TOP TIPPLE GALWAY
clear broth with vermicelli noodles.
The Bún bo hue (¤9.20) is a large bowl of broth and noodles, more of that Vietnamese sausage, and wafer-thin slivers of beef and pork. It’s served with a plate of herbs such as mint and coriander, lime, chilli oil and bean sprouts to mix to your liking.
Stick to the soups and fresh dishes here and you’ll eat well.
15 Castle Market, Dublin 2, 01-672 7258 lamaisondublin.com ¤¤ A rare fine evening had the city scrambling for a sunny seat for dinner recently. While I wait on my dinner date on the terrace of La Maison, I count no less than five other groups pleading – to no avail – for a table. Aperitifs always taste better when you’ve remembered to book a table. Everything about La Maison is French. Very, very French: the décor, the waiters, the heavy napkins, the tiny tables perfect for intimate soirees – and the menu, which is liberally doused in wine, cream and classics such as
(snails in garlic butter) ¤11.50 and
(the house patés – a pork rillete, chicken liver parfait, chunky country terrine and pickles), ¤9.50. The menu is split into entrees, fish, meat and sides. The
is a good shared starter: a large platter of fresh bread surrounded by bowls of olives, pickles, salsa, sun blushed tomatoes and cheese - a generous serving for ¤8.50. Fish mains include turbot and a special of black sole (a pricey ¤33) while carnivores are offered more classic French dishes such as duck breast and a
for two (¤59). Our mains are very attractive: the monkfish (¤23) comes perched atop a bright orange shellfish and chorizo risotto with asparagus and samphire. The risotto is good, with a dense paprika and chorizo smokiness, but the monkfish is slightly overcooked and chewy. A better option is the
(¤18.50), a copper skillet crammed with large chunks of cod, salmon and potato, fat mussels and slivers of tomato in a frothy white-wine sauce. The fish is fresh and flaky, falling into the sauce that requires more bread to mop up every last drop. Portions are large so we forgo sides, which themselves are sizable but a skillet of roast potatoes on the next table looks very good indeed. Seating inside is over two floors . Downstairs is more charming, though slightly crowded, but the terrace seats make for the best experience. Close your eyes and you could almost – almost – be in Paris.
PEPPER POT CAFÉ
Powerscourt Town House Centre, South William St, Dublin 2, tel: 01-707 1610, thepepperpot.ie ¤ Wrapping around the first mezzanine level of the Powerscourt Centre, this is a bustling little café with some of the best scrambled eggs in Dublin. Possibly best. There, I said it.
With its cutsie mismatched tablecloths and crockery, it has a ramshackle, homely appeal. It’s open from 10am to 6pm – the Powerscourt opening SMOKEY APPLE JULEP Summer, that most tardy of seasons, is finally here, and the roof bar of the Marker Hotel in Grand Canal is a great spot for cool cocktails. We like this not-too-sweet julep created by Micheál O’Shea.
40ml Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
Golden Delicious 10ml fresh lemon 10ml apple liqueur 6 x fresh mint leaf Sparkling apple juice hours. The menu includes an all-day breakfast – those creamy scrambled eggs with mushrooms and toast (¤7.50) hit the spot at any time of day. There’s also organic porridge (¤4) with toppings such as roasted pear or banana and honey. There’s a soup of the day (¤5), on the day we visit it is an excellent wild Irish mushroom with tarragon and a splodge of whipped feta. You can get sandwiches – the Mount Callan cheddar with bacon and roast pear (¤6.50) is particularly good – plus homemade bagels, tarts and salads. There are always a couple of specials – a huge, free range Pigs on the Green pulled pork sambo on focaccia with caramelised onion and pickle (¤11.50) looks very good, but we opt for a big bowl of that soup with homemade brown bread heavily laced with seeds and a slab of butter.
You can add a cup of soup to any main course for ¤2.50. A salad of pan fried goat’s cheese with Gubeen chorizo and vine tomatoes may have lost the tomatoes en route from the kitchen, but the fatty discs of chorizo and the thick slice of cheese, coated in polenta and fried golden were very, very good. Staff are busy but very friendly here, and it’s a brilliant spot to watch the world go by. A real treat.
SCIENCE GALLERY CAFÉ
Naughton Institute, Pearse Street, Trinity College, Dublin 2, dublin.sciencegallery.com/ café ¤¤ This bustling, triangular café narrows to a perfect point in the wedge-shaped Naughton building. Serving breakfasts, lunches, and hosting lots of events linked to exhibitions in the gallery, it’s a fun, frenetic place to come for a coffee, excellent pastries, pizzas, salads or a bowl of stewp – a stew/soup hybrid served from noon until closing time (usually 8pm). It’s the kind of place you come for a cuppa and end up getting caught up in an experiment or scribbling on a blackboard.
Noticing a rare lull on weekend mornings, the cafe has just launched its Beta
Shake the apple, lemon, liqueur and Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve together and strain into a julep mug with freshly slapped mint. Add crushed ice and a dash of sparkling apple juice. Garnish with a dehydrated apple slice Brunch, from noon to 3pm every Saturday and Sunday. This four-course brunch kicks off with fresh fruit punch – with or without rum. When we visit it’s apple and ginger served in lab flasks, with a smaller flask of orange juice to mix to taste. The menu is set – a bread and dip course, a cereal course, an eggy course and dessert – and while you have to choose between granola and pudding, the rest is chosen for you; surprisingly comforting for some rather tender heads who have been out celebrating the same-sex marriage referendum result.
There are platters of dense buttermilk bread studded with walnuts, sweet flecks of onion and fresh herbs and served with a delicious whipped goats cheese with herb oil and dukkah. A choice of granola with stewed figs and a chai flavoured yoghurt was deemed superior to a “frog-spawny” chia seed pudding with preserved berries and edible flowers (although the latter won on aesthetics). You’re reminded of your scientific surroundings when a wild garlic omelette is accompanied by herb-flavoured maltodextrin dust. The flavour is so faint it’s more for show, but there’s also more familiar bacon and asparagus to bring you back to Planet Brunch.
Dessert is again very pretty but very sweet – a trifle of gooseberry and lemon, violet sugar and crushed ginger nut biscuits. It costs ¤25 each, including local Cloud Picker coffee or teas such as a cold Cascara brew – again served in lab flasks – a light, sweet tea made from the cherries of the coffee plant. The Beta Brunch makes a fun change from the Eggs Benedict offerings. Great for groups.
29 Forster Street, Galway, 091-530 729, facebook.com/ JungleCafeGalway ¤ This place does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a little palm tree-inhabited tropical oasis, offering welcome respite from the hustle of Eyre Square around the corner (and two rowdy hen parties barrelling past into town).
On a rainy Galway day, the open-air seating is surprisingly cosy, underneath its corrugated Perspex roof. There’s a tiny indoor area, with a kitchen and some baristas making elaborate designs on Badger and Dodo coffees. There’s seating for only three or four people inside, so once you’ve ordered, it’s out to the jungle in the yard, filled with couches and wicker furniture. There’s chill out music and sack cloth covering chairs. All around, there are pots growing herbs (we spy chives, dill and mint) and heads of lettuce and even a small lemon tree. The menu is small: half-a-dozen breakfast items, some gourmet sandwiches, fresh smoothies and juices, soup and some pastries. There are a couple of specials on the board – a Lyonnaise sandwich (¤7) looks good – a tower of salad, mayo and pancetta topped with poached eggs, as does the Cowboy Soup – a thick stew of tomato, bacon and chickpeas (¤5). We’ve been advised to come here to try the omelette with onion, mushroom and cheese but are too late for the breakfast menu (which finishes at noon). Instead we order a pitta pocket with organic salad – with leaves that actually taste of something – avocado and dressing (¤6.50). It’s a little steep for a vegetarian pitta, but it comes crammed with very fresh salad with shavings of carrot and cucumber, and also some homemade hummus. The only downside is that the pitta isn’t toasted. The baguette with fig, prosciutto and mozzarella (¤7.20) does see the underside of the grill – two long halves of fresh, doughy baguette are toasted until the cheese has bubbled and are then topped with sweet slivers of fig and lots of salty prosciutto and another mountain of those homegrown leaves. As we leave, a waiter waters pots of edibles around us – great to see a small cafe being so self-sufficient.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Lough Atalia, Galway, 091-538 212, radissonhotelgalway.com ¤¤ Perched on the fourth floor of the Radisson Blu Galway, RAW offers a sushi menu that also includes a handful of cold meat and vegetable dishes. While the room retains a slightly corporate look from its previous incarnation as a meeting room, service is warm and friendly and the view from your table looks out over Lough Atalia to Galway Bay, where some of your dinner has been landed. The menu is split into various types of sushi, such as nigiri (slices of fish on a ball of rice), maki (sushi rolls in seaweed), temaki (hand rolled cones of fish and rice) and sashimi (slices of raw fish). Prices range from ¤4 to ¤18. There’s also an interesting sushi bowl (¤12) of sushi rice topped with fish including yellow fin tuna and salmon, veggies, roe and nori (seaweed). There’s an explanation of what each dish entails – useful for people new to sushi – and you can see head chef Hisashi Kumagai working away, expertly assembling your dinner. A bowl of edamame (salty steamed soy beans) is a must-have – popping them out of their shell gives the same satisfaction as popping bubble-wrap. It’s also nice to see the price at ¤3, when so many places charge twice that these days. Maki options include a California roll (¤8) with real crab (as opposed to dreadful processed crab sticks). There’s also a delicious spider roll – fried soft-shell crab with avocado and mustard cress – which has good, meaty crab and is the right balance of crunchy and creamy. A plate of tuna tataki (¤13) has barely seared slices of yellow fin, with a sake, soy and vinegar sauce, topped with a punchy mix of spring onion, garlic, ginger and daikon radish. The four-course set menu (¤35) is a good way to try a number of dishes. It includes miso soup, and choices such as eel unagi rolls, a sashimi selection (the tuna is good – fatty but melting), a chef’s 6-piece selection of nigiri and maki, and a very good Barbary duck breast (¤13), smoked and cut into thin slivers that are dark pink inside. It’s been marinated in mirin, sake and konbu (a type of kelp) and the explosion of smoky, salty, umami flavours in your mouth is quite something.
This is good spot for a date (ask for a window seat) and you can also get take out.