girl eats dublin

Enthusiastically eating my way around Dublin and beyond.

Category: Healthy options

The Meeting House, Temple Bar.

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Porn Star Martinis at The Meeting House.

Are you looking for a secluded dinner venue where you can whisper sweet nothings into the ear of your new flame? Or carry on a deep and meaningful discussion with your loved one over cocktails?

Then, under no circumstances, should you go to The Meeting House. This new hotspot in the former premises of Eden in Temple Bar resembled a nightclub more than a restaurant, when I first walked through its doors at 8.30 on a Saturday night. Other than the terrace onto Meeting House Square, it looks completely different, bang up to date with industrial-style concrete pillars up to the ceiling, graffiti on the walls and a DJ already banging out the “choons” (is that still what the young people call them?) from early in the evening.

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Having booked ahead earlier in the week, we announced ourselves to the friendly hostess at the door and were invited to take a seat at the bar until our table was ready. As three girls starting a Saturday night out, we were more than happy to perch at the bar, peruse the cocktail menu, admire each others’ hair/handbags etc., and catch up on the gossip. However, we were also starving, and after 20 minutes we’d finished our drinks and there was still no sign of us getting our hands on our table. We ended up waiting 40 minutes at the bar until finally exasperated, I went up to the hostess to see what the likelihood of being seated was.

In fairness to her, she didn’t tell any fibs and immediately admitted to having forgotten all about us. Within minutes, we received a gushing apology, a booth at the window – and a chilled bottle of prosecco on the house. That put a stop to our grumbling, and after that initial mishap, the service was nothing short of super sweet and highly efficient for the rest of the evening.

In a party place like this, the first port of call has to be the cocktail menu, so there we began. My fancy was tickled by the tequila-based “Paloma Faith” and the classic Caipirinha, but it was impossible to pass the “Porn Star Martini” which is the first on the list. Despite the cheeky name, it’s a classy combination of vanilla vodka, passionfruit puree and vanilla sugar, topped with prosecco. Very sweet, but with a great kick, this was one of the better cocktails I’ve had in Dublin lately, and a reason to go back in itself.

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At the same time, we were also getting busy ordering from the extensive food menu. The notion of “Burmese food” may be confusing, or even off-putting for some, so to simplify it, I’d describe it as Asian fusion, served tapas or “sharing” style.

Oh, I’ve ranted about the “small plates” phenomenon before – beloved as it is of many new restaurants, but resulting in an epic swizz in many cases, when you end up paying twice the cost of a normal main course to eat three or four small dishes which don’t even go well together. The exception is that it works well when all the flavours are similar, and it works well here at The Meeting House.

Advised by our lovely waitress to order 2-3 dishes per person depending on our level of hunger, we found that this recommendation was spot on. We were a hungry crew on that evening (well, wouldn’t you be after waiting over half an hour for your table?) so we went for 8 dishes between three of us.

The lighting unfortunately didn’t allow me to take great photos of the food, so all images that follow are filched from The Meeting House’s Facebook page.

Mini Asian burgers and sweet potato fries.

Mini Asian burgers and sweet potato fries.

The food arrived all together and made an impressive spread across our table. The girls shared the 2 mini Asian burgers and were raving about the juicy beef burgers and the rice coconut buns straight away – I didn’t try them myself, but definitely a dish for the list next time. The rest of the dishes were a mixture of the marvellous and the middling – mostly excellent, but with a few that weren’t quite on point.

The one I was most looking forward to, the Tuna Sashimi, didn’t disappoint. Dark and delicious in a soya dressing, it converted even the non-tuna fan at our table. On the other hand, a vegetable tempura was a little too soft and, while the portion was generous, was a little disappointing. A rare steak salad was indeed nice and rare, but bland overall, with an overpowering taste of black pepper. This could be a great dish with better seasoning.

The sides were pretty stellar. One of my favourite dishes on the whole table was the simple sweet potato fries, or “Asian sweet potatoes” as they’re called here. Served with two different dips and coated in ‘secret seasoning,’ they’re a must-order, and the side of Asian greens was also excellent.

A steamed sea bass fillet in fish broth was really juicy and tasty – it made a great healthy option when paired with the Asian greens, and the house chicken coconut curry was declared “divine” by our resident Thai curry aficionado. I’m following a mostly Paleo diet at the moment which means a lot of carb avoidance (and no, Porn Star Martinis don’t count, before you ask) so we passed on the rice dishes, and didn’t miss the carbs at all due to the variety of other dishes and textures on the table.

Delicious Tuna Sashimi.

Delicious Tuna Sashimi.

They’re aiming to give good value here, with all dishes (including the cocktails) priced at 9.99, any 3 for 27, any 4 for 35 etc. We each had change of 50 once we’d paid the bill, which notwithstanding the good cheer provided by the free bottle of prosecco, we agreed was fantastic value for the feast of decent grub and fun atmosphere we’d enjoyed. There was also the lovely touch with our bill of a small bag of home-made chocolate truffles each, on which a voucher was attached for 20% off all food until March 31st (I didn’t get back to avail of it, but a very smart idea).

You have the option to move upstairs to the mezzanine bar area after your meal, but it was getting pretty rowdy up there by the time we finished eating, so we decided on another drink at our table and then moving onto our next destination.

So, if you’re set on a quiet dinner date, this isn’t the spot for you. But if you’re after tasty Asian bites washed down with excellent cocktails, and accompanied by a soundtrack that will have you chair-dancing in your seat while you have your meal, then you should pay The Meeting House a visit. I’d say it’s deservingly going to start giving Saba a run for its money in the group dining/hen party stakes, if it hasn’t already.

The other attraction here is their approach to Sundays, a clever move for what’s a quiet evening for many restaurants. On Sundays at The Meeting House, the pricing gets flipped on its’ head and you can enjoy exactly the same menu (including the cocktails), where everything is 6.66 instead of 9.99.

You’d be tempted to take a Monday off and go for it…Anyone with me?

The Meeting House, Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Phone: +353 (1) 670 3330 or visit their website for menus.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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