Assassination Custard

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Firstly, Happy 2017.

Secondly, I would like to apologize for not having gone to and written about Assassination Custard until now. My lack of knowledge about what might be the cutest, most intensely delicious lunch spot in Dublin shocks me. The good news is I’ve found it.

My aunt always told me I would meet some of my best friends through my children. It’s too soon to say whether I have met any new best friends, but a few new mothers in my local breastfeeding group mentioned Assassination Custard  to me and so that bodes well. These women know a good thing when they eat it. I didn’t go to Assassination Custard when it was first recommended, however. I thought I had more important things to do. I was wrong. An American friend was the one who finally made it happen for me last week.

The Little Café, as the sign on the road reads, is on a very busy, very unattractive bustling intersection in Dublin 8. Just behind St. Patricks, sandwiched between Camden Street and Clanbrassil, buses whizz by, taxis honk horns, bikers flock, and I never would stop to take in my surroundings or notice this little place. Well, I’ve learned my lesson. This little café packs a HUGE punch.

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Run by friendly, welcoming husband and wife team Ken and Gwen (I mean . . . ), it opens at 12 five days a week. It can seat a maximum, like, really maximum of twelve people at any given time. There were six when I was there and it felt tight. There are two tables, mis-matched chairs and the kitchen takes up half of the space. It’s divided from the eating area buy a coffee bar. It’s not open weekends. They do private dinners if requested. I shall be requesting.

The menu changes daily based on what Ken, the chef, has found at markets, what’s in season and what he feels like making. There were about eight items on the menu, none over eight euro. The choices were mostly vegetarian and and flavours traveled from the Middle East to India. We had homemade pickles, radicchio salad with lablah, a beet salad-type dish that was actually more of a stew (a crunchy stew?) with chickpea fritters. The latte’s we ordered to go with it all were yummy, the food was spicy , sweet, tangy, comforting and an all around revelation. HOW did I not know this was there?

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Assassination Custard

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

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)

Meet Me In The Morning! Or Afternoon!

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Meet Me in the Morning is a new café just off Camden Street. It is so new  that when I was there decaf coffee wasn’t an option. Neither was herbal tea. I was assured, however, that non-caffeine drinkers will have some options very soon. They’re still getting supplies in.

I was offered, in the most polite way possible, either of the two coffee bean options they do have, complete with a description about why they are distinct and delicious. I myself was too polite to interrupt this monologue knowing I would just order a tea.

The space is light and full of light wood and wild flowers. I loved the wood-topped tables. I want one for my own home. It’s comfortable and minimal. The food looks simple and delicious, and yes, don’t worry, there is avocado on this menu. Eggs too. We are still in Dublin, after all. Salads, soups, etc all make an appearance. All the food is local and prepared on the day.

MMITM is a very nice spot just off the main drag to sit and have a bite or sip some (caffeinated. For now) warm drinks. I’d say it will be worth popping in a few times to see how the menu changes throughout the summer. Not to mention trying all the different delicious coffee beans.

 

Meet Me In The Morning! Or Afternoon!

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!

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

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