Jun 30, 2016

The Tram Café – All Aboard For Lunch!

IMG_0601I’ve been dying to check out the Tram Café ever since it pulled up to Wolfe Tone Square (the side of Jervis Shopping Centre to you & me). Such a cool idea, there was much fanfare when the tram first arrived. Well, I gotta say I wasn’t disappointed today. Dad was the perfect lunch date, being something of a transport buff (train spotter) himself. Stepping on board the tram is just brilliant. I don’t know why!

IMG_0549Our super-friendly waiter showed us to our seats. All are window-side, needless to say, with booths and roundy tables for two. There’s a counter at the back, behind which the kitchen busies away. Lovely cakes were on display, always a winner with me! A nice spot for tea & cake (duly noted), but we had arrived with rumbling bellies. The lunch menu includes a daily soup and hotpot and a daily special sandwich.

IMG_0559Dad went for the soup and sambo combo; Broccoli and Kale Soup with a Dubliner toasted sandwich on granary with chicken, cheese, caramelised onion and grapes. A grand big bowl of rustic soup arrived, the stuff of a hearty lunch. I ploughed through a good wedge of toasted Focaccia filled with goat’s cheese, sundried tomato, rocket and basil pesto, with a delish mini superfood salad on the side.

IMG_0555I’d go as far as saying it’s the best sandwich I’ve had in Dublin in a while. In terms of quality ingredients, value and service, the Tram Café is bang on. There’s plenty of places where you’d part with good money for a ropey old sambo and a crappy coffee. Here you get great food at a fair price, with gorgeous smiley staff to boot. The buzzy atmos is not just down to the tram itself. It’s a well thought out concept.

IMG_0558The beautiful vintage tram has a story of its own, of course. Found in a field in Cavan, lovingly restored by Dave and John and brought to Dublin in all its shiny retro nostalgia, the Tram Café evokes a bygone era. No generic Starbucks fit-out here. The emerald green exterior, wood panelling, soft lighting and 1920s music all make for a glamorous, old skool experience. It’s such a nice escape from modrin life.

IMG_0609The tram was built in 1902 by Brill in Philadelphia and spent most of it’s working life in Lisbon, Portugal. There’s a deadly photo story of the tram’s refurbishment inside, so you can follow the journey from ruin to former glory. There’s seats outside too, so there’s plenty of room for everyone. This particular part of Town is not known for it’s rich culinary landscape, so the Tram Café is a welcome addition.

www.thetramcafe.com / The Tram Café, Wolfe Tone Square, Dublin 1

Jun 16, 2016

Joyce & Rebellion – Dublin on Bloomsday

ReadingIt was a day of threatening rain, that didn’t quite bucket down as expected. But the gloomy clouds above did nothing to dampen the city spirit below. Wandering around were all sorts of wonderful characters. Bowler hatted gents, straw boatered chaps, flapper girls, meringue hatted ladies and modern day Molly Blooms. I’ve been mingling with these types around Town all week, but today we joined in the fun!

Bloomsday Festival guide in hand, our first stop was St Andrews on Westland Row. My church. A holy place neither breath taking nor dull, but imposing if only on the inside. Most folk scurry past this impressive building every day on their journey home via Pearse Street Station. St Andrews is not an intimate church, so its size lent itself perfectly to the concert Joyce & Rebellion: A Musical Journey.

St Andrews is one of the many Dublin landmarks immortalised in Joyce’s Ulysses. The programme evoked times gone by with a beautiful mix of song, music, poetry and story. And of course history. St Andrews’ association with the 1916 Rising is celebrated by an exhibition at the church, well worth a visit. Joyce & Rebellion: A Musical Journey reminded us of the heart and courage of local men and women.

Hosted by Elizabeth Watson and Jean Monahan, the pews were filled by plenty of well dressed Joyce enthusiasts. None under 40… Opened with a reading of Thomas Moore’s The Minstrel Boy, by Carmel Heapes, then Moore again, Silent O’Moyle, read by Connie Murray, both accompanied by Carole O’Connor at the ivories. Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile was performed by Greenore Community Choir.

JoyceIt really took me back to a time (the 1980s!) with my Granny and Grandad O’Shea. Being in their tiny kitchen singing old songs. The fire blazing, the wireless humming in the background. A big pot of stew brewing on the stove. Tea for the adults, lemonade for us. Grandad with the toasting fork (hot buttered toast…) in one hand and a billowing Woodbine in the other. Granny standing, stirring, chatting.

Down by the Glenside sung by Jean Monahan, followed by George Smith and Simon Heapes’ performance of The Rising of the Moon and The Wearing of the Green. Catherine Byrne read W.B. Yeats September 1913. More memories! School, this time. Too young we were to appreciate anything at all… Of course I remember these poetic rhymes, learned by heart, but how they really speak to me now.

Simon Heapes took to the stage (or altar) once again with Love’s Old Sweet Song. We helped him, nowhere near his tenor, but enjoying it all the same. He was joined by George Smith, belting out A Nation Once Again, with all of us on hand once again. Catherine Byrne brought us more Yeats with The Song of Wandering Aengus. Historical tales of our 1916 heroes knitted together the songs and prose.

George Smith sang Grace, Carmel Heapes read Pearse’s The Mother and Connie Moore sang The Last Rose of Summer. It truly was an escape from the commercial, digital world we live in today. In fact, my iPhone had run out of juice, I didn’t even have to worry about capturing shots. Just being free of technological distraction for a few hours… It’s so relaxing! How art did thrive before Twitter tyranny.

AltarTo My Daughter Betty by Thomas Kettle was told heartfelt by Carmel Heapes, Oft in the Stilly Night performed by Simon Heapes. The final curtain at St Andrews; all three, Simon Heapes, George Smith and Connie Murray with Carole O’Connor on piano, as throughout, in a roof-raising rendition of The Holy City. We were invited up to encore, us fellow Joyceans, and linked arms with Love’s Old Sweet Song.

The concert was free. It was absolutely excellent. Thanks to the St. Andrews Church Choir and St. Andrews Church Heritage Working Group. And, of course, the hugely talented performers. Nobody my age really goes inside a church these days, unless for a wedding, christening, communion or funeral. Not a regular Mass goer, I pop in for solace from the city. And music. And exhibitions. And fun!

Back out into the light of day, dark as it was, we sailed past Kennedy’s, spying the Bloomsday brethren within. We popped in last time, for a wicked performance by the bold Rose Lawless, doing Molly Bloom to only the flawed perfection she can. This time we were in want of tea, not ale, (’twas only midday!) so we tucked ourselves in at cosy café Tri Via, on Lincoln’s Place. A great people watching spot.

Indeed, as we put away delicious homemade muffins, brownies and croissants, did we see a certain Senator, dressed to the nines cane and all, approach Sweny’s next door. David Norris is a familiar face to all Bloomsday patrons and a huge supporter of the Irish arts. Cameras clicked as he swept in and out of another fabled Ullyses stop. Sweny’s Pharmacy is now an olde worlde bookshop and Joyce museum.

Tri ViaIn we went, events sure to unfold. There was a stall outside doing lemonade and madeleines and plenty of vintage fillies and gents milling about. And the scent of lemon soap filled the air. But an impromptu reading from the Dubliners meant we were in luck with perfect timing. A Scottish man, whose name I do not know, gave a swaggering version of a chapter’s events. It was really very, very cool.

A bar of brown paper wrapped lemon soap in the bag we made our way up into Temple Bar, my neighbourhood. This culture vulture lark is hard work, so we broke off to the Porterhouse for a bit of footie action. England v Wales. It’s a top spot for pub grub. We polished off Scampi, Piri Piri Chicken Sandwich and Mixed Veggies all with lovely fluffy chips and a pint each. Oyster Stout for me. Very nice!

Meeting House Square was next on the agenda, for Bloomsday Readings with Keelin Shanley. The journalist and broadcaster was joined by various Irish actors, writers and musicians for another gratis gig. I’ve been known to listen from my bedroom, which looks onto Meeting House Square, in the past. I can catch bands at the Olympia from here too! The square was filled with Joyceans, old and young.

Roisin Ingle, of the Irish Times, was on the stage as we approached. There were hearty performances from Colm O’Gorman, Domini Kemp and, you guessed it, Senator David Norris. We segwayed into the National Photographic Archive to mix up our rebels with our rascals once again. The exhibition, Rising, is free entry (can you see a theme here?) and documents the events in and around the day.

Davy ByrnesBlack and white images of the destruction done to Dublin, the bravery of young Irish men and the effect on the everyday lives of locals are just fascinating. It’s hard to believe it was only 100 years ago… A walking tour of the exhibition is available, but we were happy to take it all in ourselves. I’ll be back with Himself, who’s a big history buff. And we do live next door! Mama and Papa certainly enjoyed it, too.

We were done by now. Off they went, Mother and Father, to Grafton Street, and up to Davy Byrne’s for one last nod to James Joyce. Bloomday is fast becoming one of the city’s most celebrated events, with Bloomsday Festival running events throughout the week. It’s great craic and I always find Townie friends out and about. Next year, Madre and me have promised to dress up! Or don a hat at least…

www.bloomsdayfestival.ie

May 22, 2016

Fab Food Trails – Dublin Coffee Experience

IMG_0334Disclaimer: I’m a tea drinker. A nice cup of Barry’s & I’m good to go! So it was straight from the frying pan into the fire when I signed up for Fab Food Trails’ brand new Coffee Trail. What was I thinking? Well, that Dublin now has a vibrant coffee scene, new cafes are popping up all over the shop & that Irish people have finally grown up & become serious coffee drinkers. And I want me a slice of that pie!

IMG_0251So what’s all the fuss about? What exactly is this “good coffee” that’s taking over our Old Town? Fab Food Trails, Dublin’s foremost food tasting experience, have done all the hard work, so all I have to do is turn up & find out. We were met by our guide, Aoife McElwain, coffee enthusiast & head honcho at forkful.tv, on the famous steps of Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. Bright, but not yet bushy-tailed…

IMG_0362First stop was Brother Sister, just inside the secret entrance to Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. This little coffee booth has been doing a sterling trade since opening last year. Toure Kizza & his sister Yvonne know their beans. We kick-started with a shot of Mojo (Artisan Coffee Roasters) Palestina. Hand-roasted Colombian beans with a chocolate, liquorice, red berries vibe. But, what would I know?

IMG_0260Enter Aoife, stage left, to pick up where Toure left off. Our guide gently steered us into the Pepper Pot Café, as we sipped away, taking in a history of the Georgian Townhouse as we went. The lovely folks at the Pepper Pot, who recently won Best Café in Dublin at the Irish Restaurant Awards, served up freshly baked mini-scones. With raspberry jam & cream. Ambassador… A real Friday morning treat!

IMG_0259Meanwhile, Aoife explained the ins & outs of a thriving Dublin coffee scene. It all kicked off, not that long ago, with Ariosa Coffee Roasting Co, one of Ireland’s first small batch speciality coffee roasteries & Karl Purdy at Coffeeangel, who started out in his coffee cart on Howth Pier. Since then we’ve had 3fe, Roasted Brown, Vice and a whole host of Dublin coffee specialists, roasters & taste-makers.

IMG_0295Basically we’ve come a long way from Nescafe. Or Starbucks… Aoife tells us how the World Barista Championship, being held in Dublin this year, has made an honest career of coffee-making. It’s the new cocktail shaking! Skerries man Stephen Morrissey, who started out in Bewley’s, is the current world champion, and cites quality Irish milk and water as being central to our ability to make top notch coffee.

IMG_0263The concept of coffee as a nerdy hobby, much like the craft beer scene, came about, says Aoife, after the recent Recession. Folk simply want more bang for their buck. Hence the impressive crop of cafes, coffee shops and delis popping up around Town in the last five years. A soggy hang sandwich just won’t do. Same with coffee. It’s a lifestyle thing. Something that the urban young Irish are truly embracing.

IMG_0274And none more so than Kaph, on Drury Street. Surely, Dublin’s hippest coffee spot. In we go, to be greeted by self-proclaimed Trendy Fecker, Steve. It’s all plaid shirts, bushy beards, beanies & NHS specs in here. Steve, as well as being a fine barista, is actually a very funny lad to boot. He keeps us entertained while serving a totes delish Noisette. A creamy Espresso with hot milk expertly swirled in.

IMG_0277Steve gives us a detailed break-down of all the different coffee beans available around the world. It really is fascinating. Who’da thunk it? My last foray into proper coffee (I’m not including the occasional milky latte) was in Jamaica, where I sampled Blue Mountain coffee, one of the most expensive in the world. Yes, it was quite tasty! Well, anyway, Steve brought us from Arabica to Robusta & back again.

IMG_0266For those coffee anoraks reading, Kaph’s own choice of bean changes on a regular basis. They like to keep it fresh & get whatever’s best in season. With coffee supplied by 3fe & Has Bean, it’s gonna be good! Not to mention milk specially sourced from a dairy in Carlow. No wonder there’s always queue outside the door… Aoife manages to get us out after a nice sit down & through Georges Street Arcade.

IMG_0289The Good Food Store on South Great Georges Street was next up. Love this place! The food, the vibe, the staff. It’s all good. It was time for more bites, both sweet & savoury, in order to soak up the coffee. The GFS sausage roll. Not something that would normally pass my lips, being somewhat of a flexitarian (I know, I know) who leans 95% veggie. But I’m willing to break the rules for this bad boy. Hot & flaky!

IMG_0322Time for more coffee… Roasted Brown, on Curved Street, in Temple Bar. Just around the corner from my gaff & one of my regular writing haunts. It’s big, airy & perfect for avoiding domestic distractions (cleaning the house), when deadlines loom. Ferg Brown is the man from Japan here. A legend on the Dublin coffee scene, Ferg’s journey to Roasted Brown brought him from Oz to New Zealand to London.

IMG_0327Having perfected his barista skills at the Happy Pear, in his hometown Greystones, ran his coffee cart around Ireland’s summer festivals & completed a coffee roasting course in London, it was a phone call from 3fe’s Colin Harmon that resulted in today’s Roasted Brown empire. Ferg now roasts his own beans in Delgany & has just opened Laine My Love, on Talbot Street, a cheeky little sister to Roasted Brown.

IMG_0324It becomes clear that fellas like Ferg Brown & Colin Harmon (whose name popped up more than once throughout the walk) are responsible for the deadly coffee we now have in Dublin. Roasted Brown served us a trio of single origin Kenyan done three ways. Yikes! Ferg recommends that we spray the coffee around our mouths (ooh er, missus…). There’s Espresso, with milk & filtered. All totally different.

IMG_0337By this stage we’re all a bit jittery, to say the least. So, Aoife brings us across the Millennium Bridge for a little jaunt. The in-between walking bits of the trail are a great way to get to know my fellow coffee buddies. Aoife points out a few of Dublin’s many quirks as we make our way Northside. As a native, Fab Food Trails opened me up to local things old & new, but for visitors it’s a rather cool intro to Dublin.

IMG_0364We finally wound up in the pub. But not as you know it! Wigwam (formerly Twisted Pepper) on Middle Abbey Street doubles up as the very slick Vice Coffee Co by day. I’m already high on caffeine, so perching on a tall stool at the bar is no sweat. I love the mood of this place. Dark & interesting. And the idea of midday coffee cocktails was calling my name out loudly! Iced Irish coffee with a twist. Yes Sir!

IMG_0352Vice’s barista extraordinaire, Tom Stafford, is on hand to tell us the final chapter in Dublin’s coffee story. With Vice lined up to host an after-party for the World Barista Championship, Tom & the team have been experimenting with a series of different coffee cocktails. We were willing guinea pigs! Featuring a portfolio of coffee from 3fe, Roasted Brown, Square Mile and more, Vice can work magic in a cup.

IMG_0370Tom shakes up a gorgeous blend of coffee, ice, Teeling & Kilbeggan whiskies. And tips it all into a Champagne saucer, topped with froth & finished with coffee beans. So simple. So scrumptious! Tom even whipped up an alcohol-free Cascara cocktail for Aoife, who was in need of serious refreshment. Thankfully, she could finally retire from talking while Tom filled us in on the upcoming coffee event.

IMG_0377According to Tom, there’ll be over 10,000 people in Dublin for the World Barista Championship (22 to 25 June), with many fringe events taking place across the city. Including the AeroPress Championship at Vice / Wigwam. Tom reckons that all the big coffee stars will be in Town. He then pulled out a box of Dublin Doughnut Company treats, a sweet surprise to end our morning. Fluffy clouds of sugary dough.

IMG_0373My legs were like jelly by the time I got home, a hop, skip & a jump away. And I was on air (what caffeine crash?) after so many lush coffees. All lovingly made, with the best ingredients. These coffee guys are a credit to the Dublin foodie scene. Thanks to Fab Food Trails I’ve had a proper intro to the black stuff. Now I know what everyone’s so excited about. Especially our super-talented baristas!

www.fabfoodtrails.ie

Apr 9, 2016

The Holiday – Short Story

four-friends21 years. It seemed like a lifetime ago to Jane McCarthy. Class of ’95. It had been a long hot summer, which of course, had begun on the first day of the Leaving Cert. Jane hadn’t revised a jot. Nothing new there. But she’d been confident about her final exams, nonetheless. She’d her portfolio done and already had her place in a London art college.

All she had to do now was get her A in art and she’d be away. School didn’t worry Jane. She went when she felt like it. Sometimes did her homework. Jane McCarthy certainly wasn’t afraid of any teachers. Not even the head nun, Sister Eileen. She’d be free as a bird after the Leaving. Next stop London!

Well, after the holiday that was. The four of them had booked flights to Malaga via London. It was madness really, Jane reflected. Herself, her best mate Sarah and Sarah’s friends Maeve and Laura. Three weeks in Torremolinos. Three weeks! God, they must have loved themselves… That was a helluva lot of babysitting money.

Long before the days of cheap Ryanair flights, so they’d found themselves flying Dublin to Heathrow, tubing across rush hour London, suitcases and all, to Gatwick, finally landing in Spain a day later. How their parents had allowed it Jane would never know. Not that her own parents had ever said no…

How life had changed. They were all married now. Jane only recently. She and her new husband, Kevin, had eloped to Las Vegas. Not for her the big puffball meringue wedding. Jane had always marched to the beat of her own drum. They’d had a big party when they’d got back. No first dance, no cake, no madness. Just great music and delicious food.

Jane and Kevin had suited themselves just fine. Sarah was already married five years, with three under five. And another on the way! Maeve had had a spectacular wedding in a castle, as befit a judge’s daughter. She had two little boys. And Laura was in Scotland, married with a baby.

Jane was the only one not a member of the Mummy Club. All of the girls from school were kidded up now. Some even had teenagers! It was a funny thing, really. Jane reckoned that if you asked the mothers, they’d definitely say that nothing had changed. In terms of frendship. But from Jane’s point of view, everything had changed. You were either in or you were out. And she was out.

The exclusivity of the Mummy Club wasn’t even something subtle. It was a red line. Jane wasn’t that bothered by it, not in a chip on your shoulder way. She was just aware of it. As a reality, more than anything. But, Jane absolutely adored her friends’ kids.

The hoilday had come too soon after a heavy summer of first loves, drunken nights and freedom from school. It would be college, and life itself, once they returned. Not that any of the four of them realised it at the time. Those were the days when life just happened.

Arriving into Torre, on a balmy August night, past the London Boys nightclub on the corner and into the cool confines of Maeve’s grandparents apartment, they’d finally set down their luggage after an epic journey. Jane had a bought a shimmery pink triangle bikini in Accessorise at Gatwick Airport. She and Sarah laid out their summer clothes on twin beds.

As they lay in the dark calm, Jane and Sarah could hear Maeve and Laura giggling next door. What followed was three blissful weeks of laughter, sunbathing, shopping, eating, swimming, relaxing, drinking and chatting. Nobody made Jane laugh as much as Sarah could.

Sarah would only have to whisper one of their in-jokes – “Duty-free goods for you?” – and Jane would nearly wet herself laughing at Sarah’s high pitched mockery. That one was for the orange Essex girl air hostess they’d had on the chartered flight to Malaga. The first of many mad characters encountered on the holiday. Luckily, they’d all been on the same wavelength.

Mr. Marchioct, the ridey waiter in their local bar. Tights Man, the old guy wearing, erm, just tights. George McFly, Mr.M’s nerdy colleague who’d assumed they’d come to the bar for him. Once, they’d attracted a bunch of frisky French boys, and Jane joked – “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi dans la mer?”. They’d nearly chased her into the sea.

Or the time a greasy English club tout had almost whisked them into a grotty niteclub with a promise of endless shots. Or when they’d gone to Marbella and managed not to find the beach… And the Godfather! An ancient Italian lothario who’d managed to hook up their pedalo to his powerboat.

Jane smiled at the sheer innocence of them. The totally ridiculous scrapes they’d got into. They’d practically run out of cash by the third week. Lunch was a bag of patatas fritas. And a beer. When they’d first gone to the local bar, George McFly had brought them a round of San Miguel instead of the Pina Coladas they’d ordered. The pigeon Spanish that had ensued…

But the cocktail money was long gone now. And somehow the girls had managed to still get along. Inspite of Jane having her moments. Of parents fretting down the phone (not hers). And of the eventual trip home. A journey from hell, involving planes, trains, boats and tears.

Jane had gone straight to London, afterwards. Sarah to UCD, Maeve to DIT and Laura to Edinburgh Uni. The intervening years had seen them dipping in and out of each other’s lives. 21st birthday parties, crazy nights out, first boyfriends. Then 30th birthdays, weddings, first babies. And now Jane’s 40th. Married, but still no baby…

She and Sarah had shared a flat in Town at one stage. They’d been on several more holidays together. The time they’d been played by a couple of waiters in Majorca. Or when they’d got chased by a randy old goat in a market in Crete. Terrfying, but they’d never laughed so much. Nobody got Jane like Sarah did.

Their friendship had survived plenty of ups and downs. Jane’s five years in London. Sarah moving out of the flat in Town. They had both found new soulmates in their husbands. And it was wonderful, especially for Sarah to see Jane finally settling down. God knows Jane had tangled with enough fucking idiots over the years.

Jane had been delighted when Sarah had her first little one, Megan. Then suddenly, everyone started having babies. They were all so adorable. Jane loved playing with other people’s babies. Cuddling them, comforting them. But it really hadn’t occured to Jane to have her own baby. She was not a Mummy.

They’d been the same all those years ago. The four of them. Starting out in life. Jane had almost dismissed the Mummy Club as being all in her mind, until recently. She’d gone to Arklow for Megan’s birthday party. Sarah was glad of the help, she was in her third trimester. Jane had enjoyed decorating the house, with the three girls following her every move.

It was when the other kids arrived… And the Mums. Jane had felt like a spare part. She’d sat down and got on with painting the kids’ faces. It was only when Sarah had rolled her eyes at Jane’s silly games, that she’d realised the truth. Would Jane McCarthy ever join the Mummy Club?

 

Mar 3, 2016

Gallaher & Co Bistro – Afternoon Tea!

GallaherI bet you didn’t know that Gallaher’s on D’Olier Street does Afternoon Tea? Me neither! Until, that is, a very good pal kindly gave me a birthday present of one. Afternoon Tea for Two including a glass of fizz each. Lovely jubbly! It was, in fact, one of those Deal Rush jobbies. Which, I had read on Trip Advisor, Gallaher’s are very good about. Some places get shirty… You know yourself!

So, we rocked up of a rainy Thursday. Afternoon, of course. Me & Padre. Twas his birthday too, not long after mine. So as a fellow cake fan, he was duly invited. We popped into The Screen cinema next door to say goodbye, as they were shutting up for good on the Sunday (sob). I always used to go there when I lived in Ringsend long ago. All good things must come to an end…

Now Gallaher & Co is very smart place. Located in D’Olier Chambers, it wraps around the corner to neighbouring Hawkins Street. It always looks so inviting, when I’m passing, but the view is even nicer from inside. Panoramic windows allow us to see all of Dublin going by. Sounds cray cray, but I love watching buses, people & life itself just moving. The pulse of Dublin City.

cake 2Now, to the main event. We were brought a generous glass of Domini Prosecco Frizza each. Cheers! And a lovely lad explained how the set-up worked. We were getting cakes, scones & a choice of three sandwiches between us. We went for oak smoked salmon on homemade brown bread, free range egg on sourdough fingers & chicken lemon zucchini wrap. Bring it on, John!

Everything arrived on a traditional three tiered porcelain cake stand. So far, so good. Gallaher’s Afternoon Tea is more than a few pretty amuse bouche. This is proper scran! The sandwiches are cut into four, making twelve to share. Currant scones are big warm fluffy numbers, accompanied by cream & mixed berry compote (Ambassador!). I would have gone the whole fat bastard & had butter too…

Everything was rustic, homemade, both in looks & taste. Nothing fancy pants here! I loved the free range egg, which came with slivers of pickled cucumber & chive mayo. Dad enjoyed the chicken wraps, what with me being some class of a vegetarian (95% & then some…). We both milled the oak smoked salmon. Happy days! And so, most importantly, to the cakes. Size matters at Gallaher’s!

sandwichCarrot cake (cake of the day), madeira cupcakes with cream, lemon tart, mini macaroons & shortbread biscuits. It has to be said, we were struggling at this stage, but soldier on we did… One Afternoon Tea would actually do between two! Here’s my expert cake analysis; Carrot cake was meh. Too dry. Cupcakes were freakin’ delish. Like Mum makes. Macarons, nuff said. Lemon tart was, um, tart.

The shortcakes were squirreled into a napkin and handbagged for Him Indoors later (I ate them). We were done in by now. I must say, it was such a lovely treat. Nice & quiet (I can imagine this place buzzing too), we had a great chinwag in peace, when we weren’t stuffing our chops. Gallaher’s certainly don’t scrimp. It’s not a posh Afternoon Tea but it’s very tasty indeed. And fizz always helps. Yes, Sir!

Before I forget… A nice big pot of tea each too. With two teabags! Gets my vote. I was pleasantly surprised by Gallaher’s. Dinner is next on the agenda. This joint does a nice line in steaks & hearty bistro-fare. The breakfast looks like something the Bloke would make short work of. Gallaher’s do breakfast, lunch, brunch, pre-theatre, prix-fixe & a la carte. They also do BYOB. What’s not to love?

Gallaher & Co Bistro & Coffee House, D’Olier Chambers, D’Olier Street, Dublin 2 / Tel – 01 6770499 / info@gallahersbistro.com

 

Feb 11, 2016

Silver Boots… A Life in Style

Silver platforms - CopyI want them, I need them, but there ain’t no way… Silver boots. For my 40th birthday? Hell yeah! Or no way Hose? There comes a time in every woman’s life when she must put away her childish things. For some it’s buying a house. Others, getting married. Most, having kids. Me, turning 40! There’s a new sheriff in Town & it’s my older, (slightly) wiser self. The big sister I never had (or wanted). Anyway, she talks more sense than I ever did… So it’s “Non!” to silver boots.

I saw them in the window of Buffalo only last week. Came home & told my husband. Rookie mistake. Eyebrows were raised. Laughter was stifled. “You’ll end up looking like that Mad Oul Wan with the crazy paintings on Merrion Square”. Indignant, I stroke my fun fur leopard coat. The time has come. So soon… I stare down at my shiny black leather Chelsea boots. He’s right. There’s a fine line. I open my wardrobe. The sequins, the statements, the madness… Everything must go!

shopaholicI’ve always known this was coming, so last New Year I got the ball rolling. Several black bags straight on down to Age Action, never to be seen (by me) again. Bubblegum pink 1960s Babydoll dresses, Granny’s curtains 1970s Maxi dresses, electric blue metallic platforms, gold knee-high Wonder Woman boots, patchwork corduroy Baker Boy hats… Buh bye! Clothes I’d lovingly collected over the years; worn to gigs, parties, dates. Even work! Alas, I’m too vintage for Vintage. Sigh…

Ah, glory days! So, before I say a fond farewell to the rest, a trip down fashion memory lane… Aged 0 to 5, as a child of the 70s, I wore a fetching mixture of brown pinafores, anything made of floral sofa material, mustard cable-knit cardies & homemade woolly bobble hats. We also lived abroad in a hot country, during which time I wore just pants & armbands. Stylish! Up to age 10 it was all novelty ankle socks, Mickey Mouse watches & neon pink polyester Kylie Minogue sweaters.

MadonnaThen followed a tres shady Tween grey area of finding one’s fashion feet. I had an old Singer sewing machine by now… We’re talking homemade rah-rah skirts with matching Fergie bows (remember?), a t-shirt with “Madonna is Cool” written with one of those glitter fabric pens, liberal use of diamante & studs, plastic clip-on earrings & my first pair of high heels. And my first lipstick. I can still taste that synthetic pink gloop. So, basically the same gear I was running up for my Barbies.

Secondary school changed everything. First I tried to keep up with the Joneses. Whatever the popular girls were wearing, I had to have it. My Mother was tormented keeping up with trends. Levi’s sweatshirts, Converse, tie-dyed t-shirts, khaki bomber jackets. Next thing… Rebellion! I started buying records. Then began the snakeskin boots, velvet blazers, second-hand purple flares, Morrissey t-shirts. Topped off with Bjork buns, blonde streaks and a complete disregard for school.

LifeMe and my best mate went to gigs every night of the week. Suede, Pulp, Blur, Radiohead, Nirvana, Elastica, Oasis. We mitched off to catch the Manics in Cork, even though we’d just seen them at the Tivoli. I have a vivid memory of the pair of us lusting after serious Rock Chick trousers in ASHA. Silver PVC for me, tartan bondage for her. We’d visit them every week, our baby-sitting money getting closer, but for our pesky record buying habits. We never did get them in the end…

I was 19 when London called. Art School. Parties. Days in bed. Going up the West End. I hated it as much as I loved it. A curious phase of collecting dolls & wearing pink plastic platforms, with a Barbie backpack, melded with a spell of serious clubbing. I was lonely for my friends back Home, yet doing things I would never have done at UCD. I took a second bite at London after finishing college in Dublin, this time all lip gloss & tight jeans. Aged 22, I was King of the World. And then some!

TopshopBlonde & yoga-toned, I worked in a gym & wore my jeans painted on. I had the arms for vests & the nerve for killer heels. Living with five other girls (and, at one stage, two blokes & a dog) in Central London, we’d start in the flat & end up down Soho, in Camden or Shepherd’s Bush. Shopping for Saturday night, I’d hit Topshop Oxford Circus, at the bottom of our street. Loud dance music pumped through it’s floors. Portobello Market & Covent Garden were regular haunts.

Eventually London moved on, and so did I. Back to Dublin. The wilderness years of my late 20s followed. What was I going to  with my life? I lived with my parents for a bit, working lots of silly little jobs. Did writing classes, wrote plenty of fiction. Got into astrology. Started learning French again. Went to music festivals. Partied just as much as ever, only now with hangovers. Wore combats, slogan t-shirts. Adidas Superstars. Cut my hair off. Got a bit fatter. Lost my mojo big time…

Night FeverI wondered if I should return to England. Not London, maybe Brighton? It’s funny, when you’re 30 you think “This is it… if I don’t sort my life out now, I’m fucked!”. For my birthday I had a 1970s disco at my parents’ place (always a party house). Music, lights, glitter. Everyone got dressed up. I drank Babycham & got sick. It was class! But the Celtic Tiger had arrived, roaring madly. My mates got mortgages, careers got real. Folk even got married. But, I was unemployed & living at home…

Then a random phone call. A typing test? A job interview. My first office job. It lasted nearly five years. I got a place in Town. I was workin’ 9 to 5, doing a Journalism degree at night. Still living like it was 1995. Shopping was one of my fave pastimes & the office was my catwalk. I’d do Grafton Street late-nite Thursday, pop into TK Maxx on Saturday morning & browse the Dublin Flea Market, around the corner from my flat, of a Sunday. I loved the Sales. And I adored Vintage.

GirlsMy Boss would ask me, over the phone, “What are you wearing today?”. He hated City Shorts, so I wore them. And silk Pussy Bow blouses with a slick 1970s flared jumpsuit. A black peplum mini dress with a leopard top, fishnets & red t-bar shoes (a colleague thanked me for wearing “Ann Summers” to work). A lilac polyester 1960s dress with cravat & balloon sleeves. Sunshine yellow heels with a green pencil skirt. Heidi plaits with diamante hair slides. Wool suits & knee-high boots.

One day I wore a floaty silk dress. Nothing unusual there. I showed a couple of Big Wig clients to the boardroom, got them some tea. Then clocked my rear-view in the Ladies. Garishly patterned Pink Panther boy-shorts screamed for attention underneath the see-thru fabric. I’d gotten dressed in the dark. A lunchtime dash to M&S for a more subtle pair of work knicks. And a slip! It wasn’t the first or last time I left too little to the imagination… I really don’t know how I got away with it.

TypingRedundancy. I’d graduated by now & decided to give my writing career a go. I had no choice. The Recession was at full tilt & there was no chance of a job. Over the last five years I’ve had gigs as a Costume Assistant in films, Commercial Copywriter, Proof Reader, Shop Manager, Social Media Content. Wrote plenty of fiction. Still not published. And I Love Saturday, of course. I was skint, but I still managed to socialise like crazy. I met lots of new friends & certainly didn’t settle down.

Any clothes money was spent in Oxfam. Granny chic. I filled out again & covered my cushioned tush with floral chiffon dresses, cashmere cardies, an electric blue wool cape from Avoca (second-hand). Red cowboy boots, Kate Betts hats, rainbow silk scarves, stripy tights. My wardrobe, although organised (sometimes), was like a jumble sale. I was losing my edge. Sometimes I looked put together; more often thrown together. I longed to live in a minimalist hotel room, with zero stuff.

HepburnBut, then I met my husband & moved to our one bedroom loft in Temple Bar. I won’t lie, we’re both messy. We binned a load of things. There’s still too much. Most of my clothes are at Home (sorry Mom & Dad). Lying dormant in a Sliderobe prison. I’ve lost the lard (again!) & I’m ready to wear these clothes. However, I’ve moved on… I’ve never been a “classic” dresser. I always loved clothes that made me laugh (I know). So, a more mature image is in order, no doubt about it… Let the cull begin!

I’ve read Marie Kondo’s best seller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying”. Yes indeed. The Madame Chic series by Jennifer L Scott also speaks to me; I have all three books. Today I picked up Stylist Annmarie O’Connor’s “The Happy Closet”. Mindful dressing. I like! And a pair of black Lee skinny jeans (birthday present to self). No silver boots… And no idea what my brand new look is gonna be, but as the Konmari Method promises; it will Spark Joy. Here goes nothing… *opens wardrobe*

May 20, 2014

Mushashi – Urban Dining

I’d been told about Mushashi on Capel Street by a couple of townsfolk. Best noodles in Dublin, appara. Me & the Bloke breezed in off the street on a Sunday evening only to find the place heaving. Business as usual for Mushashi, we were turned away & told to make a booking next time. So we did, two weeks later, on a Thursday night. This place is buzzy, busy & fun to be in. It’s all about being part of the city. Dublin’s a metropolis now, y’know!

The sushi is made to order & judging by the turnover here, all of the food is super fresh. Choose from a comprehensive, not to mention mouthwatering, sushi & sashimi menu. Then move on to a great choice of fishy starters, curries, stir fry & noodle dishes. The ramen & Teriyaki next door to us look totes delish. I ordered some prawn & pickled mackerel sushi & Himself tucked into Kushi Katsu (fried pork).

Round two, I munched a Teriyaki tofu steak & the Bloke went for Tatsuta chicken. Mine was absolutely yumsters, to use a technical culinary term. Crispy tofu, marinated & arranged in triangles on a bed of stir fried vegetables. Served with sticky white rice & a bowl of Miso soup, it was filling in that light, healthy Japanese way. His was a tasty soy & ginger marinated chicken breast, crispy fried with egg.

We enjoyed the din of Mushashi, sandwiched as we were between an American family & a gang of Ross O’Carroll Kelly types. Any great people watching spot gets the thumbs up from me. Don’t come here if you want to have a private conversation! But do come if you want fresh, delicious Japanese food at the best prices in town. The atmosphere in Mushashi is charged with the smart, urban Dublin I love.

Mushashi, 15 Capel Street, Dublin 1 / www.mushashidublin.com

Apr 20, 2014

The Library Project – Cool Reading

The Library Project in Temple Bar is probably the hippest space in town right now. It’s clean, it’s cool, it’s a thoroughly modrin library. Run by PhotoIreland, The Library Project is a collection of contemporary publication from around the world. Photography & image are the mainstays here, as well as art, fashion & history. Everything’s laid out on easy to browse shelves & tables, so that covers catch your eye.

The Library Project aims to offer an on-going collection of the latest photobooks, magazines & zines from independent & large publishing houses & self-published works too. I picked up some interesting German art zines. Visually, the place is inspiring as a gallery-like feel allows the books to capture your imagination. That sounds wanky, but you know what I mean. Show rather than tell, if ya like.

The curated selection already boasts 900 items & is growing all the time, with companies & folk welcome to contribute to this unique public resource library. There’s also artists prints, Irish made stationery & quirky postcards. And vintage tape recorders. Me neither… The Library Project represents part of the counterculture scene that’s popping up all over Dublin. Not just for hipsters. Check it out.

The Library Project, 4 Temple Bar, Dublin 2 / www.photoireland.org/the-library-project

Apr 12, 2014

Zaragoza – The Real Deal

Looking to break away from our fave haunts, me & the fam were delighted to find new contender Zaragoza, during a recent trek in town. Slap bang in the middle of South William Street (zeitgeist alert) Zaragoza is big & bold. On the day in question I had quite a choppy tum & welcomed their varied, veggie friendly menu. Best Spanish tapas restaurant in Dublin, according to themselves. I’ll be the judge!

The room is bright & airy with great people watching. Inside & outside. The tapas menu was trad with a modrin twist, not all fish guts but stuff folk actually want to eat. I went straight for the green section, as did Madre. Here’s what we had: ensalada de manzana pour Moi, ensalada de pimientos & patatas bravas for Herself. Mine was a delicious rainbow of apples, avocado, blueberries & walnuts. Nectar.

The lads are meatheads & went for the mini pig burgers, croquetas de jamon Iberico & crispy cod in tempura with lemon dill mayo. And more patatas bravas, obviously. The fish came in a cute little fryer basket & the burger was a soft juicy pillow of minced pork cheek. Both were lapped up & washed down with plenty of beer. Posh ale, no less for the Bruv. The wine & cocktail menus remain to be tested…

My salad was just what the doctor ordered & as far as drink was concerned I was on sober street. Our lovely waitress brought me a tummy yummy hot chocolate, which was a glass of hot milk with a chocky lollipop swizzle stick. Sweet melty goodness… Although we were there in the early afternoon, Zaragoza seems like the kind of place that hots up at night. Plenty of room for parties & great food for sharing.

Zaragoza, South William Street, Dublin 2 / www.zaragozadublin.com

Apr 6, 2014

Rat Neck – Chainsaw Punk!

Rat Neck. Who the hell are they? A post-Punk apocalypse some might say. Four blokes in a Dublin band, others would venture. All I do know is that they’re fast & furious. Rat Neck formed in 2010 & have been steadily taking over the world since their first release on Breaking Tunes “In The Way”. Youtube their rather strange videos, featuring cartoon crazies Barry & Tommo, sketched by drummer Ollie.

So, back to the music. I caught them recently at a private gig, to launch their EP, at The Natural Cut on Wicklow Street. Fuck-off loud guitars, free whiskey & a nice little crowd. What’s not to love? Rat Neck’s set was tight. I saw them again, a couple of weeks later at Fibber Magees. Yup, that old rock spot that I haven’t been in since the Millennium. Ah, the days… And they royally rocked that joint too.

Rat Neck channel a chainsaw energy that just forces you to head bang. Rude not to with my hair. Lead singer Vinny leads the way with his oily undercut swinging to the speeding rhythm of his guitar. Flanked by ice cool bassist Pa & old skool rock guitarist Peter, he lets loose in not quite a Henry Rollins way, but close. Filthy language, of course! Rat Neck’s sound is heavy but the songs are well catchy.

The motley crew at Fibbers tapped a toe, or stomped a bovver boot, to “S.O.M.C” & “No Way Back”. My fave tune “Rohypnol” went down a storm. Rat Neck are a great live band. While making big waves online, I won’t be surprised to see them popping up at venues all over Dublin this summer. If you like Killing Joke, Black Flag or Faith No More, you’ll dig these guys. Old skool noise & then some more.

ratneck.bandcamp.com / www.ratneck.com / www.fibbermagees.ie

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