107 Monkstown Road, Dublin, 01-2845400, thatsamoremonkstown.ie ¤ That’s Amore is one of the most authentic Italian eateries in Dublin and even its endearingly cheesy name can’t take that away. Squeezed into a tiny space in Monkstown village, just a short walk from the Dart station, this vibrant little restaurant is bursting with the flavour and personality of Italy.
Owners Silvia Leo and Marco Valeri run an Italian Deli out of this space too, which means that the ingredients for lunch and dinner are flown in from their favourite suppliers from the homeland. They have one of those huge books of a menu with plastic pages filled with some familiar favourites and some dishes slightly less travelled; there’s antipasti misto (¤11.50) alongside a carpaccio di pesca spada (¤11.95 for sliced smoked swordfish). There is homemade gnocchi, tonnarello and penne on the pasta menu (ranging in price from ¤11.95 to ¤16.95). The pizzas are hand-stretched and stone-baked. They’re also enormous. Try the Capricciosa (¤14.95), a grilled artichokes, boiled egg and Parma ham beauty that will take up nearly the whole table yet somehow you won’t be able to stop yourself from eating it all. Without help. There are daily specials as well, and the fluffy slice of creamy tiramisu (¤6.95) I had there was
one of the best I’ve had ever eaten. There is a smattering of chairs outside and, if you crane your neck, you can just about see the sea. Expect squished but convivial patrons, charismatic pizza chefs and that sense of la dolce vita the minute you walk through the door.
PUNNET FOOD EMPORIUM 95 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2, 087-1671711, punnet.ie ¤
This small U-shaped premises starts out as a health food store, reaches a coffee dock and juicing station and takes a sharp turn right to a deli and an indoor seating area. Far nicer on these spring mornings is to take a seat outside and watch the workers scurrying along. Open from 7.30am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (weekends are in the pipeline), Punnet is packed from first light. It’s one of the few places in the area offering excellent coffees (hand roasted by McCabes in Co Wicklow) and a huge range of Pukka and Clipper teas. They stock more than 50 flavours and if you don’t find one you like behind the counter, you’re invited to grab a box from the shop and they’ll make it for you.
There’s a fridge of cold pressed juices for ¤5 a pop. The celery, cucumber, ginger, spinach, kale, apple, lime and avocado is very good. They do 3- and 5-day cleanses (¤75-¤130) and people are collecting their allocation on the morning we visit. Breakfast comes in a pot, wrap or bowl. Opt for the wrap (¤3.95), which is loaded with fresh avocado, quinoa, egg, beetroot, tomato and sage pesto, and will keep you going long past lunchtime. Although lunch is pretty tasty too: there’s a selection of wraps, including a healthy seaweed wrap (using nori sheets instead of bread) with broccoli, avocado, carrot, ginger, quinoa and leaves (¤5) and some interesting salad boxes with a choice of one leaf, servings of vegetables, one meat and one sauce for ¤6.95. There’s some homemade protein balls (¤3.95) and some of the healthiest caramel slices around, made with almonds, coconut oil, maple syrup, tahini and other healthy ingredients. They’re not cheap at ¤3.95 each, but the burgeoning health food market and rise in Paleo die-hards have proven a real money spinner in Ireland and people are happy to stump up for high-protein treats. Another trend available at Punnet is “Bulletproof coffee”: black coffee with unsalted butter and “Brain Octane Oil”. Proponents claim the creamy combo turns your cup of coffee into a potent source of health and energy. Yes, I don’t buy it either. But others do and two people order a cup (¤3.50) while I’m queuing for my bog standard – and very satisfying – Americano (¤2.60).
SUPER MISS SUE
2-3 Drury Street, Dublin 2, tel: 01-679 9009, supermisssue.com ¤¤ From the same stable as 777, Dillingers and The Butcher Grill, John Farrell had big plans for this corner building on Drury Street – to include Cervi, an old-style Italian fish and chip shop, a casual seafood café, and a more formal restaurant (this hasn’t materialised yet). He’s had planning and power issues, and subsequently opened a “popdown” restaurant in the basement. Now the casual ground-floor café has had a menu overhall, with a strong Caribbean influence. There’s a lovely, airy dining room here although seating is limited (we are brought behind the bar to reach our far table, so as not to disturb a large group). A square booth is probably the best seat in the house on a cold, wet evening.
There is a long ice bar holding fresh fish – which still features heavily on the new menu – on the smaller plates, fried gambas with a sweet red pepper vinaigrette (¤10) come fat and well cooked, some shell on, others shell off. There are some excellent crab claws (¤10), braised in cast-iron pot with a rich, moreish “shellfish and tomato ragout” and some very good sourdough.
The Caribbean influence is less evident in the smaller dishes, although there was a nod east in some sticky duck wings (¤10) – far superior to their chicken cousins – which came with a ginger and mango sauce and topped with lots of chilli and garlic (no kissing after these).
The heat turns up in the mains, with chargrilled Jerk poussin with buttered yams and scallions (¤19) and a blackened swordfish burger with mango (¤18). We opted for a rich West Indian glazed beef short rib (¤22) – fat and heavy on a rather whopping rib bone – served with roasted pineapple, spices and dressed liberally with crushed peanuts.
Best of the mains was a whole sea bass (¤19), coated in panko and fried crispy on the outside, while still deliciously delicate inside – propped on a bowl of sweet and sour black beans. It will be interesting to see the final phase opening at this spot, possibly later this year.
14 Dame Court, Dublin 2. tel: 083-449 9584, tacotacodublin.com ¤¤ Mexican food makes money in Ireland. Chains such as Pablo Picante, Boojum and Little Ass can’t keep the burritos and fajitas coming fast enough. Cheap, cheerful, fresh and filling, it’s ideal fast food. Taco taco is a pop-up restaurant run by the team behind San Lorenzo’s on George’s Street. These guys know a trend when they see one, having queues out the door on the back of their #brunchofchampions hashtag on social media last year.
So they’ve turned their attention to tacos in the old Odessa buliding on Dame Court. It looks very much the same as the old Odessa – forgivable when it’s a temporary set-up – with banquettes along the walls and lots of 4-top tables in the centre. Music is great and on the night we visit it’s busy all evening (including a few lost souls seeking Odessa, which has moved up onto the first floor).
The menu comprises a handful of starters – Maryland crab cakes (¤11.95), sweet and sour chicken noodle soup (¤.6.95); mains include half-adozen tacos and a few other