Alan Hanna’s Bookshop and Bark Coffee


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.


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.


Alan Hanna’s Bookshop and Bark Coffee

Farmer Brown’s Lands in Rathmines!


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.


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.


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.


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

Farmer Brown’s Lands in Rathmines!



It was a tradition in our house growing up that the birthday person would get to choose where to have his or her birthday dinner. We lived in LA, a city full of dining adventure opportunity, but our dinner location choices were never that creative. My siblings and I went back and forth between Ed Debevics, a 50s-style diner complete with waitresses in poodle skirts, jukeboxes, and malts, and Benihana. Benihana was a classier choice, and had food people over fifteen wanted to eat. At Benihana, a Japanese restaurant, dinner is cooked on a grill at your table. At your table! The chef would make a volcano out of onions, set the grill on fire, and flip shrimp into his tall chef hat or onto your plate. It was a show and a meal all in one. The highlight was the green tea ice cream that arrived inside a ceramic Buddha.

For the past year C and I have walked past Tippenyaki on Castle Avenue in Rathmines and said to each other: “When are we going there?” We live right around the corner. Tippenyaki is the Japanese name for what Benihana is: cooking on a hot grill. It gets great reviews, good word of mouth notices, and even smells good as you walked past. C and I love Japanese food. I love Benihana. What has stopped us?

For one, the prices made us feel like we had to be picky when it came to choosing an occasion to visit it. It’s not a casual night out. It’s not crazy expensive either (mains are in the 18-25 euro range), but just that bit more where you feel like you need a reason to go. Like a birthday. Also ,it tends to be packed.

But not on a Monday night in January at 6.30! We did have a good celebratory reason to head out, and we had the whole place to ourselves. Prawn crackers were produced for us to munch on as we perused the large menu. I knew we would go for the Tippenyaki grill options over sushi. If there is grill in front of you, you want someone to cook on it for you, right? We ordered gyoza to start (standard. Tasty.) and decided to split one duck grill meal and one veggie meal.

Our chef came out in a tall chefs hat with all the vegetables chopped in perfect sizes. There was a bowl of rice, two raw eggs, a pile of vegetables and a plate of duck. The tofu to go with the veggie dish was prepared in the kitchen. Boring!

Our chef gave us a great show as he sliced, diced and grilled our dinner. There was no onion volcano, but he did set the grill on fire and did some amazing work with a pre-cracked raw egg. He made small talk, tried to flip cooked egg into our mouths (fail on all fronts. I blame ourselves) and made us feel as though his making us dinner was the best thing he’d done in 2016 so far. We talked about New York, the Philippines, Toronto and Dublin weather.


We ceased our chatter when it was time to dig into the meal properly. Our chef wiped down the grill while we shoveled the food into our gobs. The food was very tasty, but the experience made it worth the price tag. Would it be as much fun if we had to share the grill and the chef? I don’t know. Maybe not. I’m willing to go again and find out. I also hear the sushi is excellent.