A se­lec­tion of the best restau­rants as cho­sen by

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS | EATING OUT - Rachel Collins rcollins@irish­times.com Twit­ter: @or­rcollins

CAM­DEN EX­CHANGE

73 Cam­den Street, Dublin 2, 01-559 9028, face­book.com/ cam­denex­change ¤ You could ar­gue the craft beer + street food +cock­tail for­mula has been done to death in the cap­i­tal. And then you could tell that to a woman hap­pily scoff­ing curry and cheese chips and drink­ing a Granny Smith Spiced Ap­ple cock­tail and see who wins…

Cam­den Ex­change is in­deed fol­low­ing a well-worn path. It has the ex­posed brick, industrial in­te­ri­ors, kitchenin- an-in­door-van thing down pat. But even still, it of­fers some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent – and tasty to boot.

The for­mer bank build­ing served its time as the lo­ca­tion for RTÉ TV se­ries Raw. Now you can ex­pect a tiled bar at the front, booths in the mid­dle and a se­lec­tion of wooden ta­bles sur­round­ing the kitchen-van down the back. The menu is short and sweet – with an im­pres­sive two-thirds given over to de­tails of sup­pli­ers, in­clud­ing the Bret­zel Bak­ery, FX Buck­leys and Gubbeen. Shar­ing plates (¤6 each, three for ¤15), in­clude mezze with flat­bread and cru­dités, gar­lic and pars­ley shrimp skew­ers with bloody-mary dip, and some se­ri­ously tasty smoked Gubbeen cheese cro­quettes, which come hot and smokey and flecked with chives, ooz­ing out of their shell and dunked in a slow cooked tomato rel­ish. Mains are ¤8 each, or ¤10 if you want fries (you’ll want fries). They in­clude a cou­ple of veg­gie op­tions (the crispy chick­pea cake looks good), a rolled pork belly sour­dough sand­wich with cheese, chorizo jam and pork scratch­ings, or a ten­der, crispy chicken breast served in a bap or salad (we tried the salad) with Korean hot sauce, pickles, slaw and cashews. With 50 dif­fer­ent craft beers, the mous­tache twirlers should be kept happy, and the cock­tail list in­cludes a Gar­den Bloody Mary (with basil and gin­ger), a ba­con-spiced Man­hat­tan and that tart Granny Smith cock­tail (¤10) with ap­ple and cin­na­mon­in­fused Tan­queray, el­der­flower liquor and cloudy ap­ple juice. As for those curry and cheese chips (¤5) ... just or­der two por­tions.

DOUGH­BOYS

Char­lotte Way, Dublin 2, 01-402 2000, face­book.com/ Dough­boysDublin ¤ Nes­tled on the wind tun­nel at the top of Har­court Street and Cam­den Street, Dough­boys is a New York-style sand­wich shop serv­ing fun, in­cred­i­bly fill­ing sand­wiches, soups and sides. You can take away or eat in, propped up at the wooden benches on bright red metal chairs (th­ese al­ways re­mind me of playschool).

The menu is short and sweet, with about half-a-dozen sand­wiches on the go at any one time. This is fine by us, as a hun­gry mind does not need 50 choices – the ex­ist­ing lunchtime queue would never move if the list was longer. Prices range from ¤5 to ¤6.50, which isn’t the cheap­est lunch op­tion, but in­gre­di­ents are fresh and the sand­wiches we’ve tried are very fill­ing. They’ve made a name for them­selves in this area – which is al­ready sat­u­rated with good lunch spots – with two of their sand­wiches in par­tic­u­lar: the meat­ball sub and Porchetta. The meat­ball sub (¤6.50) comes with fresh meat­balls made daily on the premises, a rich tomato sauce with fresh basil on a crispy toasted cia­batta roll from the Bret­zel bak­ery, up the road. The Porchetta (¤6.50) has slices of de­li­cious roast Ital­ian rolled pork, salsa verde, gar­lic and some se­ri­ously crispy crack­ling on a cia­batta.

We don’t work any­where near here, but would make the lunchtime trek for that crack­ling alone. There’s a salad box (¤5.50) with chicken and some of the ever-chang­ing side sal­ads (such as Greek salad, car­rot and beet­root slaw or smoked aubergine tomato cous cous). You can add soup to your or­der for ¤3 or a small tub of salad for ¤2.50. They serve the ex­cel­lent Dublin­roasted Cloud Picker cof­fee and Wall & Keogh teas.

LUN­CHEONETTE

NCAD, 100 Thomas Street, Dublin 8, face­book.com/lun­cheonet­te­dublin ¤ Lunch in the DIT Aungier Street can­teen in the 1990s usu­ally in­volved cheap cups of tea, a cou­ple of Marl­boro Lights (sorry folks) and if we were feel­ing flush, a plate of chips and gravy. High times in­deed. The stu­dents at NCAD have a much tastier op­tion in Lun­cheonette – a vaulted base­ment café, run by artist Jen­nie Mo­ran, whose light in­stal­la­tions brighten the sub­ter­ranean space. Along with Brazil­ian chef Wag­ner Dos San­tos, Mo­ran has cre­ated a cool lit­tle spot that still has the fran­tic starved-stu­dent may­hem dur­ing lunch hours, but is a re­lax­ing spot in be­tween (non stu­dents are wel­come). Open from 8.30am on week­days for break­fast (it closes at 3.45pm) the menu changes daily, but stal­warts in­clude pound cake (it’s a tangy lemon and thyme at the mo­ment, ¤2), a good serv­ing of por­ridge with cream, roasted hazel­nuts and honey (¤2) and “com­pli­cated flap­jacks” (¤1.70).

Lunchtime of­fer­ings gen­er­ally in­clude a cou­ple of sam­bos and a soup or salad. They’re stu­dent-friendly in bud­get, but a mil­lion miles from chips and gravy. There are some re­ally in­ter­est­ing flavours and ideas; Azer­bai­jani spinach and split pea soup with pomegranate and bulgar, ¤3 (col­lege-go­ing Rachel would have recog­nised about two of those in­gre­di­ents), roast free-range chicken cia­batta (¤4) or a de­cently sized por­tion of spiced brown rice and mung bean salad thinly sliced radish, pis­ta­chio and co­rian­der (¤3.50). A lovely, friendly lunchtime spot that could teach other col­lege can­teens a thing or two.

THE MEET­ING HOUSE

Meet­ing House Square, Tem­ple Bar, Dublin 2, 01 670 3330, the­meet­ing­house­dublin.com ¤¤ Oc­cu­py­ing the long, tall dining room best known to Dublin­ers as the home of Eden (and lat­terly its off­shoot Nede), The Meet­ing House opened with­out much fan­fare late last year. It was ob­vi­ously sav­ing its en­ergy for the party it was throw­ing in­side. This is a brash, loud place to eat. They’ve com­pletely re­vamped the cool, laid­back dé­cor of Eden days. Now it’s very dark, the pol­ished con­crete has been painted red and black, with lots dra­matic art­work and a DJ is en­sconced in the mid­dle of the ac­tion. There’s a bar up­stairs – a Google party is in full swing on the night we visit – and there are lots of peo­ple par­ty­ing in the smok­ing area out­side. The food is a mish­mash of Burmese, Ja­panese and southeast Asian cui­sine. It’s served in large tapas-style por­tions. We’re told two or three per per­son will be am­ple. They’re ¤9.99 each, or there are of­fers for three (¤27), four (¤35) or six (¤49). There’s lots to choose from – the veg­etable tem­pura is ex­cel­lent: wafer thin bat­ter, with as­para­gus, beet­root, ten­der stem broc­coli and a cit­rusy ponzu dress­ing. A prawn curry is mild, with lots of veg­eta­bles; Yel­low-fin sashimi tacos are served in hard­shelled tacos, and while the tuna isn’t ac­tu­ally sashimi, it’s good and the tamarind dress­ing was tasty. A crab salad is the only dud. It’s poorly sea­soned, with strips of mango that added noth­ing but a slimy, wa­tery fin­ish. Best are the Burmese pork ribs, which dis­in­te­grate off the bone in a rich, sticky sriracha sauce – some of the best ribs any of us has tasted in Dublin. Sides in­clude brown rice and some heav­ily soyed wok-fried greens. This isn’t a spot for a quiet tete a tete – but for a group look­ing for a party at­mos­phere with some tasty plates and cock­tails (try the ly­chee and lemon­grass sour) it’s a good bet.

PHO VIET

162 Par­nell Street, Dublin 1, 01-8783165, phoviet.ie ¤ A small Viet­namese restau­rant on Par­nell Street , this place spe­cialises in pho – a popular street food con­sist­ing of a light broth, rice noodles, chicken or beef (though you can of­ten get veg­e­tar­ian and seafood op­tions), with veg­eta­bles. The pho of­fer­ings at Pho Viet share the same light stock, and

you add beef (¤8.50), chicken (¤8.50) or prawns (¤10.50). The beef is a hearty op­tion, with a choice of four cuts of meat (you choose three, or all four for an ex­tra ¤1). They in­clude slices of brisket, rare sir­loin steak, flank steak or meat­balls. The meat­balls are small, dense and firm, noth­ing like their Ital­ian name­sake, while the brisket has been slow roasted and is melt-in-the­mouth. The flank can be tough, but the sir­loin is a good op­tion. Each bowl comes with a plate of ex­tras, such as mint leaves, lemon wedges, ex­tra chillis, bean sprouts and co­rian­der, and you mix un­til you’ve found the taste that suits you best. Banh Cuon (¤7.50) a Viet­namese pan­cake made with rice flour is filled with prawn, pork and mush­rooms and then fried like a crepe. For a burst of fresh, crunchy good­ness, try the Goi cuon (¤4 for two) a health­ier ver­sion of spring rolls, trans­par­ent rice pa­per roll served cold stuffed with chilled prawn, pork, ver­mi­celli noodles, mint and veggies and served with a tangy dip­ping sauce. The chicken wings (¤7) are po­tent and very tasty – a lib­eral dose of tamarind in the sauce sets them apart from the bet­ter known Amer­i­can chicken wings.

THE SUM­MIT INN

Thor­manby Rd, Howth, Dublin 13, 01-832 4615, the­sum­mitinn.ie ¤ Ev­ery­thing tastes bet­ter af­ter a good hike by the sea and nowhere is this truer than at The Sum­mit Inn in Howth. Perched on top of – you guessed it – the sum­mit of Howth Head, this is a popular spot with walk­ers who’ve taken the cliff path from the vil­lage, on the way to the Baily Light­house.

Al­ways packed on sunny days, the best seats here are at the out­door ta­bles, fac­ing the sun­set and with a view down to the coast. The menu here is unashamed pub grub. And af­ter hik­ing up the cliff path, you’ve earned a bit of stodge. Hot and spicy chicken wings (¤4.95, or ¤8.95 for large) ar­rive out on ta­bles by the tray load to crowds of happy tourists. Huge por­tions of scampi and chips (¤11.95) and fresh cod and chips (¤14.95) are served with a de­cent side salad – good sea­side fare.

There’s a pleas­ant sur­prise in a good Greek salad (¤9.95) – large chunks of feta with leaves, tomato, red onion and olives with two dress­ings. Best when we visit is the cast iron pot of fat, juicy wild Ir­ish mussels (¤10.50), in a creamy gar­lic and white wine sauce, served with nutty brown bread to mop up all the juices. Washed down with a pint of Guin­ness, there may be no finer way to spend a sunny Dublin evening be­fore the trek back down to the vil­lage.

TAP HOUSE

60 Ranelagh, Co. Dublin, 01-491 3436, tap­house.ie ¤ The for­mer Rus­sell’s pub in the cen­tre of Ranelagh had a com­plete makeover about 18 months ago, emerg­ing as (yet an­other) craft beer house. It’s been do­ing well though and re­mains a busy spot in the cen­tre of the vil­lage. Ser­vice is ex­cel­lent, how­ever it’s painfully dark here in the evenings, with mood light­ing that just made us moody. Us­ing your mo­bile to il­lu­mi­nate the menu is tak­ing “at­mos­phere” a lit­tle too far. What we did de­ci­pher on the menu in­cluded slid­ers (¤4 each, three for a ten­ner), small plates for¤9 in­clud­ing pil pil prawns on cia­b­bata, meat­balls with tomato sauce, baby back ribs and slaw. Big plates (all ¤12) in­clude a good look­ing fishy ra­men; fish tacos were good with very large pieces of fresh had­dock, barely coated in a light bat­ter with spiced salsa in soft flour tor­tillas. Kev’s mussels (and not Kev’s mus­cles) were served with lots of rose­mary, habanero and sake (¤9). A lit­tle dry but we sopped up as much of the sauce as we could with some left­over bread. The hit was a po-boy; the much-man­gled New Or­leans sand­wich of fried prawns in a soft roll with tomato, let­tuce and mus­tardy mayo (¤12). This was very good – huge, per­fectly cooked prawns, a light, spicy bat­ter and fresh salad, with a bowl of well-sea­soned ap­ple, fen­nel and red-cab­bage slaw on the side. Al­most worth los­ing your eye­sight for.

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