Clontarf is surely one of the most well-fed suburbs in Dublin, with the seaside road dotted with health-conscious cafes, seafood joints and Kinara Kitchen, one of the city’s best Pakistani restaurants. Specialty coffee moved into the neighbourhood in the form of Ebb & Flow with civil engineer turned coffee nut Dave Smyth at the helm.
“This is Upside Coffee, our guest roaster this month,” Smyth tells me, as he pulls an espresso made from a floral Costa Rican bean, roasted locally in one of Dublin’s newest roasterys, Upside Coffee (upsidecoffee.com). “Have a smell,” he suggests, giving me a chance to sniff and sip the espresso before he tops it up with creamy, organic foamed milk, sourced from Village Dairy.
Smyth worked as a civil engineer until the recession hit and gave him an excuse to do something he had always wanted to do – open up his own business. While studying for a Master’s in Business Management, he started getting into specialty coffee at home, making brews for family and friends for fun. An opportunity presented itself to take over the space in front of a hair salon called Salon 56 on the Clontarf Road, and in August 2015 he opened Ebb & Flow. In the meantime, Smyth became barista Brian Birdy’s business partner at the micro-roastery, Full Circle Roasters, which has since become the house coffee of Ebb & Flow.
Alongside Full Circle Roasters, Smyth features a guest roaster every month. In the last year, they’ve had guest appearances from Mojo Coffee, Cloud Picker Coffee, Baobab Roasters and The Barn via their Irish distributors at First Draft Coffee. As well as putting an espresso and a filter of the guest roasters on the menu, Smyth invites the roasters to host a tasting session as part of the monthly guest slot, free for customers and open to everyone.
“It’s a very informal set-up,” explains Smyth of the tasting sessions. “We’re trying to break down the barriers of coffee knowledge. It can be tough for customers to engage if they feel they don’t know enough. We keep it very relaxed.”
The Upside Coffee tasting session, hosted by Upside owner Jamie O’Neill (formerly head of coffee development at Cloud Picker Coffee), will be in Ebb & Flow at 11am on Saturday October 15th, to finish off their month-long residency. The next roasters to be featured are Bailies Coffee from Belfast, one of the early innovators in speciality coffee in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The food offering is simple but well curated. There are cakes and brownies from the exemplary Camerino Bakery on Capel Street in Dublin’s city centre, as well as assorted scones from Bakelicious based in Shankill.
The team make their own sandwiches in the morning, using Smithfield’s Arun Bakery bread, ham from McDoyle’s butcher in Artane and Gruyère from Deli Meats. They’re not made to order but the baristas, including barista Mark Walsh, toast them up on demand. It’s a sandwich that is the sum of its parts, and it all adds up to a delicious mouthful.
The cheese is a marvellous molten mess. The team are planning to add porridge and soup to their winter offering, working within the limits of their space.
Ebb & Flow is dog friendly, too, as indicated by the dog bowl full of cool Clontarf tap water on offer outside, next to a single bench at the front of the cafe. However, my dog is too skittish to be cafe friendly, but we manage to sit for a moment with our coffees, soaking up the autumn sunshine with a view of the waters of the River Tolka, ebbing and flowing, as it meets the sea. AMcE