Fabulous Fia!

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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.

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Fabulous Fia!

MOOCH!

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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.

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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.

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MOOCH!

Little Bird

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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

Farmer Brown’s Lands in Rathmines!

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Another weekend, a new brunch spot for Rathmines locals. Farmer Brown’s has migrated up the canal from Bath Avenue Dublin 4* to make it’s home in the cursed location on Rathmines Road across from the Swan Leisure Centre. I use the word “cursed” lightly, ok? I’m not a practitioner of witchcraft, but there is something definitely unlucky about the location. Two restaurants in the past two years have tried to make it work there and nothing has stuck. Is it because it’s set back from the road and you can’t peek inside? Is it because the inside is actually tiny and not very well laid out? Is it because sometimes you walk right past and forget it’s there?

Maybe all of those reasons contribute to the fact that other restaurants have failed, but Farmer Brown’s has a good, solid reputation behind it. They also have twigged the fact that it’s a tricky location because they have gone for the hard sell by putting up HUGE signage which is hard to miss from the road. So fingers crossed the locals will swarm like moths to a giant neon sign.

I don’t think this location would be so cursed if it were not in Ireland. With it’s really lovely sun-trap front patio, it is ideal for warm weather. If it were in Portugal, or Greece, or even France in the summer, I’m sure the place would be hopping. But the fact remains that even on glorious spring days like we’ve enjoyed recently it can be too cold to sit outside. Even in a sun trap. Hence the restaurant immediately loses 50% of it’s space.

The FB’s team has made it look quite retro though, fitting it out with white and yellow tiles and little potted plants. On a sunny morning, it will be great.

We did not visit on a sunny morning, however, and my brunch dates and I crammed into a little table by the door. The place was packed, but it’s packed where there are about 15 people in there. It’s one of those eateries where you want to face a wall, not the room, so as not to see the chaos of people squeezing past each other to get to the service bar for coffees, up the stairs to the bathrooms, or past each other waiting in the queue for food. It’s cramped. That makes it not relaxed.

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The coffee is very good and the service was cheerful and pretty quick considering the cramped quarters. The brunch menu is heavy. There is a lot of bread, a lot of hollandaise, a lot of eggs. I ordered off the regular weekday breakfast menu, opting simply for eggs on toast with a side of sausage. Even that was not a casual breakfast. The bread was delicious and really buttery which I appreciated. Eggs are eggs are eggs, and the sausages were fine. I felt full when I’d finished.

C ordered the “healthy option” brunch which consisted of four slices of brown (not white sourdough like I had) toast, avocado (you simply cannot, will not, have brunch in this city without an avocado!), poached eggs, pomegranate seeds (interesting), bacon, tomato bits and rocket. It was also heavy. He was also full when he’d finished. The portions are downright American.

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I hope Farmer Brown’s Rathmines will be successful because I feel bad when places are not successful. I am just not sure how much I will be able to contribute to it’s overall success. In my older, more experienced brunching years, I don’t completely enjoy eating such heavy food packed elbow to elbow to elbow with strangers while knowing there are people waiting for my table. I don’t find the popularity relaxing. I know the stodgy brunches will appeal to many living in the area (read: the ones with hangovers on weekend mornings), and those younger and more vulnerable brunchers will surely not have the same issue with overcrowding that I do.

The prices are fair and, as I said, on a sunny day, you’ll get a tan with your eggs. What’s not to love?

Follow the giant sign and get your Rathmines brunch on.

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*The original Farmer Brown’s is still on Bath Ave in D4 if you are down that way.

Farmer Brown’s Lands in Rathmines!

Dinner at The Fumbally

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Taste at Rustic Stone

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What’s Dining Out if It’s Not Got Erotic Chopstick Art?

Rustic Stone got a re-vamp last year and along with new décor a new restaurant was placed above the original. The new restaurant is Taste, a Dylan McGrath fusion experience. The menu tells you which taste sensation to be ready for: sweet, salty, sour, etc with each dish. That’s the gimmick, I guess, but I don’t remember paying attention to those “taste menus” at all as we ordered. Taste is highly influenced by Japanese cuisine, but there are elements from South America and other Asian locations as well we’re told. These days focusing on one cuisine seems amateur to most celebrity chefs. “Fusion” sits across the room batting her eyelashes, and you’d better start mixing your materials.

I went to Taste the other night with my godmother, her partner, my husband and my appetite. We climbed up and up (passing a hip bar with young, attractive, pre Patrick’s Day revelers getting into their cocktails) to the L-shaped restaurant. There is a sushi bar along one wall, then seats and tables along the others. It’s a nice space; exposed brick, naked light bulbs, plenty of copper. It glows.

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We all opted to order dishes from the “small dishes” and “small warm dishes” item lists as well as a few rolls of sushi to share. Though it was unintentional, we enjoyed a full pescatarian dinner. Eating as either a pescatarian or a vegetarian would be both simple and delicious here.

The dishes came out like little works of art in pretty bowls or arranged nicely on little plates. The artichoke hearts arrived over smoking hot coals. This is fun if entirely unnecessary. It also takes up a lot of elbow room.

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Not Lambchops, Artichokes. 

We especially enjoyed the “blowtorched” scallops (which we ordered only because the word blowtorched was in the title) and the sweet chili prawns with a tempura crunch. The highlight was certainly the king crab sushi roll. It was warm, salty, sweet and sticky. There was a siracha mayo for dipping and some fresh ginger for palate cleansing. We ordered another one of those (one just wasn’t enough) and one of the shrimp rolls as well. The shrimp was almost as good as the crab. Almost. I didn’t even reach for my camera for these guys. You’ll have to just go meet them for yourselves.

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Blowtorched Scallops & Sweet Chili Prawns

I would go back just for the king crab sushi roll, but the other taste treats were delightful. The service let the side down. Yet again, Dublin restaurant service puts the overall experience the wrong side of extraordinary. We arrived very early and had the full attention of about three servers for about fifteen minutes. As more tables arrived, we were less and less important to anyone. It took far too long to order a second glasses of wine and to ask for the bill. You’d think they would be on it because two of the staff members running the show had blue tooth ear pieces in. It looked impressive, but maybe they weren’t on?

The food, the ambience, the wine, etc, is all great at Taste. If the service had also been great, it would have been a truly excellent dinner.

 

Taste at Rustic Stone

Bastible

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When we sat down at Bastible the other night none of us could actually say what a Bastible is. Can you? Well, here you go: a Bastible is “a flat bottomed cast iron pot used for baking largely in the nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland.” Now that we know, we are all better people, right?

I have been known to frequent restaurants strictly because they have fun bathrooms. There is a restaurant in the West Village in NYC that I brought many people to and went back to repeatedly for two reasons: 1, $10 two course lunch menu and 2, bathrooms that were hilarious and terrifying all at once. I would bring friends from out of town, then they would then bring new friends when they would come back a year later. The bathrooms kept Peep in our repertoir for years. I would still go back today. I won’t tell you exactly what the bathrooms at Peep are like, go see for yourself.

The bathrooms at Bastible are excellent too. Their use of brushed concrete, communal trough sink and rope toilet roll holders was enough to have our table talking for at least ten minutes. That was handy because we were there for over three hours and needed to fill our time at the table talking about something.

We talked about the food when we had it, which probably totaled all of 30 minutes of the three hours we spent in the place.

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Freebie treat.

The food is worth talking about. It’s excellent. If it had been served in a timely manner it would have been better. We were all very hungry for each course, then ate too quickly, then all felt hungry thirty minutes after.

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Delicious Beetroot Starter

There were some classy freebies, and I love a classy freebie. We had gorgeous giant radishes to dip in  a smoked cod roe hummus-like sauce. These freebies were standard for all dining and not because we were being made to wait for our food.

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Venison Main

I was told we would be asked politely to leave by 8.45 when I booked, but our food had not arrived by 8.30. Then we were allowed to sit with nothing to eat or drink for almost fifteen minutes before we got the bill. It got exciting when the fire alarm started going off because of some frying going on in the open kitchen. We probably should have just started on a second dinner at that stage. Would they have noticed if we just walked out?

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Offending Extractor Fan/Kitchen

For a restaurant that has been open long enough to have worked out service kinks, and to have made sure their extraction fan works. I had very high expectations. The food lived up to them. The overall experience did not. For the cost of the experience, all expectations should have been met.

Bastible