in a small space on The River Lee, with about 12 seats. Everything is made in-house, and it’s all available for take-out, apart from the dosa. I can see how the dosa might not survive a journey to a final destination. These are large, delicate crepes made from ground lentils, folded over to encase a variety of fillings. My onion dosa (¤6.95) comes with tiny pieces of diced red onion, accompanied by a thin sambar lentil curry, a yogurt sauce and a sweet, mango chutney.
The aaloo tikki (¤5) is a wonder of fried cauliflower, coated in a light batter that takes on a mouth-watering crunch once fried dark brown. These little fritters are accompanied by an avocado chutney, a creamy antidote to the delicate spice of the batter. My only problem with the side salad of candied fennel seeds, wild rocket and sprouted mung beans is that it’s so gorgeous that I am left wanting more. But I’m just being greedy; I have plenty on my table to get through.
The samosa chaat (¤6.50) is a bowl of two gloriously pudgy samosas that boast thick, heavenly pastry. They’re covered in a salad of puffed rice and chickpea curry. The Madras Thali (¤12.50), one of two larger dishes on the menu, arrives on a silver tray built to carry a tasting plate of south-eastern flavours. Basmati rice is paired with tasty little plates of curries including a sambar, chickpea rasam and a vegetable salna, with a poppodams for good measure.
A vegan pomegranate cake (¤3.50) is soaked in a sweet pomegranate molasses. It’s astonishingly moist. Instead of coffee, a sweetlyspiced chai tea (¤2) seems a more appropriate way to finish this meal. I’m about to leave when I notice the vegan dry fruit and nut laddoo (¤2), balls of compacted fruit and nuts coated in coconut or hemp seed, and grab two of them for the road.
Because we ordered pretty much everything on the menu, our bill came to ¤47.45. You could easily come away from Iyer’s full and sated for under ¤10. It’s a gem, for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike. 9 Camden St, Dublin 2 deselbys.com ¤ I get settled into DeSelby’s on a Tuesday morning. The Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach is on the stereo, a welcome distraction from my daily deadlines. Armed with the WiFi code and a superbly made flat white served in an appropriately sized cup, I wait it out until lunchtime, resisting the temptation to tuck in to one of the Arun Bakery’s luscious cinnamon buns on offer. The coffee is by Dublin roasters Roasted Brown and the tea is by Wall & Keogh just up the road on South Richmond Street.
Opened in October 2015 by brothers Peter and Conor Sweeney, DeSelby’s has settled in well to Camden St. The art deco lettering on the sign above its door is reflected in beautiful stained windows looking out onto the street. Inside, it makes a virtue of the high ceilings of the original building that dates back to 1840.
Their regular lunch menu, designed by head chef Sam Carey, includes a pan-fried fish sandwich on sourdough (¤8), a Toulouse sausage sandwich on brioche (49) and a seared tuna flatbread with avocado and chipotle (¤8.50). Four or five specials change daily, depending on what’s good in the kitchen pantry. Today, I can’t resist the Crem Brie-lee (¤9) with red-onion jam and toast.
“It’s basically a bowl of melted cheese mixed with cream,” says the friendly fellow behind the counter, who turns out to be Conor Sweeney. “Sold!” I reply. It arrives a little runnier than I would have liked, but it seeps happily into the toasted sourdough and the red-onion jam is excellent. The soup today is a very green pea and broccoli soup thickened with generous hunks of ham hock (¤6). From the regular lunch menu, I sample the toasted Manchego cheese and ham hock sandwich (¤8.50), a toasty elevated to new heights of yumminess.
DeSelby’s, which also does a roaring trade at dinnertime, recently posted a photo on its Facebook page of a peanut butter and jelly French Toast dish, part of its weekend brunch menu. Yes, please. DeSelby’s wine and beer licence means you can make it a squiffy lunch if the occasion calls for it. This is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood. I’ll be back for that PBJ french toast.
73 Manor St , Dublin 7 01-441-1118 Find them on Facebook € The Dublin borough of Stoneybatter has seen much gentrification in the past five years. Some of my favourite new cafes and gastropubs are on or near Manor St. With that in mind, I get a pleasant surprise when I visit Cowtown Café, because it’s such a refreshingly straightforward greasy spoon café. Opened in October 2015, it comes complete with squeezy brown-sauce bottles, plastic chairs nailed to plastic tables, and gingham curtains on the windows. Even the name Cowtown harks back to an older, disappearing Dublin.
Proprietors Niall Kavanagh and Sinead Byrne also own Cinnamon Café in Smithfield, which has been on the go for more than a decade. “We opened a greasy-spoon style café because we believe every high street or town should have a cheap and cheerful option,” says Kavanagh. “We really do think a café like ours should be part of the local community and welcome to everyone.” This rings very true and on my visit I notice how varied the clientele are, in both age and accents.
Cowtown’s greatest asset may be their staff. My server, who takes my order at my table, is the quintessential Greasy Spoon Girl, and I mean that as a huge compliment. She’s friendly, she’s super-fast as she flies around with plates of breakfasts and mugs of tea, and she’s funny. “I keep losing my pens in my bun,” she laughs, as she searches in her hair for a biro to take my order.
But none of this would matter if the food wasn’t up to scratch. What really works for me is the option of a large, medium or small fry. The small fry is ¤5 and is a simple plate of a perfectly fried egg, a deliciously charred single rasher of bacon, a sausage and a homemade potato cake, with toast and tea or coffee included. The potato cake is fluffy and reassuringly under-seasoned, exactly how my grandmother would have made it. The sausage is a little on the thin side. A juicier, thicker banger would really elevate this brekkie in terms of flavour, but probably also in terms of price. Breakfast is served until noon, after which you can go for comfort food such as fish finger butties (¤4.95), BLTs (4.20), cottage pie (¤9.50) or Liver & Mash (¤9.95).
That ¤5 breakfast seemed worringly cheap to me, so I was glad to hear that Cowtown Café keep their suppliers local. Their butchers are Shane and Paul from the Mahon Butchers on Manor St. Their fish comes from Muldoon’s on Prussia Street and Kish on Bow Street, and their fruit and veg comes from Tommy in The Green Grocer’s on Manor St. They bake their own bread and scones, and get the rest of their breads and pastries from Thunders on Prussia Street, Project 12 and Arun Bakery on Oxmantown Lane. The coffee is supplied by McCabe’s Roasters and, though an Americano is on offer, I go for the more traditional diner-style brew. It’s so thick and strong that I wonder if my milk will be able to blend into it. This is, however, the perfect cup of coffee for this setting.
Cowtown offers WiFi for customers, but it seems wrong to suggest you might get a bit of work or browsing done here. Instead, this is a spot for spreading newspapers across your table while you dip your toast in a runny yolk, an opportunity to slow back down to a pace of life associated with a time when a neighbourhood greasy spoon was a more common thing.