girl eats dublin

Enthusiastically eating my way around Dublin and beyond.

Month: March, 2013

Weafer & Cooper, Glasthule.

Inside Weafer & Cooper (photo credit: restaurant)

Inside Weafer & Cooper (photo credit: restaurant)

A friend put a conundrum to me the other day: “If you had to give up eating out, except for one day of your choice a week, which day and which meal would you choose?”

Pondering this classic First World Problem (aarrgh! What would become of Girl Eats Dublin?), it didn’t take long for the answer to become clear. You can take your midweek tapas, your Friday night pizza and wine, your Saturday night dinner with a rowdy gang of pals…. but you’ll never take my Suuuuunnnndaaaaaayyyyy Bruuuuuuunnnnch (last line to be read aloud, Braveheart-style, for the desired effect).

Ah, Sunday brunch. One of the only good things spawned in Dublin by the Celtic Tiger, and still an affordable luxury, it has to be my favourite eating-out occasion of the week. The perfect way to cure a hangover if you’ve been out on Saturday night – or if you haven’t, the ideal way to still get a little socialising fix in before going back to work on Monday, making your hungover friends jealous with how fresh you look. Living within strolling distance of both town and Ranelagh, I tend to stick with the tried-and-tested brunch spots – Odessa, Bar with No Name or Dillinger’s (currently closed for renovations). A bad brunch can ruin a perfectly good Sunday, particularly if one’s head is already in a delicate state, so I have tended in the past to avoid risking my weekly eggs-and-coffee-based treat by going somewhere new.

But, in the interest of research (the things I do for you, dear reader), I have been cautiously trying some new brunch spots over the last few months. After a few delicious brunches at my new favourite, the Whitefriar Grill (try the Gambas Benedict), my widening of the net was going well, so last weekend I struck out even further afield, with a willing Brunch Buddy in the form of my friend Gillian. Hangover-free, we hopped in the car and headed out the coast to Glasthule.

Our destination was Weafer & Cooper, a restaurant that’s been in business for about 18 months, but I’d only heard about recently from a colleague who lives nearby. Dun Laoghaire is about as far as my weekend excursions usually take me, so Glasthule is relatively unfamiliar territory. On a main street dominated by a pub, a car showroom and across from an empty shop unit, Weafer & Cooper is a lovely sight. Formerly two old houses, its duck-egg blue shopfront complete with sophisticated signage and large windows appealed even from across the road. My research in advance had informed me that the name, which I had cynically assumed was a makey-uppy effort following the “random name + random name” formation so beloved of bars and restaurants, comes from the fact that the two houses that formed the building the restaurant now occupies were owned by the Weafer family, and the Cooper family. I liked the name already, and learning its history I liked it even more.

It’s a huge premises inside, split into two levels with the kitchen and giant pizza oven down the back and is one of the nicest restaurant fit-outs I’ve seen in Dublin in a long time. I loved the counter immediately inside the front door which held a selection of gorgeous looking fresh baked cakes and tiers of meringues, then leading on into the bar and coffee-making area.

I’m a sucker for a window seat, so I chose one of the tables for two at the window, and settled in to review the menu. Asking for a ‘strong Americano’ while I did so, I got exactly that – an excellent coffee served in a lovely glass mug was accompanied by a cute miniature glass milk bottle containing my requested hot milk. I also ordered a fresh juice on impulse, having seen their juice menu on the blackboard while I was waiting for the table. ‘The Beet,’ (€4.50) containing beetroot, carrot and orange, was a vibrantly coloured and delicious glass of goodness that was guzzled in no time.

Hovering in indecision over the menu, and with no sore head to be cured with eggy dishes, I ended up throwing carb-caution to the wind and ordering from the pizza menu, choosing the Gambero pizza (€15) with prawns, rocket, lime and creme fraiche. Gillian asked to combine two of the brunch dishes, a request that was met with a sunny “no problem” attitude from our friendly waitress – take note, other Dublin brunch establishments (on the topic, I’m hoping that Dillinger’s remove that rather harsh “No Substitutions” from their menu when they reopen next month).

In the time between ordering and receiving our food, the temperature around our window seat got so cold and draughty, dropping another bit every time the door behind me opened, that we had to ask to be moved otherwise we’d have been eating our lunch with our coats on. Again this was “no problem at all,” but as we saw other diners shivering around us too, this seemed like a problem Weafer & Cooper’s owners should probably look at addressing.

Once settled at our new table, the food arrived and Gillian was served two beautifully poached eggs on top of smoked salmon, accompanied by some very fresh-looking roasted tomatoes, grilled Portobello mushrooms, and some divine Guinness bread. My pizza could have done with a little less cheese which was in danger of overwhelming the prawns, but was otherwise crisp and delicious, the creme fraiche, rocket and hint of lime perfectly setting off the generous topping of large tiger prawns. If you’ve never tried prawns on a pizza before, I highly recommend this one.

weafer

For dessert, lured by the sight of the baked goods counter rather than the official dessert menu, we shared a chocolate brownie and a giant, fresh meringue which Gillian described as “the most perfect meringue I’ve ever had.”

The service was friendly and considerate throughout, although it got a little confused the busier they became with Sunday lunch parties. I was kindly given half of my brownie carefully wrapped up to take home, which I greatly enjoyed with a cuppa later that evening, but the second coffees we ordered after our dessert took so long to arrive that we almost regretted them once they did. We were in no rush so it didn’t bother us too much, but would have been irritating had we been in a hurry to get out by a certain time. This, and the chilly temperature of the front dining area, were my only gripes in what was otherwise a really great brunch/lunch experience. Some draught-proofing around the front door and windows and they’ll have that latter problem solved. Or I’ll just wait for the weather to get a bit warmer before making a trip back…

So, another successful experiment in brunching. I think the VCC is going to be next on my list, but if you have any other recommendations, do let me know in a comment!

Weafer & Cooper, 71-73 Glasthule Road, Co. Dublin.

Tel: (01) 231 1971

Website and Facebook page.

Pho Viet, Parnell Street.

pho viet interior

In one of my very first posts, I mentioned how much I’ve missed Vietnamese food since leaving London. Having discovered this light, healthy and usually cheap variety of Asian cuisine not long after I first arrived there, going for a big feed of Vietnamese food soon became one of my favourite ways to treat myself.

During the week, while I was still getting to know the city, and at weekends when I didn’t have visitors from home to entertain, I would head into Soho or east to the Kingsland Road to seek out Cay Tre, Song Que, the Viet Grill… or somewhere new. And near work in Clerkenwell and at home in west London, I was just around the corner from a branch of Pho, a great London chain which put a bit of a swankier (but no less affordable) veneer on the Vietnamese classics. Summer rolls will always remind me of (guess?) summer in London, light salads of chicken, cashew nuts and minty goodness were perfect for a healthy lunch, and my beloved ‘Bun’ noodles were kept for treat days, where the still-healthy bowl of rice noodles and fresh veggies would be topped with chicken or prawns, chili sauce and (ah, heaven) a single crispy spring roll.

It all made stuffing your face feel relatively virtuous.

Since moving back, I’ve found plenty of new places to eat and love in Dublin, but most work trips or weekends in London since have involved me seeking out my much-missed Vietnamese fix along the way.

So I got very excited when I started to hear murmurings about a couple of new Vietnamese cafes opening up in Dublin. Pho Viet on Parnell Street has received a few great reviews, so it has been lurking near the top of my restaurants-to-visit list for the last couple of months. The name sounds exotic, but google it and you’ll find that calling a Vietnamese restaurant Pho Viet is akin to calling your Irish child Sean Murphy. You’ll find hundreds of eateries of the same name around the world.

Anyway, as they say, it does what it says on the tin (and also on their fancy sign outside), i.e. “Noodles from Vietnam” and I practically took the stairs two at a time in excitement on the very cold night that my friend Nicola and I chose recently to try Pho Viet before catching a gig in the Academy.

Inside, there’s brand spanking new decor and everything is box-fresh including the carpets. It’s brightly lit and spread over two floors (or maybe three?), the downstairs feeling more like a cafe with its window onto Parnell Street, and upstairs a bit more restaurant-y. We were the only punters upstairs, the other massive table consisting of the staff of my local teppanyaki restaurant and what looked like their various families. We took this as a good sign.

While we browsed our menus, Nicola taught me the correct pronunciation of Pho, which is less rhyming with “Fo’Sho,” as I’d been pronouncing it to date, and more in the region of “Fuuuuhhhh.” You know, rhymes with “Duh.”

We both decided that it had to be summer rolls (or on the Pho Viet menu, Vietnamese fresh spring rolls/Goi Cuon) to start, and also made the same choice of main course by going for the Pho Viet special beef noodle soup (€6.90). I was momentarily tempted by my old favourite, Bun noodles, which I was delighted to see on the menu, but already had a sneaking suspicion I’d be making a return trip to give them a try.

The service had a lovely family feel. We were served by an amusingly chatty, tall Vietnamese guy with a Dublin twang, who made us feel very welcome and was keen to engage Nicola in chat about her previous travels in Vietnam. Our table was also attended by a serious-looking young girl in school uniform (complete with a Prefect badge), who was clearly the perfectionist of the outfit and very keen to make sure our order had been taken correctly.

The summer rolls (€3) carried my high hopes along with their low price. They didn’t let me down. Substantial in size, the cold, transparent rice rolls were filled with fresh veggies, prawns and plenty of mint, and accompanied by a delicious peanut satay sauce that I was spooning out of the dish long after the summer rolls had been gobbled.

summer rolls

Our house special pho, full of beef, brisket and meatballs, arrived steaming hot and accompanied by the customary dish of fresh beansprouts and chillies for us to spoon into our bowls to adjust the taste to our liking. We noted the soup could have done with more heat – but I’m sure if we’d stopped slurping long enough to order extra chillies, they’d have brought them straight away. Note to self for next time.

We finished our feast with two cups of that amazing Vietnamese coffee, where a small steel pot of coffee slowly drips into a cup of condensed milk, carefully watched over by our waiter until it was ready to be stirred in and enjoyed in a few hot, sweet sips.

Without drinks, we paid €26 (yes, that was €13 each) and left full, happy and promising to return. Pho Viet is authentic, friendly, clean, tasty, and best of all, cheap. Hallelujah!

They’ve also just announced today that they’ve received their wine licence. Great news, but may mean the end of BYOB – so best to check if you’re planning a visit. See you there – I’ll be the solo diner happily slurping noodles in the window seat.

Pho Viet, 162 Parnell Street.

No website, but check out their Facebook Page.

Asador, Haddington Road.

Asador interior (Photo credit: Asador website)

Asador interior (Photo credit: Asador website)

I tend to approach new restaurants in the same way I do new music. Too much hype brings out my inner snob, leading to me avoiding said place like the plague until the buzz has blown over and a recommendation from an actual friend draws me to cautiously try it out. Sometimes I’m converted, other times I get to revert to smug muso mode and declare it’s all an overblown rip-off of someone else’s genius.

So I took my time paying a visit to Asador, the new “barbeque grill” restaurant on Haddington Road just off Baggot Street, since it opened in November. There was a flurry of social media promotion and reviews from the critics within days of opening, which I’m never inclined to trust. No doubt this was a PR strategy designed to capitalise on the pre-Christmas lunch and dinner trade, and it certainly made me aware of the place, but it went on the long list to try once the buzz had died down. The restaurant is also in a premises on a slightly awkward corner of Haddington Road, which used to be a Thai restaurant called Mange Tu that I occasionally had lunch in when I worked off Baggot Street. I never liked the room, which for some reason always felt like eating lunch in a Snap Printing shop. Maybe it was the prominent emergency exit, or the office blinds. Anyway.

I’d volunteered to organise a Saturday-night dinner for some old school friends and assorted other halves, and with a few week’s notice, we thought of Asador as a potential option for some tasty food, drinks and general good times. It got the thumbs up due to its out-of-town location (handy for parking) and the predominantly meat-based offering scored it extra points with the menfolk. We were initially ten when I called to book, and I was told that for groups of ten or more they offered a set menu. They were a bit vague on how compulsory or not the set menu was, and it wasn’t available on their website for us to check out, so I provisionally made the booking and said I’d check with the group and call back if there was any issue with us going with a set menu. Now, as regular readers will know, I’m not a big fan of set menus, and the prospect was even less appealing in a restaurant like Asador where the main attraction is getting to go straight for the grilled stuff, without faffing around with starters or dessert.

So when the week before our night out, I called Asador to reduce our group booking to eight people, I was happy that this would then mean we wouldn’t have to go for a group menu. But, the nice lady informed me that it was actually “groups of eight or more” that now fell under their set menu policy, and not ten as I’d been previously advised. Sigh. I explained that two of the group wouldn’t be eating meat, so therefore a set menu wouldn’t be suitable for them. So after two more phone calls, I received a special dispensation that two people could have the a-la-carte menu, with the rest of us getting the set menu.

Now, I’ll admit to being completely ignorant about the background workings of a restaurant kitchen, but it seemed possibly even more inefficient to me to force six people onto a 3-course set menu (plus the time it takes to serve drinks, teas and coffees) when you are asking them to order and consume it all within a 2-hour window. But I didn’t push it any further, confirmed the booking and we all began looking forward to our night out.

Decor-wise, Asador has made the best of this L-shaped room, which has all but lost its Snap Printing ambience (although that emergency exit is still smack bang in the middle). It’s sleek, bright, and boasts plenty of cream leather and wooden surfaces, as well as the booths from the Mange Tu days.“Theatre is our signature” says the website, but unfortunately our table right inside the door prevented us from seeing any of the theatrics around the grill, as we were overlooking the side of the bar, the table next to us and the restaurant’s waiting area. I had to peer into the kitchen on my way back from the loo (anyone considering a visit would be wise to request a booth or table in the main restaurant area, well away from the front door).

After we’d been seated, there were some rumblings around the table at the fairly limited choice offered by the set menu, which disappointingly for a grill restaurant, had only one steak option on the main course list. I’d been checking out the menu online and loving the sound of the Cote de Bouef for 2 (€55) and the Chargrilled Monkfish (€25), neither of which were featured on the set menu, not surprisingly. And a couple of us really didn’t want to indulge in dessert (I know, I know, our bodies are temples), but there was no 2-course set menu option.

So, I approached the front desk to ask the (admittedly very friendly) hostesses if there was any option for the other six of us to go for the a-la-carte menu, or at the very least if they could offer us an option on the menu which didn’t include dessert, as many restaurants do for set menus or early birds. The hostess said she’d have to go and ask the chef, and went off to the kitchen while I returned to the table, hopeful that we’d be “allowed” to order off the a-la-carte menu without too much fuss.

We were a little gobsmacked to get the very polite response back that unfortunately the chef said we had to stick with the set menu for the rest of the group, and that of course we weren’t obliged to have dessert if we would prefer not to, but it would be the same cost for the set menu without dessert as it was a three course fixed price! Really kind of ridiculous to say “you can pay for dessert and just not eat it,” but at that stage time was ticking on and we were all starving, so we buttoned our lips and made our choices from the set menu.

Thankfully, the experience improved from there once the waiters expertly took over and the wine and food started arriving to the table.

Asador pics

Clockwise from top left: Winter Berry Mojito, Rib-eye steak with crispy onion rings & green salad (instead of chips), Grilled Seafood Platter (for 2), Banoffee dessert (Photo credit: my lazy iPhone photography).

I loved the potted crab starter with cornichons and sourdough toast (or Hipster Toast as I like to call it), although it was a little tricky to scoop out of its trendy little kilner jar. Other starters around the table included some very sticky barbequed chicken wings and a good Gambas Pil-Pil, served Spanish-style in a terracotta tapas dish. Having come determined to have steak, from the set menu my only option was rib-eye, which is served (as are all Asador’s steaks) with your choice of sauces – I went for their smoked Bearnaise and also sampled some other people’s Cafe de Paris (how retro) and Chimichurri, both freshly made and pretty tasty with the barbequed meat. Strangely enough, my rib-eye didn’t taste particularly barbequed, unlike at my favourite meat joint Hawskmoor in London, where you can properly taste the charcoal off the steak (in a good way), but was a delicious piece of meat nonetheless and came covered in a topping of crispy fried onions.

The Asador burger was superb, and those of us on the set menu spent a large part of the meal looking enviously at the non-meat eaters’ Mixed Seafood Platter (€55 between two) which was a plentiful, fresh, selection of squid, hake, cod, mackerel and prawns, cooked very simply on the grill.

An Argentinian Malbec, Trivento “Tribu” Reserve (about €34), was perfect with our mixed range of dishes, and some really great coffees rounded off our meal after desserts, which we decided we might as well sample if we were paying for. In fairness, they were beautifully crafted, from a ‘deconstructed’ Banoffee to the selection of house ice-creams. Oddly, there are no desserts listed on their website, so I can’t remember the rest.

Finally, the service overall deserves a mention. Our waiter was a total professional and there was an army of smartly-uniformed staff constantly bustling around the restaurant, from the front desk to the bar to the kitchen, which is refreshing to see in a time when many restaurants have stripped their staff numbers down to the bare minimum. There was also an enthusiastic bartender shaking his cocktail-maker for all it was worth most of the evening, and his efforts were not in vain as I would return just for his “Cosmo Winter Berry,” (€11).

So, despite the initial hiccups, we enjoyed the evening at Asador, though did it live up to the dreaded hype?

I’d have to say no – hype is a dangerous thing. I’ll probably go back in a smaller group, to try the more tempting dishes on the menu and maybe sample the cocktails again. Brunch at the weekend also sounds like an interesting option.

Asador, Haddington Road, Dublin 2.

http://www.asador.ie

Set menu about €37 pp for 3 courses plus tea/coffee – check with restaurant before booking as the price isn’t on their website.