DUBLIN

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The Good Food Store

24 South Great Ge­orge’s St Dublin 2 the­good­food­store.ie ¤ I’m look­ing along a bustling deli counter, won­der­ing what to choose, when I’m stopped in my tracks by a tuna melt. Why? Why is this sand­wich still a thing? As the gen­tle­man in front of me in the lunchtime queue cheer­fully or­ders this culi­nary catas­tro­phe, I’m re­minded that my tuna melt prej­u­dice is ac­tu­ally not shared by my fel­low lunch-go­ing brethren. Peo­ple love tuna melts.

It stands out in this par­tic­u­lar queue be­cause I’m in The Good Food Store on South Ge­orge’s St in Dublin, and ev­ery­thing else in the deli counter looks, well, pretty good to me. What marks this deli out is not only its ethos of freshly-pre­pared food, but its el­e­gant in­te­rior and the as­sort­ment of yummy good­ies for sale. There are bot­tles of wine, car­tons of olive oil, bunches of dried laven­der and crock­ery from Morocco along­side such Ir­ish pro­duce as Sheri­dan’s chut­neys and crack­ers, Mic’s Chilli sauce, Synerchi Kom­bucha and beans of Ariosa coffee.

The Good Food Store opened on South Great Ge­orge’s Street in Au­gust 2015, and is ac­tu­ally the se­cond in­stal­ment in the brand, with an orig­i­nal, smaller store on Ser­pen­tine Av­enue in Dublin 4. Be­hind The Good Food Store stands Vanessa Clarke, whose cater­ing and events com­pany VSC Events (vscevents.ie) has been in­volved in the pro­ject man­age­ment of food at fes­ti­vals such as The Elec­tric Pic­nic (in par­tic­u­lar its Theatre of Food), Body and Soul, and For­bid­den Fruit. Clarke cer­tainly knows her lo­cal food, which ex­plains the well-cho­sen rep­re­sen­ta­tives that line the shelves in The Good Food Store.

Per­haps in­flu­enced by that Moroc­can crock­ery for sale, and the pretty Moroc­can-in­flu­enced tiles on the floor, I or­der the ve­gan Moroc­can Toasty (¤5.90). It’s a large wrap stuffed with roasted veg­eta­bles and cous­cous, served warm. It’s on the dry side but luck­ily, I’ve added a healthy spoon­ful of home­made hum­mus to my small salad box (¤4), and it livens the toasty right up. Else­where in my salad box, I’ve se­lected sweetly roasted chunks of beetroot and roasted sweet potato with feta cheese.

The coffee (¤2.80 for a flat white) is ex­cel­lently brewed us­ing the ex­em­plary Ariosa beans. The breads for the daily roast in a roll and other sand­wiches are from the Bret­zel Bak­ery in Por­to­bello. All the cakes and some pas­tries, apart from the crois­sants and pain au choco­late, are made down­stairs in the kitchen. A rasp­berry fi­nancier has a suit­ably strong kick of al­mond, with a good crust and a spongy tex­ture on the in­side. A few weeks back, I grabbed their break­fast sausage roll to go, and found it to be a flaky de­light stuffed with black pud­ding and sun-dried toma­toes.

The Good Food Store has a roomy area ded­i­cated to those who wish to sit in, with a long com­mu­nal ta­ble and a few counter seats amongst the food store. I should note that food and drinks are all served in take­away re­cep­ta­cles, just in case you were hop­ing to eat off for some of that Moroc­can crock­ery.

Bibi’s Café

14b Emorville Av­enue, Dublin 8 01-4547421 bibis.ie ¤ Opened in 2010 by sis­ters Pe­tria and Maisha Lene­han, Bibi’s is a some­what se­cret stal­wart on the Dublin brunch and lunch scene. When it first opened, it was a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the sis­ters. Pe­tria, a fash­ion de­signer, used the larger part of the space to show­case her de­signs along­side other se­lected items in her shop Dolls, while Maisha got to work in the small, open kitchen in the other half of the space, home to Bibi’s.

Pe­tria has since moved on to New York where her fash­ion busi­ness is now based (though her clothes are still made in Dublin), and the en­tire space on the cor­ner of Emorville Av­enue, just off Clan­bras­sil St, is now ded­i­cated to Maisha and her brother Ge­off’s cook­ing. They have two other chefs, Siob­han and Si­mon, and they all work to­gether to de­sign their menus around the best of lo­cal and flown-in pro­duce.

Back when there were four ta­bles in­side and just a cou­ple out­side, head­ing to brunch at BiBi’s was fraught with anx­i­ety. Would you get a ta­ble? Would you have to queue for three quar­ters of an hour? Would you get to try the new spe­cial be­fore it ran out?! The brunch was al­ways worth wait­ing for, but to­day, thanks to ad­di­tional space in­side, the week­end wait for a ta­ble is a lit­tle shorter.

Over a re­cent lunch, I was wowed by a sim­ple plate of roasted but­ter­nut squash and poached eggs (¤10), driz­zled in a chilli-in­fused but­ter. It’s the sub­tle flour­ishes, such as a sim­ple flavoured and melted but­ter, that el­e­vate a dish from good to great. A chorizo toastie (¤8.50) is de­li­ciously greasy from be­ing pan-fried, a crisp and el­e­gantly dressed salad on the side go­ing some way to mak­ing up for the naugh­ti­ness. Their brown­ies (¤3.95) have al­ways been ex­cel­lent, and they still give you a lit­tle bite-sized ver­sion with your cof­fees, whether you’re hav­ing it in or to take­away.

The space is light-filled, re­flect­ing off the red-bricked ter­raced houses of the neigh­bour­hood. The large dis­tressed steel ta­ble we sit at com­ple­ments the ce­ramic crock­ery, from Made In Cley, a pot­tery col­lec­tive in Nor­folk, Eng­land. The coffee, sup­plied by Cloud Picker, tastes great out of their chunky mugs. It’s a beau­ti­ful space to be in and the menu is in­spir­ing to any home cook, or in­deed any­one who likes to eat well.

It’s a spe­cial spot, and one that’s prob­a­bly on your Best Of list al­ready. But, just in case it’s been a while since your last visit to Bibi’s, you’ll find them open ev­ery day of the week, from 9am to 4pm on week­days and 10am to 5pm on week­ends. 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.

Cow­town Café

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 St, 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 has WiFi, but it seems wrong to sug­gest you might get a bit of work or brows­ing done here. In­stead, this is a spot for open­ing news­pa­pers 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.

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