girl eats dublin

Enthusiastically eating my way around Dublin and beyond.

Category: Coffee

Blas Cafe, Dublin 1 & Bibi’s, Emorville Avenue.

I remember the days when brunch was a lazy, hungover affair that took place any time after 2pm on a Sunday, and was usually accompanied by a “hair of the dog.” These days, it’s more likely to take place at what I would term “breakfast time”, and be accompanied by the bottles of milk and buggies of those friends who have since grown up and acquired small, giggly, wriggly responsibilities. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

I also had admit to myself recently, that I’d become just a bit set in my brunch ways and needed to try some new places. So, given that “brunch in Dublin” is still one of the most popular search terms leading visitors to this blog, this review brings you two new (or new to me) options for brunch in Dublin that are well worth your patronage of a weekend morning. Unintentionally, they both begin with B!

The counter at Blas Cafe.

The counter at Blas Cafe.

First up, the very family-friendly Blas Cafe, located in the Chocolate Factory building on King’s Inns Street in Dublin 1. If you’re a southside-dweller like me, fear not, this is well worth the trip. Just head for the Cineworld cinema, and you can even park in their car park. The cafe is just down this side street between Bolton Street and Parnell Street – there was also plenty of on-street disc parking available on the day I visited. The Chocolate Factory is a creative working space, home to artists and creative businesses, that feels like still very much a work in progress, and Blas occupies the ground floor.

And what a ground floor. I could see why the friends who selected our brunch venue that day have become regulars here. A huge, airy space filled with large and small wooden tables that offers plenty of space for little feet to run around, and lots of interesting nooks and crannies for them to poke into (or to park a buggy in). There’s even a drum kit art installation – but maybe best to keep them away from that one. On a Saturday morning, sunshine was streaming in through the windows and throwing light on the lovely counter displaying cakes and Wall & Keogh teas, and onto the huge kitchen area. I’d describe Blas as the Fumbally of the Northside, without the queues.

Blas floor

We had a big bench to gather our assorted group of adults and small people around, and it lent itself well to people arriving and ordering at different times. You order at the counter and your food & drinks are brought to the table a short while later.

Fresh from a Pilates class at my “happy place,” Form School that morning, I was determined to keep it healthy, and thankfully there were plenty of options for me to do so. From the simple menu (a little annoyingly, not published anywhere online so I can’t share it with you) I chose the poached eggs with bacon. This came with a delicious portion of homemade baked beans in tomato sauce, two pieces of lean bacon, a plentiful serving of avocado and salad leaves and some sourdough toast. I passed on the toast, but thankfully there were a few hungry little mouths only too delighted to take it off my hands. A hearty brunch or breakfast dish, and fantastic value at just 7.95.

Poached eggs & bacon at Blas, with optional side of Gruffalo.

Poached eggs & bacon at Blas, with optional side of Gruffalo.

The coffee was great, so I had two, and with the second I decided to indulge in a “Paleo” coconut brownie (just like the cavemen used to eat, obviously). But that was unfortunately a little bland, and not worth the calories it inevitably contained. That’ll teach me.

The cafe was pretty empty while we had our brunch, but was starting to fill up around 12.30 or so as we got ready to leave. It currently opens for brunch on Saturdays only, so don’t leave it until Sunday, or you’ll be disappointed.

(While writing this review, I found some more lovely photos of Blas by French Foodie in Dublin, which can be found in her post here.)

The second great brunch experience I had recently was a little more akin to those lazy brunches of old, when my friend the Divine Doctor (she’s going to love that nickname) and I, took a trip across the city centre for a late Sunday afternoon visit to Bibi’s on Emorville Avenue. Just off the South Circular road on a red-brick residential street, Bibi’s has long been a haunt of the Dublin 8 cool crowd, but it had been ages since I’d paid it a visit. What was formerly half clothes shop, half cafe, has been fully transformed into a cafe/restaurant which is now one of the prettiest spaces I’ve eaten in in Dublin.

If you, like me, are a little jaded by the usual french toast and Eggs Benny options of Dublin’s many brunch spots, the weekend menu at Bibi’s is an altogether different kettle of fish. An Ottolenghi-esque roster of ingredients turns out original brunch dishes like Turkish Eggs; Roasted butternut squash & poached eggs; as well as twists on the standard brunch options such as a smoked salmon Eggs Florentine and a sinful-sounding roast ham, Gubbeen cheese and relish pan-fried toastie.

We both settled on the roasted squash with poached eggs, out of pure curiosity.

Bibis 2

Butternut Squash and Poached eggs… I dream of this.

Whoever invented this dish is nothing short of a genius. Covered in garlic yoghurt – YES you read this right, and it is amazing – and drizzled with chilli butter, this was a dish I wanted to order again before I was even halfway through it.

A generous bowl of toasted, fresh sourdough and two tiny dishes of butter was served alongside our egg dishes. I loved the toast being served on the side, rather than the ingredients all being piled on top of the toast as you get in so many restaurants.

Bibis

Having walked to the Poolbeg lighthouse earlier that afternoon, we’d already decided we had earned a treat, and picked the Hazelnut Blondies from the pile of baked treats that had greeted us on walking in the door. These were washed down beautifully by Cloud Picker coffee (I’ve been enjoying a bag from this new Irish micro-roaster at home the last few weeks), and fresh green juices by Sprout. Add to that the veritable flock of the loveliest, friendliest waitresses who attended to our every wish and didn’t rush us when we were sitting there after the other customers had left, and it all added up to make it a most relaxing Sunday afternoon.

So I’ll be adding both Blas and Bibi’s to my weekend haunts from now on, and maybe I should move onto the C’s next. Any suggestions?

Blas Cafe, The Chocolate Factory, King’s Inns Street, Dublin 1. Check out their Facebook page.

Bibi’s, 14A Emorville Avenue, Dublin 8. www.bibis.ie

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Foodgame, South Lotts Road.

foodgame sign 1

There’s a happy triangle of culinary goodness to be found in this little corner of Dublin 4, at the junction of Bath Avenue, Shelbourne Road, and Grand Canal Street.

Not so long ago, your options were limited to a choice of two chippers, or a feed of pints in Slattery’s pub. Then Junior’s arrived on the scene, which seems to be out the door every day and night of the week. Now we have Paulie’s Pizza, the Chop House, and Farmer Brown’s, all feeding the well-heeled locals and the Google Ghetto-dwellers, as well as The Bath Pub giving Slatt’s a run for its money on the pub front (they’ll also serve you a pizza during the week or brunch at the weekend).

But it’s the smallest spot that has stolen my heart, and become my new local, since I moved to the area a few months ago. Foodgame is a tiny cafe on South Lotts Road that’s busy every weekend (and I hear they do a savage lunch during the week), but still feels like a well-kept secret to everyone except the loyal locals who frequent it. It started life a few years ago as part-foodstore, part cafe, but over time has morphed fully into a cafe/restaurant. I got addicted to the coffee first, when all of my weekend jogs or walks gradually started to end up there. Then I came back for the grub… and now I keep going back.

Last Saturday morning, I’d sat down at a table just inside the door, papers in front of me as I waited for my coffee to arrive, when a little girl toddled in with her Dad. She looked around, big smile on her face, and clapped her hands. I knew just how she felt.

Foodgame is somewhere that I’m perfectly happy to go on my own – in fact I kind of prefer to. The communal seating and counter areas in this small space lend themselves to spreading out the papers while you get stuck into your coffee and breakfast.

photo credit - Foodgame

photo credit – Foodgame

I love the simplicity of the menu, which is the same few dishes written on a blackboard and rustled up in the tiny kitchen area. Bacon and eggs, mushrooms on toast, scrambled eggs on toast, omelettes, their homemade granola. Most things come served on their freshly baked brown bread, or toast if you prefer. There aren’t any fancy brunch dishes or “healthy options” on the weekend menu, but I like to think that these beautiful piles of the yellowest eggs and perfectly grilled rashers are clearly made with only the finest of produce, so they can only be good for you. Like my logic? You’re welcome.

Although one exception to this rule may be their totally legendary mushrooms – this pile of buttery garlicky goodness on toast (or as a side with your eggs, if you ask nicely) is worth every single one of the bazillion calories it undoubtedly contains.

I love the staff, who are always friendly, never over-familiar, and intuitively sympathetic to hangovers (not that I ever have one). Annoyingly, none of them look like they eat their own buttery mushrooms – maybe my “good for you” logic is actually true.

I love the small selection of baked things on the counter (my sister & I fought over every last crumb of an orange & polenta cake on a recent visit), the scribbled design of the coffee cups, the clever blackboards outside (usually offering free coffee to whatever poor unfortunate has been in the news that week), and the two tiny tables outside that get the sun in the mornings.

foodgame sign 2

I love it so much, that I’m afraid that by writing about Foodgame I won’t get my favourite seat at the weekend any more (assuming people other than my mother are reading this blog). But I’m risking it, because I reckon they deserve it. You need that coffee, and those mushrooms on toast, in your life.

Foodgame, 10 South Lotts Road, Ringsend, Dublin 4.

Visit their website or their excellent Facebook page for more info and pretty pictures.

My top eats of 2013.

Happy New Year header

Happy New Year! I’ve been a bad blogger since before Christmas with “the day job” taking up most of my waking hours, but my New Years’ resolution is to post one review on this blog, every week of 2014. Hopefully this will be good news to at least some of the readers who have made it so rewarding for me to write about restaurants I visited in Dublin last year.

So, before 2014 gets much older, I thought I’d round up my top 5 eats in Dublin of 2013, including a couple that I never got around to writing about (see busyness excuse above).

1. Las Tapas de Lola

Hands-down my Dublin restaurant of the year. I first reviewed Las Tapas de Lola on the second night they were in business, and wasn’t at all surprised to see them become the most talked-about, written about and queued-up-for restaurant in Dublin this year. Every meal I’ve had at what is now commonly referred to as “Lola’s” has been a joy. Yes, the tapas are amazing (try the chickpeas with spinach, the meatiest of meatballs, the paella with squid ink, and the churros – Oh God, the churros), the surroundings are gorgeous, but it’s the personal touch of every single member of the team at Lola’s that makes every visit so memorable. Whether it’s giving passionate food or wine recommendations, helping to squeeze in “just one more” friend to your table or remembering names and faces of their repeat customers, Vanessa, Anna and their team rock it every time.

2. Restaurant Forty One at Residence

It’s a big statement, but I think the lunch I had at Residence back in August probably stands out as my best single meal of the year. I was also lucky enough to ring in the New Year with dinner there, and the 3-course celebration menu definitely didn’t let down the standard of my earlier visit. But it’s hard to beat the lunch experience for the price, and if your New Years’ resolution is to expand your eating horizons, I’d definitely recommend starting here.

3. Dillinger’s

I’ve been surprised to hear mixed feedback from friends on “the new” Dillinger’s since it reopened after refurbishment earlier this year, as each brunch and dinner I’ve had there in recent months has been fantastic. Even quite aside from the heartache-curing qualities of their superb margaritas, anything I’ve eaten there, from tuna tacos to steak to outstanding French toast at the weekend, has been tasty, fresh, generously-portioned and served up with a smile (usually by someone ridiculously good looking). I just wish they’d bring back the Huevos Rancheros to the brunch menu.

4. Bijou

This Rathgar stalwart, which I’d formerly regarded as a bit too middle-of-the-road to be worth trading in for a dinner in town, was the location of another of my best meals this year when I went for a mid-week local dinner with a friend and was seriously wowed by the food. Bijou had its menu cleverly remodeled under new chef Ian Ussher, offering creative and beautifully presented modern dishes, while still maintaining the midweek specials, brunch and Sunday lunch options that should see them keep their loyal local custom while attracting a new crowd which, like me, may have previously passed it by (Check out their “Meat & Liquor” menu from Mondays-Wednesdays). It’s also rare to find somewhere in Dublin these days that has as good an atmosphere and buzz on a Tuesday night as you’ll see on a Saturday.

Bijou

Featherblade of beef at Bijou, Rathgar.

We were still talking about their Pork Tasting board, feather-blade beef and salted caramel martinis, weeks later. Next time someone’s foolish enough to ask me out for a romantic dinner, this will be my venue of choice.

5. The Black Apple Café

Perhaps an unusual choice for a Top 5 meals, given that I usually have nothing more here than a bowl of porridge or an eggy breakfast, is my new local favourite, The Black Apple Cafe. On my first visit earlier in the year, I got the feeling that this was a lot of other people’s favourite local café too. In a part of Harold’s Cross that you’d only pass by accident, in the middle of a motley row of shops and businesses, you’ll find the lovely team at the Black Apple Café cooking up ridiculously good cakes, breakfasts and the best flat white I’ve had in Dublin. It’s a place I usually visit by myself and a bowl of their porridge with fruit and a perfectly created coffee enjoyed with the paper makes it my “happy place.”

black apple

And, as I feel I’ve neglected to try new places in the last few months, the top five on my hitlist to visit to help accomplish my New Years’ blogging resolution, in no particular order, are:

1. Etto, Merrion Row

2. Kinara Kitchen, Ranelagh

3. Terra Madre, Dublin 1

4. Forrest Avenue, Sussex Terrace

5. Seven Social, Dublin 7.

If you’ve got anywhere else you think I should try, I’d love to hear about it. Thanks for visiting and reading Girl Eats Dublin in 2013 – I promise to be a more regular reviewer in 2014!

Catherine.

161 Cafe & Bistro, Upper Rathmines Road.

I was living a stone’s throw from this place for about six months before I realized that I was spending my Saturday or Sunday mornings trekking (OK, cycling ten minutes) to Ranelagh or town for brunch, when there was a gem on my doorstep. It’s now the place I go when I’m feeling unsociable and want nothing more for company than the paper. The only reason I haven’t featured it in my brunch posts before now is that there are less than twenty seats in the place. Now that I am writing about it, I’ll bleedin’ kill yis all if I can’t get a table the next time I’m hanging for an Eggs Benedict of a Sunday morning.

Café 161 is a tiny restaurant situated in the row of shops on the Upper Rathmines Road that also includes the wonderful Lawlor’s butchers, Connolly’s fish shop, an O’Briens and the institution that is Fothergill’s and their wonderful cakes and baked goodies. Oh, and the obligatory Tesco Express. It’s a great little cluster of specialist stores and a treat to do a little local shopping at the weekend.

cafe161

I’d originally put it down as more of an evening spot, due to their constant advertising of their early bird menu on a sandwich board outside, which I seemed to trip over every time I popped into Tesco for a pint of milk.

It took a friend’s suggestion to have brunch there one weekend to convert me, whereupon I was kicking myself under the table as soon as I had a sip of my giant cappuccino (I actually asked for a “Giant cappuccino,” don’t judge me) and clapped eyes on the fine-looking steak and eggs that I soon found in front of me. I’ve since had a few cracking brunches there – from the Eggs Benedict to the Huevos Rancheros to the French Toast (with chargrilled banana, swoon), all the brunch favourites are on the menu and all under a tenner. For me this is great value, even this far out of town, as the portions are huge. No less than three gloriously fat sausages come with the full Irish, for example, and the ingredients are all clearly of the highest quality – gorgeous yellow eggs, plump roasted tomatoes, fresh salad leaves and glistening hollandaise are all standard at 161. I’m always amazed as to the quality of the food they are turning out of the tiny kitchen here (you’ll see it for yourself as you have to pass through the kitchen to get to the loo!).

Greg, the friendly Kiwi owner, and staff, are always chatty and welcoming, but also perceptive enough to leave you alone if you just want to enjoy a solitary brunch with the paper. The pretty, duck-egg blue decor I’d admired from outside is even prettier inside, although it can feel more cramped than cosy when it’s really busy, and was uncomfortably hot when I visited during our recent heatwave. But I’ll be looking forward to some cosy winter-morning brunches when the weather gets a bit chillier and spinning into town on my bike for Sunday brunch becomes a less appealing prospect. I also really must get around to trying the early bird – €19.50 for two courses has to be a good midweek option.

161 Cafe & Bistro, 161 Upper Rathmines Rd., Dublin 6.
+353 (1) 497 8049
Website | Facebook page

Sip & Slurp, Charlemont Street.

Photo credit: Sip & Slurp on Twitter.

Sip & Slurp is a cute new cafe that’s bringing a home-cooked flair with a hint of cool to a bleak enough location, across from the flats on Charlemont Street (it’s around the corner from the Harcourt Street Luas stop, and within 5-10 minutes walk from both Ranelagh and Rathmines).

I popped in to check it out for a takeaway coffee, but ended up getting lured in by the display of 4 blackboards on the wall behind the counter, which offer a selection of fresh soups, sambos, salads and wraps – everything keenly priced at under a fiver.  I decided to eat in and try their Vietnamese chicken salad (€4.90) with a flat white (€2.30) to test out their coffee credentials, all in the name of research of course…

I took a seat at a bench and had a look around while I waited. It’s a high-ceilinged echo-y space which has clearly been fitted out on a budget, but has some nice design touches too – such as the bench seating, soup cauldrons with hand-written labels (the soups are a big focus here), and the cafe logo stencilled on the wall. I’d heard that the cafe has been started up by a few friends in their 20’s, which would explain the super-friendly attentive people behind the counter and checking in with customers on the floor. There was also a seriously tempting display of baked goodies including scones, caramel squares, banana chocolate cupcakes and home-made granola.

You can combine a soup and a sambo for between €6.90 and €7.50, which I spotted being delivered to tables on wooden boards. What is it about wooden boards replacing plates in Dublin restaurants these days? Anyway…again, a really well-priced, hearty lunch option compared to the coffee chains.

No doubt Sip & Slurp is hoping to benefit from the nearby Harcourt Street coffee and lunchtime office trade. A promotion earlier this week on Twitter offered all coffees for just €1 and was cleverly tweeted @ all the nearby offices and businesses (they’re @sipandslurp on Twitter, by the way).

My chicken salad was zingy, with plenty of chicken, coriander, peppers and chili, maybe lacking a definitively Vietnamese flavour which could be sorted with a few cashew nuts or nuoc cham dressing perhaps (I’d choose these extras over the 2 slices of bread which came on the side), but for €4.90 it was fresh, healthy and filling. My flat white was creamy perfection, clearly made with TLC by someone who knows their coffee. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered another to take out as I was leaving, ensuring an over-excited bounce in my step for the rest of the day.

Flat white & Vietnamese chicken salad.

So if you’re working or living in the area, pop in for a coffee or a sambo and give these guys your support. I’ll be strolling down some weekend soon to try the brunch menu, once that’s up and running.

Sip & Slurp, 67 Charlemont St., Dublin 2.

www.sipandslurp.com