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

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

Dolce Sicily

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This week is Italian Week! I did not set out to do that, it’s totally subconscious. I’m reading the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan books at the moment and obviously it’s having an effect.

Dolce Sicily occupies the location once inhabited by Staple Foods, before their move to Grattan Street. Specifically, you’ll find it in Crow Bar in Temple Bar, and much of the furniture and decor is the same as when it was Staple Foods.

The issue with this space is the fact that it smells a bit like a nightclub. It’s got that “nightclub in the daytime” stench that no amount of Italian food can hide. Staple Foods had the same issue.

The majority of the menu belongs to paninis and salads. Perfect quick lunch fair. The paninis are slightly outside of the “normal” parma ham and mozzarella and include items like smoked kippers and egg, or sun-dried tomato and anchovy pesto. There are a variety of breads to choose from in case you are anti-ciabatta. However, if you are really anti-ciabatta there are other non-Italian delis and cafés to visit in Dublin, so maybe try those first?

The cake list is impressive and many of the offerings sit proudly on the bar near the coffee maker. They also sit next to the beer taps. Again, the Pistachio Nutella cake might be more appetizing if you weren’t also forced to wonder if you might like a pint of Tiger beer.

The bar vibe did not stop many people from enjoying lunch, coffees and cakes. In fact, the majority of the clientele was, in fact, Italian. That is always a good sign. The staff is also all Italian. The food is tasty. I hope that all of those big pluses keep Dolce Sicily alive despite the stale beer smell.

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Dolce Sicily

Slice of Pizza Pie! At DeFontaine’s

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Both for Me. Get Your Own. 

In New York City getting a slice of pizza is as easy as hailing a cab: stick your arm out and it happens. In Dublin, buying pizza one cheesy slice at a time is not the norm.

DeFontaine’s, on the south side of Capel Street Bridge, is a New York-style pizza joint. It even smells authentic NYC in there. There are two giant ovens that bake the pies as well as heat up the slices as they are ordered. There are a variety of toppings to choose from: the classics, cheese and pepperoni, the new classics, Hawaiian and broccoli, and a few extras, extra cheese and peppers, onions and mushrooms, as well as spinach and ricotta.

I popped in on my way to a birthday party across the river–VERY hungry–a few weeks ago. I got two giant slices. I ate them both quite happily, thank you very much, and didn’t feel ill afterwards.

The cheese slice actually did taste exactly like a New York slice (when you walk into a pizza joint in NYC and order “a slice” it will always be a classic cheese unless you ask for different). It was warm and gooey and perfect. I also ordered the spinach and ricotta because, you know, eat your greens. This too was tasty. I kept the bottle of chili oil close at hand.

The clientele was mostly single dudes. I mean, I don’t know if they are “single”, I didn’t ask them out. They were just on their own. I was on my own too, the only lady in there for most of the time I ate. Only one other girl came in, ordered, and took her slice to go.

Though it smells and looks quite like a New York pizza joint, that doesn’t make a person want to sit around and enjoy a leisurely meal there. It’s a grab ‘n’ go kind of place. But hey, that’s proper authentic too. And, if your a single lady, who knows? Maybe all of those dudes are actually single.

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Slice of Pizza Pie! At DeFontaine’s

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!