Probus Wines

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS | EATING OUT -

26 Fe­nian Street Dublin 2

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Probus Wines is a quirky lit­tle spot, in­hab­it­ing the tri­an­gle of prop­erty that di­vides Fe­nian St and Den­zille Lane, run­ning par­al­lel to the heart of Ge­or­gian Dublin in Mer­rion Square. There are ta­bles made from re­claimed whiskey casks, and mis­matched benches that look like they could have been re­claimed from one of the fancy of­fice build­ings that back up onto Den­zille Lane.

When Paul Fogerty took over this off-li­cence in 2010, he ap­plied a life­time of wine knowl­edge, ac­quired through his back­ground in hos­pi­tal­ity in his home county of Gal­way, to rein­vent the of­fer­ings of this space. He was also an early adopter of the Ir­ish craft beer move­ment, his fridges filled with the blos­som­ing brews of O’Hara’s and Eight De­grees Brew­ing from day one.

Tues­day lunchtime sees a con­sis­tent flow of cus­tomers stream into this lit­tle deli, a tes­ta­ment to the un­der-served of­fice work­ers in this cu­ri­ously quiet neigh­bour­hood. Once Fogerty had es­tab­lished the space as a re­li­able place to come for good booze, he be­gan to slowly in­tro­duce a food of­fer­ing un­til it de­vel­oped into the lunchtime spot it is to­day. Over the years, a com­mit­ment to Ir­ish pro­duc­ers, and of­ten an em­pha­sis on pro­duc­ers from the West, has been a spe­cial at­tribute.

Like lots of my fel­low early au­tumn din­ers when I pay it an­other visit ear­lier this week, I go for a small cup of soup (¤3). There are two choices daily, mostly veg­e­tar­ian, and to­day I go for a car­rot and co­rian­der which tastes re­as­sur­ingly homemade (be­cause it is). It’s tasty, de­void of fuss or se­cret ad­di­tives.

The air-dried beef sand­wich (¤5.50) is some­thing spe­cial. The beef is sourced from Sheridan’s Cheese­mon­ger, one of this deli’s main sup­pli­ers, and it’s paired with thin sliv­ers of the out­stand­ing Killeen goat cheese. “Marian from Killeen’s is one of the best cheese­mon­gers in Ire­land,” says Fogerty, in awe. “She was mak­ing manchego there re­cently. There’s noth­ing she can’t do.” Through­out our chat, he lists off the var­i­ous sup­pli­ers and pro­duc­ers he has ties with, such as an or­ganic fruit and veg­etable farmer in Oughter­ard and Colleran’s butch­ers in Gal­way.

When he first opened the Dublin branch in 2010, Probus Wines also had an out­let in Oughter­rard but it didn’t make it through the re­ces­sion and, three years ago, Fogerty moved all his Probus oper­a­tions to Dublin. He still has con­nec­tions with Oughter­ard as one of the di­rec­tors of Wild Bat Brew­ery along­side Barry Davey and Enda Cleary, the brew­ers of this dark yet light lager.

On my visit, a co­in­ci­den­tal con­ver­gence of craft brew­ers un­folded be­fore my eyes when three mi­cro-brew­ers, one of them be­ing Wild Bat, hap­pened to meet each other in Probus over lunch.

The cof­fee is made us­ing Bailie’s Cof­fee, a su­perb Belfast-based roast­ery, and it’s brewed in Probus in a com­fort­ingly old-fash­ioned way. It ar­rives in a tall white mug, and though the flat white (¤2.60) may not win com­pe­ti­tions for its milk-to-shot ra­tio, it hits the spot. There’s a gluten-free brownie which Fogerty de­vel­oped with one of his gluten-in­tol­er­ant cus­tomers in mind, and it’s very good. It’s fudgy rather than cakey, with a nutty edge thanks to the ground al­monds that sub­sti­tute the flour. “We’re a lit­tle lim­ited with space here,” ad­mits Fogerty, ref­er­enc­ing the lack of kitchen room, “but we do our best with what we have.”

With their homemade rel­ishes, soups, pestos and red onion mar­malades, they’re do­ing quite well within the lim­i­ta­tions, thanks to the clever choice of pair­ing what they can do with what they get from else­where. They’ve cho­sen their sup­pli­ers well, with sour­dough bread from Bretzl Bak­ery and brown bread and baguettes from Hansel & Gretl around the cor­ner on Clare Street.

Probus Wines is sim­ple and no-frills, and you’ll prob­a­bly be pleas­antly sur­prised by the unas­sum­ingly com­fort­ing flavours on of­fer within its hum­ble walls.

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