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.
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.
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.