a bus, in a car or astride their bikes, it catches attention. The busy intersection is actually made a feature by the restaurant: the giant windows allow you to watch the world go by from the simply, classy interior.

For a restaurant pretty far out of town by Dublin standards, I was slightly surprised at how pricey the menu is. The quality would have to be pretty high to demand those prices, I thought.

The early bird menu, though, does provide a great deal. The early bird menu is also perfect for parents of small children. Apologies if this blog is getting a bit child centric.  It’s my life at the moment. And Union 8 makes this baby moment of my life feel slightly more grown up.

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We went for the early bird, four adults and one tiny baby. We were all treated with respect and a full welcome. I appreciated that the early bird menu is the same as the normal menu just for a different price: 23.50 for two courses. There is a seven euro supplement for the steak, which two of us had, but that is fair enough. The steak was a lovely fillet and the pepper sauce was thick and spicy. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

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Each of us had a different appetizer. My nettle soup with chorizo oil was heavenly. Summery yet warm. My mother had beautiful beets with fluffy goat’s cheese. We all agreed the smoked salmon wasn’t quite salty enough, and the scallops, though delicious, were overshadowed by the black pudding lump next to them. We were all satisfied with the openers, though. No complaints.

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My husband drank a really delicious house cocktail that tasted to me like Christmas morning. It came in a gorgeous, huge, glass. That’s what you want in a cocktail. It lasted until just before his steak arrived.

So, yes, then steaks arrived and the fish special for the other two. The fish portions were large and after the well portioned starters, almost hard to finish. That’s another thing I appreciate about Union 8: the early bird’s well-sized portions. It means a lot to hungry, tired new parents like us (there I go again . . .).

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We went back earlier this week with friends who also have children. The restaurant managed all of us and our three babes very well. We were out by 7.30. Home for baths and bed.

Ok, I’ll stop now. About babies and kids. Union 8 is obviously great for that, but I suspect it is great for date nights, meet-the-parents nights, or simply a treat yourself evening. It’s worth the trip “out” of town.

Union 8

Dublin Cookie Co.

I’ve been away from this blog for a while and here’s why: I had a baby. And here’s what I’ve discovered are the things I want most in my first month of motherhood: extra sleep, lots of lanolin, and comfort food. Extra sleep is a dream not to be realized any time soon, lanolin is a non-glamourous fact of my life now, but comfort food I can certainly have some fun with.

Another fact about new motherhood is the constant questions over how my newborn is doing. Is he thriving? Is he sleeping enough? Too much? Is he too hot or too cold? Is he eating enough? I don’t think these questions will cease to be a part of my life in the same way a good night’s sleep might not happen for a while. However, one way to ease the worry of some of these questions is to go once a week to the community health clinic to get the baby weighed, to meet other breastfeeding mothers, and to talk to a nurse about each little worry I have. This nurse looks at the mothers with a kind eye as she repeats to every single one of us: THIS IS NORMAL.

NORMAL is what you want to hear. And when I do hear it, I want to celebrate. With comfort food.

As well as having a baby, I have also just moved house. The classic combination. We’ve left Rathmines and are now happily set up in Dublin 8. This means my community health clinic is in a part of town I don’t know very well. The very good news is that it is right around the corner from the Dublin Cookie Company.

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I’ve been hearing about the Dublin Cookie Company for some time but never had the motivation to get to Thomas Street and see what it’s about. I also didn’t feel that I needed that kind of addiction while I was pregnant. Now that there is literally NO excuse not to go once a week, addiction will be hard to avoid. I’m feeding a child eight times a day, after all.

Dublin Cookie Co is a small shop front on Thomas Street. The smell of Guinness hops hangs heavy outside, but it’s all butter and sugar once you cross the threshold. It’s white and bright and a selection of cookies greets you in the case as you step in. There are plenty of flavours to choose from. You can buy them as single cookies or in boxes of 6 or 13. There are two types of Whoopie Pie cookies, an American classic I was eager to test drive here. I can report that DCC has #nailedit.

I’m a cookie fan to be sure. The sea salt caramel cookies were outstanding. However. My favourite fact about the DCC is the flavoured milks available to go with your cookie. What is a cookie without milk? There’s normal milk, chocolate milk, coffee milk and cookie milk. Coffee milk is a favourite of mine from WAY back. In fact, the last time I had coffee milk I was about twelve years younger. The combination of the coffee milk and the peanut butter and chocolate whoopie pie was, in the parlance of the over dramatic, To Die For.

No, I didn’t try the cookie milk, but the baby is getting weighed again this week and you’d better believe it will happen. Cookies will forever now be associated with my son’s first few weeks. I can’t think of a better start to life.

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Dublin Cookie Co.

Alan Hanna’s Bookshop and Bark Coffee

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In keeping with the theme of trying places I’ve walked past for years and never ventured into, here’s some good advice: a place doesn’t have to be new and hip and full of men in beards to warrant a visit. In fact, when a place has been there for a while (long enough for me to walk past it for years), I’ve found some little gems of Dublin. And this is another one!

Alan Hanna’s Bookshop is a Rathmines stalwart, located on Upper Rathmines Road. They opened a little coffee  shop in the back and had an A-frame out front advertising this fact. This had never drawn me inside until the A-frame read: Kimchi Cuban! Special Sandwich of the day!

I like a Cuban Sandwich and I love Kimchi so this seemed a sign made especially for me. I ducked into the bookshop and headed to the back where the coffee shop is. It is larger and busier than I thought it would be back there. There were plenty of people sitting at tables enjoying their lunch and coffees.

There are no windows which I think can be tricky in a café. It’s nice to look out, even on a rainy day and I called in on a gorgeous sunny day. They make up for it here by putting up huge posters of penguin books to keep you in the book-ish cocoon. I still wanted to escape back to the sunshine, though, so I ordered my Kimchi Cuban to go.

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The other sandwiches on the menu are less adventurous and what you would expect in a café/sandwich shop. They are all made to order, so I am certain there is some personalization that you can do if you wish.

There are brownies and some other cakes, scones, packets of crisps and popcorn and some candy bars on offer. It’s simple but there is something for everyone.

The Kimchi Cuban was delicious. It was warm and tasty. The kimchi was homemade and not too strong. I could certainly have done with stronger, but I appreciate the fact that new comers to kimchi-land may like a lighter introduction.

Check out the A-frame outside the bookshop on Upper Rathmines Road and see if they can entice you in for a book, a coffee or a hefty sammy.

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Alan Hanna’s Bookshop and Bark Coffee

Simon’s Café (Or That Place In George’s Arcade That Smells Like Cinnamon)

 

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One of the best things about walking up George’s Street Arcade from the direction of Drury Street is the blast of sweet warm cinnamon that emanates from Simon’s café. If you don’t immediately want a cinnamon roll, you should worry about your inferior sense of smell.

I have resisted turning left into Simon’s for pretty much most of the time I have lived here. The smell of cinnamon has been enough; the idea of a gooey cinnamon roll propels me forward with a smile on my face. The truth is that I am always frightened of being disappointed by the cinnamon roll. How sad would it be to be drawn into a café by the delicious smell only to find the actual bun lacking?

I’ve had some good cinnamon rolls in my lifetime. I wasn’t really willing to risk the illusion of perfect cinnamon goodness at Simon’s. And then? I did.

I had a meeting and the suggested location was Simon’s. I arrived early determined to order a tea only. But there they were: a stack of fresh, homemade cinnamon rolls right on the counter. I defy anyone to not ask for one in that situation, let alone a six months pregnant person who has been drawn to mostly bread-based products for the length of the pregnancy.

It’s research anyway, I said. I’ll have one, I said.

Simon’s is a throw-back kind of place. It has been there forever and it feels like it. There is nothing fancy or hipster about it. Sandwiches are pre-made and wrapped in plastic and kept in the chilled case. Baked goods line the counter and there is not a gluten free or paleo option in the lot. You can get instant coffee. There is a special “tea bag” dump right on the counter in front of the till so that you can dunk and remove your bag before you head to your tables.

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The tables are communal, wooden and basic. The crowd is like a crowd at a good, local pub. It’s mostly men over forty who don’t take off their jackets, carry tiny note books, wear caps and may or may not have facial hair. The smoking seats out in front are always full. Your tea comes in a mug. The walls are lined with posters for upcoming gigs. The lighting is bad. I get the sense that many of the patrons don’t even have to order, they just get “my usual.”

And the question you’ve all continued reading this post to have answered? The cinnamon roll is fantastic. It tastes homemade, it’s not too sweet. It’s a bit crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy once you get to the centre. I told myself I didn’t need to eat all of it. My brain said, “nope. You do. Eat all of it.”

I enjoyed it with a mug of tea. My meeting partner arrived and went to order a tea as well. Came back with a tea and cinnamon roll. “How does anyone resist?” he asked. “Do you need to?” I asked back.

NO. You don’t need to resist. If you get pulled in by the smell, be confident that you are about to have a delicious cinnamon roll in a classic dublin café.

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Simon’s Café (Or That Place In George’s Arcade That Smells Like Cinnamon)

Taco Taco

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As I am sitting and writing this post, I have a half eaten piece of sourdough toast with almond butter and jam to my right and a nice cup of coffee to my left. With these flavours dancing on my tongue it is hard to write about tacos. That is not an excuse and I shall accept the challenge. I just thought I should be honest with where I am coming from.

Taco Taco is in the space the used to be called Odessa. The Odessa Club still exists upstairs, but Taco Taco now occupies the lower two floors.

The name Taco Taco immediately makes me think of a food truck on Venice Beach in LA. That’s a good thing. LA beach tacos are some of the finest in America. I didn’t have quite as high expectations for the Dublin version.

One of the reasons I was hesitant to put my expectations above “we’ll see” is because the menu is massive. It’s not just tacos. In fact, it’s not even just Mexican food. The menu includes items such as Poutine, the famous Québecois hang over cure of fries smothered in cheese curd and gravy, and Fried Chicken and Waffles, a dish hailing from America’s Deep South.

I am a fan of both Poutine and Chicken and Waffles having had the good fortune to eat both in their native lands. Having them on this menu, however, seemed like something of a food nightmare. There are lots of Mexican food establishments in Dublin, so perhaps the owners/chefs wanted to stick a few unexpected items on their menu. Like an assortment of burgers. I’m just not sure that was the right way to go.

Needless to say, C and I did not order the Poutine or the Chicken and Waffles or a burger. We stuck to Tacos. Because if Taco Taco can’t do tacos right, what’s the point?

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Fish

I ordered the fish tacos (a perennial fav of mine) and C had the chicken. Both came with sweet potato fries. I am a sweet potato fries fan, and these were good, but with tacos? That was unexpected. And heavy. A bit too heavy. Dublin restaurants seem to throw sweet potato fries on menus almost as often as the avocado gets a starring role.

The tacos came as a threesome of corn tortillas (extra points! Tacos should always be on corn tortillas) heaped with veg and fish/chicken. There was coriander/cilantro, lime wedges, spicy sauce and the veg was befitting each of our individual protein choices. They were tasty, and the portion seemed fair.

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Chicken. I swear it’s in there. 

We ordered guacamole and chips because any Mexican restaurant can be and should be judged on it’s guac. This guac. was fine. It was nothing special. And there wasn’t a lot of it. But that’s a classic move and I won’t deduct points for that quantity.

C had a margarita and I was jealous. It was very tasty, and I the lime salted rim was a nice touch.

The room is dark and the music is thrumming. The staff is wearing skinny jeans and hoodies which can make them hard to distinguish from the customers. Food is served on plates that look like they’ve been rescued from a Chinese restaurant which is both amusing and totally disconcerting. It’s full of people in their late 20s to early 30s out with groups of friends or on dates. It’s not a family place, and it’s not really a place I’ll bring parents or family friends for a nice Dublin dinner. For my money, there are plenty of better options around town.

Yes, the food is good, the margarita is tasty, the guacamole is fine. But the bill came to just over forty euro per person which seems like too much for  what we got. Especially considering there was only one margarita between us and not quite enough guacamole to make us feel loved. If I am spending that kind of cash, I want to go to a place where it feels a bit more special, where the service is a bit more on point and the music isn’t quite so loud. And where the restaurant has a clearer idea of what exactly it is. Taco Taco is suffering a bit of personality failure. But if you’re feeling flush, want a classic ‘rita and some tacos, Taco Taco is your new City Centre joint.

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Taco Taco