Forget your soggy Spar sandwich, for some real love in the soup- and-sambo field, you need a place like 147 Deli, where they take the lunchtime staples very, very seriously. There isn’t a meat they won’t smoke, slow roast and cram into a sandwich here (this week it was slow roasted beef topside, pulled and served in a toasted wholemeal wrap with chipotle slaw and pineapple hot sauce, ¤6.50) Or a recent humdinger, a pimped-out ham & cheese (home smoked and shredded ham hock with gruyer, spring onion and mustard béchamel on toasted sourdough, ¤6.50). Or the Reuben, which could very easily pass itself in Katz’s Deli in New York (not sure they’re as chilled about faking orgasms on Parnell Street as they are on the Lower East Side though). Soups are hearty: think Indian cauliflower and lentil or Mexican pork & bean, (you can get a sambo and portion of soup for ¤7.50) and if you work in Dublin 1, they’ll even deliver to your office.
The Chocolate Factory, 26 Kings Inn Street, Dublin 1 01-873 6022, blascafe.ie ¤ Based in the art gallery, event space and creative community of The Chocolate Factory, Blas Café is a new venture in a gorgeous room on the ground floor of the building. It’s all high ceilings, low hanging lightbulbs, artwork, communal tables and comfy chairs. For now it has a basic menu: soup, sambos (two meaty, two veggie) and a hot dish. Sandwiches come on fresh Tartine Bakery bread, and include fillings such as artichoke with parmesan, grilled peppers and courgette (¤5.95) and chicken chipotle served with salad (¤6.95). There are impossibly beautiful cakes from the Wild Flour Bakery and housemade lemon slices. Hot dishes change all the time but you can expect treats such as eggs Berber with Merguez sausage and lots of warming stews. It’s open from 8am on weekdays, and you can get a pot of porridge for just ¤1, with toppings of Greek yoghurt, raspberry coulis and granola for an extra 50c to ¤1.
BRASSERIE LE PONT
26 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2, 01 669 4600, brasserielepont.ie ¤¤¤ A lovely spot for a special occasion, Brasserie Le Pont is in a great location the corner of Fitzwilliam Place, Leeson Street Bridge and Wilton Terrace. Head chef James Doyle serves up classic French cuisine in this calm, understated dining room (it also has one of the loveliest terraces in Dublin). Expect black sole meuniere style (fried and served in a brown butter sauce with lemon), seared king scallops (¤27), an excellent 8oz fillet steak (¤33) and you can be sure duck will make an appearance. Desserts are typically French: crème brûlée, chocolate pots, French cheese. There’s a pre-theatre menu (¤25 for 2 courses, ¤29 for three) but lunch is your best bet to take advantage of that terrace (the set lunch is the same price as the pre-theatre menu).
52 Dawson Street, Dublin, Dublin 2 01-6333 957, carluccios.com/ restaurants/dublin ¤ One of an international chain of Italian restaurants owned by Italian-born, UK-based Antonio Carluccio this bright blue corner spot is loud and bustling from the get-go, with breakfast starting at 7.30am on weekdays and 9am on Sundays. Try the large, sweet slices of toasted panettone, the irresistible Italian fruit bread (¤3.95), or you can join lunchtime rush clambering for take aways from the grocery and deli at the front - we recommend the caponata, a dense, oily Sicilian aubergine salad. For dinner, the indecisive will love the trio di pasta - where you can share your choice of three of the 12 pasta dishes on the menu for ¤27.95. The Giadriniera with courgette, chilli and fried spinach balls is good, and all pasta dishes are available gluten-free.
15 Fade St, Dublin 2, 01-6718484, duck.ie € You know what you’re getting into in a place called Duck. No messing. Just eat the duck. And so we did, in this little Hong Kong BBQ joint on Fade Street. The duck comes out of a “bullet oven” , which roasts the hanging meat in such a way that leaves it juicy on the inside, with shiny crispy skin on the outside. Roast duck, pork and chicken cooked in the bullet with rice, noodles or veggies costs ¤6.95 or ¤8.95. Sides include duck pancakes (¤4.95) and Hong Kong-style noodles (¤3.95). Or you can get large meat-only boxes (which we did) with traditional duck for ¤20/¤13, char siu pork (¤10), soy chicken (¤15) or crispy pork belly (¤10). The duck, chopped into chunks with a massive cleaver, comes with hoi sin sauce (lots of condiments here, including plum, chilli oil, sweet chilli). On the night we ate here, the duck was too fatty with a little too much bone and gristle. The pork belly, however was excellent. The crispiest crackling I’ve had, served with an intensely meaty broth for dipping. Perhaps they might consider a name change to Pig…
65 Dame Street, Dublin 2, 01 764-5722, facebook.com/ hailankorean ¤ We’ve been hearing good things about this Dame Street offshoot of the Capel Street Korean restaurant of the same name and finally made it there last weekend. Despite the foul weather outside, there was a queue out the door, and with good reason. We had a very good bibimbap (a Korean favourite of rice served in a stoneware bowl with vegetables, fried beef, a soft fried egg and a pot of gochujang chili pepper paste to season it, ¤9.90). Dumplings come in fives and 10s and can be steamed or pan-fried - the courgette and prawn (¤9.90) were the tastiest of the ones we tried. The hit of the evening was a sizzling dish of fried pork and kimchi, the Korean national dish of fermented cabbage (¤12.50). The spicy, wafer thin strips of pork were of the “so good I don’t mind burning my tongue” variety. Portions are large, staff are unfailingly friendly - a real gem. Book ahead.
MOURNE SEAFOOD BAR
Millennium Tower, Charlotte Quay, Dublin 2 01-668 8862, mourneseafood.com ¤¤ This is the latest in the stable of Mourne restaurants (there’s one in Belfast, one in Dundrum, Co Down). They source all their shellfish from their own beds at Carlingford Lough, Co Down, so oysters and mussels feature heavily on the menu. A great location, overlooking Grand Canal Dock - it was standing room only on the terrace when the bar opened this summer, but the winter chill has helped to calm things a bit. It’s split into a bar area and more formal restaurant area, staff are really friendly, if a bit busy. It’s the kind of place where it’s nicer to order lots of small plates than a main (just watch the bill). The chowder is creamy, but not too heavy (¤4.50 a cup, ¤7 for a bowl with bread). The Thai style oysters (with pickled ginger, cucumber, chilli and lime, ¤12) are delicious, as is the crunchy salt and chilli squid with nappa slaw and chilli jam (¤9) and spicy pil pil prawns (¤9). The must-try dish of the evening for us was the Tuscan fries (¤4) - a finger-licking combo of skin-on chips, diced olives, parsley and loads of parmesan… ridiculously good.
At Hobarts Cafe, 55 Ranelagh Road , Dublin 6, tel: 085-1027273, saltlickdublin.tumblr.com, ¤¤ Operating just two evenings a week, Salt Lick takes over the premises of Hobarts Café in Ranelagh every Friday and Saturday evening. Chefs Brian McCarthy and William Toft serve a table d’hote menu (two courses: ¤30, three courses: ¤35 and sides are an extra ¤3.50), which changes each month, according to a theme. They’ve covered Japanese month, Diner month, and even tea and toast month - but not your usual Lyons and Brennan’s concoction - think clams on toast and camomile tea-based cocktails. Their next menu is Christmas themed and includes griddled root veg, mackerel with beets and horseradish, wood pigeon with creamed Brussels sprouts (yum), pheasant with pistachio and mince meat fritters. It’s BYOB and BYOC (bring your own cocktail) so local off-licence Redmonds pairs wines and beers with each month’s menu, or bring your own spirits and the Salt Lick team will whip you up some fabulous concoctions.
9 Exchequer St, Dublin 2, 01 633 4071, ukiyobar.com ¤¤ A really good meal can make you want to sing, and if you’re the energetic sort, dance. In Ukiyo on Exchequer St they expect you to do both, whatever you think of your dinner. This restaurant cum karaoke bar cum late night dance hive serves up Asian
fusion dishes, cocktails and beers in its restaurant and bar. After hours, they push back tables and chairs back and the dancers take over. Or you can head downstairs to the popular karaoke booths and warble away to your heart’s content. The sizzling bulgogi beef strips (¤20) with all the Korean trimmings (lettuce, pickles, gochujang sauce and chilli) are great. Lunch specials are good value: the bento has three dishes plus rice, salad and miso for ¤10; the Korean/ Mexican burritos include steak with egg and pulled pork with nutty azuki beans (¤6.50).