Browsing articles in "Food"
Feb 14, 2014

Montys of Kathmandu – Spice & All Things Nice

Birthday dinner! My fella lives next door to Montys in Temple Bar, so we’ve always wanted to go. This place is something of a Dublin institution – award winning & here long before all the other good food on offer now. So we went on Tuesday to celebrate another year of me. It’s small but charming. Mahogany carvings & oriental tapestries lend an exotic air to this Nepalese restaurant. It smells yummy! Tables are close knit, making for an intimate vibe. Keep your conversation polite, lest you frighten the neighbours. Great people watching spot. We settled in to our little table & munched on some crunchy poppadoms. Plenty of traditional Nepalese fare, interesting sounding dishes & great choice for veggie types.

Finally, we went for spicy potatoes & peas in ginger & coriander (Aloo Kerau Chat Pat) & king prawns in a light batter to start. Both delectably, delicately flavoured. Main courses were traditional Nepalese curry (Ledo Bedo) with prawns for me & Chicken Chilli Nanglo (speciality from a Kathmandu restaurant) for Himself. Served with plain rice & Peshwari Nan. And an Organic Chilean red to wash it all down.

The Ledo Bedo was one of the best curries I’ve eaten in my life. I haven’t had anything this good since my London days. Owners Lina & Shiva Gautam use a light hand in their kitchen, freshly grinding spices & blending flavours to perfection. Velvety sauce complemented the prawns, rather than overpowering. The Bloke’s chicken dish came on a hot plate & was tossed with tomato, ginger & garlic. Delish.

Everything was served on traditional brass, which really added to the authenticity of the food. Peshwari Nan was flat & covered in crushed almonds. I ate loads, but wasn’t stuffed. Unlike Indian food, Nepalese does not use cream, so it goes down easy. Montys is the real deal. We ate like kings & enjoyed gorgeous wine, for less than 80 quid. It was warm & lively. The staff were top class. A really great place!

Montys of Kathmandu, 28 Eustace Street, Dublin 2 / www.montys.ie

Feb 13, 2014

Costumes Parisiens – Chester Beatty Library

It was my birthday on Tuesday, so I went up town looking for some action. Well, I went to the Chester Beatty Library, actually. There was a bit of excitement though, with the snow storm & all. It felt so romantic to be swept up in a mid-February blizzard. I ran through the grounds of Dublin Castle, finally finding refuge in the Silk Road Cafe. Wet coat off, tea & fresh orange cake on. This place was made for comfort…

Costumes Parisiens is showing at the Chester Beatty since October & it was finally my chance to have a goo. The exhibition features the unique illustrations of Journal des Dames et des Modes (1912-1914). One hundred years after it’s publication, these fashion plates give us a taste for the elegant styles of du jour. It was Beatty’s glamorous wife, Edith, who encouraged him to acquire the magazine.

The fine sketches depict a whimsical side of style, which is really what fashion is all about. A rich & exotic opulence, characterised by Orientalism, Neo-Classical French & Art Nouveau design with rich fabrics & bold patterns. Costumes Parisiens serves as a record of the growth of haute couture & the revolutionary path to modern women’s apparel. It celebrates luxury & craftsmanship in fashion.

Gowns, dresses, hats & handbags – the French woman at the turn of the century was a leading arbiter of style. These original prints from George Barbier, Leon Bakst & Bernard Boutet de Monvel capture ladies of the Belle Epoque era at leisure & play. Vivid colours & intricate detail relay the womanly art of dressing. Although the menswear is equally beguiling, it’s the feminine look that truly inspires.

I particularly enjoyed the display of real handmade clothing. So beautiful, these gowns held such allure in their fabric, draping & embellishment. It makes me rue the day Penneys was invented. Imagine Madame wearing leggings? Me neither… Costumes Parisiens is a must-see for those who appreciate a stylish aesthetic or those who simply enjoy beautiful graphics. Showing until March 30th 2014.

Costumes Parisiens, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Dublin2 / www.silkroadcafe.ie

Feb 11, 2014

Evita – Powerful Romance

It was off to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, a hop, skip & a jump from ILS HQ, last night for Evita. Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s all-singing, all-dancing tale of Argentina’s legendary “spirit of the nation”, Eva Peron. First stop for us, me & Dad, was Herbstreet on Hanover Quay. Where else? Always a full house during sell out shows, we enjoyed a warm welcome & a bustling atmosphere. The perfect place for pre-theatre chow.

The menu at Herbstreet changes with the seasons, but one thing that remains the same is their scrummy sweet potato wedges. Big chunks of foodie love served with chipotle & lemon feta dips. So we shared those, alongside baked Cooleeney with sourdough bread & quinoa salad for me & a special of grilled halloumi with fruity cous cous & apricot chutney for Dad. All totes delish, needless to say!

Dessert followed at the Upper Circle bar, where we paired our drinkies with a box of Cocoa Atelier chocolates. Ambassador… Well, it is my birthday! The view of Grand Canal Docks from here, is one of the best features of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. A magical slice of modern Dublin. Yes, Sir. We soon took our seats, for the performance. The Gods. I must say, I do like watching from the Upper Circle.

Is it wrong to fancy Marti Pellow? Starring as narrator Che (channelling Che Guevara, but not quite him), Pellow looks swashbuckling swarthy in his combats and bovver boots. Of course, I remember him from his Wet Wet Wet days, when as a ten year old I was a little bit in love with him. Pellow is now an accomplished Wet End player, as well as a successful solo artist. And still quite handsome too…

A deep throat opener from Che, brings us to Evita’s state funeral where her passing is mourned by the nation. Then we go back in time to 1940s Argentina, where small town girl Eva Peron lets her larger than life personality do the talking, or singing in this case. In search of the big time, she persuades tango singer Agustin Magaldi to take her to Buenos Aires. Eva is ready for her first bite of the Big Apple.

With bright lights in her eyes Eva climbs the society ladder, forging a career as an actress & model. Following a devastating earthquake, Eva meets Juan Peron at a charity ball. Together they rise to power, during a time of political turmoil, to become President & First Lady of Argentina. Under Peron’s wing, Evita transcends her humble beginnings to national sweetheart. Theirs is a tale of enduring love.

Evita sweeps us up in a heady cocktail of romance & power as Eva, played superbly by Madelena Alberto, & Juan Peron, played by stage veteran Mark Heenehan, fuse together to make an unforgettable alliance. From the start of their affair, “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You” to the height of their reign, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” the stage is a hotbed of emotion. Pure Rice & Lloyd Webber magic.

Alberto’s mighty voice takes us through the highs & lows of Evita’s political opus & into the bosom of her marriage. The love between her & Peron is reflected onto the raging streets of Argentina. This production highlights Evita’s magnificent wealth against a backdrop of Argentina’s desperate “shirtless”, represented by Che throughout. Her heart must outshine her diamonds, as far as they are concerned.

A captivating “High Flying Adored” between Eva & Che, leads us into her infamous Rainbow Tour of Europe. Evita puts on the performance of her life, while at the same time fighting a losing battle with her failing health. She rallies behind Peron, but he must watch his beloved burgeon in spirit & wither in strength. She clings to him, all she has left. “You Must Love Me” brought a tear to my eye.

Evita really captures the heat of Buenos Aires at the time, with the Perons cast against a lively ensemble of good time girls, military men & ordinary folk. I enjoyed the costumes in particular, from flirty tea dresses to dapper uniform, they conveyed times past when both men & women held their own brands of allure. Evita’s glamour to Peron’s steady presence. A winning combo in any day & age.

The final scenes see out the tragedy of Evita’s untimely death with Peron pledging “She Is A Diamond” to her & “Eva’s Final Broadcast” as her heart wrenching last stand. We’re back in black for her funeral, Che to the fore once again lamenting her death with all of Argentina. Evita is an icon for women & Madelena Alberto’s invigorating turn is a triumph of passion & self realisation. A spectacular show!

Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Dublin 2 / www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie / Herbstreet, Hanover Quay, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2 /www.herbstreet.ie

Dec 5, 2013

Merry Dublin! Twelve Shops of Christmas

Dublin city centre is looking really smart right now. Twinkling lights, winding lane ways and lots of lovely shops. Forget suburban Yummy Drummie malls and get where the action’s at. And you can have a pint after a hard days shopping! Town is back with a bang this Christmas. Dublin has reinvented itself as a cool city, following some lean years, and paved the way for a fresh mix of creative retailers and arty shops.

Okay, first thing for out of towners – keep off Grafton Street and Henry Street. The really interesting shops are behind the scenes. Dublin’s Creative Quarter is a buzzing hive between Wicklow, Georges and South William Streets. Lots to do and see here! From so hip it hurts to vintage gems and artisan foods to quirky boutiques, this jam packed area keeps on giving. Other side of the Liffey, Moore and Capel Streets are festive hotspots.

It’s tradition chez moi to do a family shopping day every Christmas. We meet at midday, fuel up on coffee and cake, mill about town picking out our pressies and finish with pub grub and some well earned pints. We get to soak in the Christmas vibes and ensure that nobody receives rubbish gifts. Winner! Dad likes books, the Bruv likes music and Mother loves hand crafts. Here’s where we’ll be heading…

1.) Makers & Brothers & Others. When I first chanced upon this new shop on Dame Lane, I was intrigued. There was cakes in the window, what can I say… I wanted to know what was inside. This smart lifestyle pop-up is the work of the Jonathan and Mark Legge, the crafty siblings behind Makers & Brothers. They’ve collaborated with a hip set of Irish designers to bring us some pretty cool stuff.

Cakes are from The Wild Flower Bakery and look almost too good to eat. Billed as a tiny seasonal department store, Makers & Brothers & Others is a joy to explore. The antidote to commercial Christmas. I liked twisty wooden stools from James Carroll, tableware from Jerpoint Irish Glass and a fun knitted fox from Claire-Anne O’Brien. Go here for housey things and kiddie gifts. And a cup of tea.

2.) Clerys. It’s back! After a devastating flood this summer, Dublin’s fave department store was closed for a five month refurbishment. Although Clerys has been a much loved haunt of mine, it was seriously in need of a facelift. And here it is, all shiny and bouncy, but retaining it’s old skool charm. Perfect. I was afraid I wouldn’t recognise it, but fear not – it’s Clerys, only better. The shop floor is bright and uncluttered with original features polished. And, well, modrin. Christmas under one brand new roof.

Chic newbies include – Moda in Pelle, True Decadence and Apanage. Gone are the granny wedding hats and in are quality handbags, scarves and shoes you really want in your wardrobe. Clerys offers substance and style. Send Himself to Carphone Warehouse, new on the ground floor, while you browse Benetton, Mexx and Mango. Meet Mother at The Tea Rooms and bring the kids to Santa’s Joy Factory.

3.) Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. I do love this place. It’s like a calm oasis in, y’know, the sprawling metropolis that is Dublin… Powerscourt is the ideal Christmas venue with plenty of artisan shops, galleries and cafes. First up, party outfits. Go vintage at The Loft Market and Irish at Marion Cuddy, both regular spots for yours truly. Up the glamour stakes at Covet, Design Centre and Dawn Fitzgerald. Genius for cool casuals.

Gift-wise, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre caters well for the hard-to-buy-for crowd. For something unique head to Article, an eclectic collection of funky objets and house wares. Bow for pretty little things. A Rubenesque and The Garden for decorations and flowers. Try the Bonsai Shop for an alternative Crimbo tree. Kennedy and McSharry for a tweed flat cap. The Bloke loves his! Rosemantic fellas who are thinking of popping the ultimate Christmas surprise… The best antique jewellery in Dublin. She’ll love it. And you!

4.) Ferocious Mingle Marcade. Believe it or not you can buy your Crimbo pressies second hand. Simply vintage, Darling! With so much post-recessionary re-purposing going on these days, markets are super spots to pick up something a bit different. The Marcade has moved from it’s old location to a bohemian den on Camden Street. I used to live in this part of town and am so excited by how lively it’s become. Wind your way up from the city with leisure.

Shopping, entertainment and food. What more do you want? These guys know how to throw a party too! Open every Thursday to Sunday, join in the fun with stalls selling everything from antique clocks and mirrors and grunge princess fashions to pre-loved books and handmade soaps. Relax after a hard days shopping at Dublin’s tiniest cinema and munch on home baked goodies from Oscar Verne’s Coffee Bar.

5.) Cocoa Atelier. Christmas is the one time of the year that you’re allowed to stuff your chops and get away with it. But I call quality over quantity. Instead of reaching into a tin of Roses, I’ll be savouring artisan chocolates from Cocoa Atelier. This is my (the Bloke’s) go-to place for sweet treats. Cocoa Atelier was born when French chef, Marc Amand, spotted a gap in the market for gourmet chocs in Ireland. Good work!

The shop, on Drury Street, is like stepping through a portal to Paris. Chic black and white detail show the exquisite chocolates off to their best, but it’s the taste that counts. There’s a range of flavours to choose from, including – salted caramel, ginger, lime, mango, chestnut honey and Earl Grey – as well as myriad bars and luxe foodie gifts. The chocolate Christmas baubles are too cute! Buy colourful macaroons and delicate eclairs for your Christmas table. And hot chocolate for now!

6.) Georges Street Arcade. I’ve been shopping here since my teenage days, when I was first allowed into town all by myself. Me & my best mate used to browse records and smoke ciggies. Good times! So the Arcade has a special place in my heart. The shops have changed over the years, new ones popping up all the time. But some things remain the same, like Simon’s Place, the cosy cafe that keeps me and the Bloke so well fed.

Housed in a Victorian redbrick market, Georges Street Arcade offers a quirky collection of shops. Pick up retro vinyl at Spindizzy Records (Himself is a regular), silver and stones at New Moon Jewellery and stocking fillers at Bombay Banshee. Make like Uncle Gaybo and hit Beaux Bows for your geansai Nollaig. Or try sheepskin in The Gift of Warmth to keep the chill out. And a Pieminister with mushy peas & mash!

7.) Siopaella. Can’t afford Brown Thomas? Then get down to Temple Bar. They say you can’t put a price on love, but at Siopaella you’ll find great deals on Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs. And just about every designer you can think of. Items are selected by owner, Ella, who picks the cream of pre-loved, worn once and labels on fashion. She’ll even style you a fabulous party outfit.

The great thing about Siopaella is you’ll find something that nobody else has. With two stores, one on Crow Street the other on Temple Lane, offering high street to high end there’s plenty to suit your budget. I’ve scored a Rachel Mackey cashmere cardi, silk Custo dress and a Chesneau handbag among many bargains. Watch out for box fresh Louboutins. Siopaella’s menswear is the best pre-loved in town. Mother loves their vintage jewellery.

8.) Project 51. Tucked away on Dublin’s premier hipster strip, South William Street, this Irish design collective has it’s finger on the pulse. Project 51 is a creative hub and retail space. Hannah Flew runs things front of house, where there’s a great selection of gifts and home grown wedding items. I love Anita Conway handmade lace garters, intricate Grace O’Reilly Jewellery and stunning Kate Betts Hats.

Finding surprises is one thing I really enjoy when shopping, and out the back of Project 51 is a fun place to nose around. Funky neon clubwear brought me back to 90s London where I spent my college days wandering around Camden Market. Only for the young and daring! Meanwhile, there’s plenty in for Christmas. Nik’s Tea gift sets, Gillian Field illustrated mugs and Airmid Natural handmade soaps.

9.) Chapters. Here’s a place me and the Bloke could spend hours happily ignoring each other, lost in row after row of books. Chapters is spread out over two gigantic floors, new books on the ground floor and second hand upstairs. Stocking the whole gamut of readables from fiction and biography to reference and educational. There’s more art, photography, fashion and cookery books than you can shake a stick at. Chapters is also a great source for Irish books and lesser known titles.

It’s not just books here. Chapters does a great range of stationery too, including cards, notebooks and diaries. Brilliant stocking fillers. I went in to get a book for the Bruv’s birthday and these guys ordered it specially, with only one day delivery. The service is top notch. Upstairs is the place for random finds – the best way to buy books! Swing by Moore Street afterwards for fresh fruit and Paris Bakery for cakes.

10.) Cows Lane Designer Studio. Mother and me love this place. At the cool end of Temple Bar, Cow Lane Designer Studio showcases the best of Irish design and crafts. We’re big fans of Deirdre Griffin glass fusion jewellery. Her rings and earrings are simple yet striking. Manned by the designers themselves you can chat about creative techniques or commission a special piece in person. The atmosphere here is open and friendly.

A nice present-to-self (g’wan. I won’t tell anyone) would be a hat from Shevlin Millinery. John Shevlin’s head wear is beautifully made and well established in the Irish fashion world. Wear it on Christmas Day! Choose unique gifts from handmade Brookwood Pottery, fresh on the shelves, Bouji Organic candles and the softest scarves from Daiva’s Textiles. Cows Lane Designer Studio is also home to great prints and artwork. Come here for house inspiration.

11.) Fallon & Byrne. A top spot for posh foodie gifts, this place stocks a mouthwatering array of Christmas treats. Their fabulous hampers include a hand picked selection of the best artisan produce. Try the Gourmet Irish, which includes – Cashel Blue cheese, Pandora Bell nougat, Ummera Organic Irish smoked salmon, Mella’s butter fudge and Fallon & Byrne’s famous house granola. The food of life!

The Food Hall provides all you need for a tasty Christmas dinner table. Organic fruit and veg, fresh meat and fish, charcuterie and antipasti. There’s also amazing choice when it comes to the high end pantry – Italian extra virgin olive oils, French mustards and teas from around the world. The wine shop is well worth a visit too. Grab a seat by the front window and people watch Wicklow Street with delectable cakes and Dublin’s best latte. Yes Sir!

12.) Avoca. I’ve always loved Avoca, just for the pure chance to channel one’s fantasy lifestyle through their dotty displays and dreamy scenarios. I often picture myself wrapped up in a lambswool blanket, taking Ceylon and scones by a blazing fireside. Bliss. My most recent purchase was, in fact, one of their mill woven blankets as a wedding gift for friends. There’s a rainbow of jewel colours to pick from.

Appealing to the girl in me, Avoca does everything pretty. Kitsch even. Patterned plates, quirky teapots, ceramic door knobs, glass jewellery and cutesy hats. Clothes are whimsical yet totally wearable. The kids section is great fun with adorable wooly jumpers, Jellycat teddies and a sugar rush sweetie hamper. For the chef in your life, head for the kitchen gear, delicatessen and super yummy cookbooks.

So now you know where to go! I’ve gotta say, Dublin has become a real arty little city over the last few years, now that we’re out of the Tiger’s claw. I love nothing more than mooching around town – the Creative Quarter, Temple Bar, Capel Street – and chancing upon new shops and cafes. Do check out as many independent stores as you can, they’re so much more exciting and original. Happy shopping!

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Nov 19, 2013

The Gresham Hotel – Afternoon Tea

In Dublin days gone by there was nowt so posh as the Gresham Hotel. Still the smart stalwart of O’Connell Street, I met the girls there, in the Writer’s Lounge, on Saturday for Afternoon Tea. Founded in 1817, the Gresham possesses a grandeur that does not come from interior decor alone but rather from it’s rich history. We sat by the large ivory draped windows, on plush red velvet sofas – old skool luxe – and settled in, warm and cosy, far from the madding crowd.

We were celebrating a birthday and I’m happy to report that even Mesdames such as we still want a party with lots of cake! So it was Afternoon Tea for five. First came tea – made with loose leaves – in big silver pots. Proper old fashioned. Then the main event. Two large tiered cake stands arrived, containing one of everything for each of us. Savouries, sweets and little treats. A very nice deal indeed at 21 euro per person.

Luckily I’d walked from ILS HQ, so had worked up a good appetite. Where to start… I tucked into smoked salmon on brown soda bread and cucumber sandwiches (what else?) while the ladies munched on finger sandwiches of Parma ham, chicken and roast beef. We gossiped away happily between bites and copious amounts of tea. Two more pots were summoned as we turned next to the first cake tier.

Mini scones were served with butter, jam and fresh cream. There was dainty slices of Madeira cake, tea brack and fruit cake. Homemade pistachio biscuits were light, crumbly and crunchy. The thing about Afternoon Tea is not to feel like little piggies scoffing endless goodies but to nibble lady-like on myriad delicious petite pastries. The Gresham have judged their dinky offerings just right. Totally Downton.

There for a good three hours, we talked weddings, babies and love. And clothes, shoes and handbags. And hairstyles. The Writer’s Lounge is such calm surrounds, with plenty of space and relaxed waiting staff. The Gresham is not a seen-to-be-seen kinda place. I like that. The final tier… Tiny meringues, fresh fruit vol au vents, chocolate torte and strawberry cream in teeny sundae glasses. Glam not glutton.

The chocolate torte was to die for, a sliver of pure decadence. It really was fun oohing and ahhing over all the doll sized gateaux. And getting away from the world for a wee while, the girls agreed. O’Connell Street is due a new lease of life with the much anticipated re-vamped Clerys opening this week. I see hours of retail therapy in my future and now I know exactly where to go for a spot of R&R afterwards…

The Gresham Hotel, 23 Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin 1 / www.gresham-hotels-dublin.com

Nov 14, 2013

O’Briens Wine Fair – Grape Expectations!

Me and Dad met on Saturday morning, outside BT as usual, all excited about O’Briens Wine Fair. Dad’s fave bottle shop were hosting a series of tasting sessions at the Round Room in the Mansion House. Don’t mind if we do! First up was some carb loading at M&S Rooftop Restaurant, to line our stomachs before the main event. We’ve long been fans of this place. M&S food already cooked for you. What’s not to love?

We went for the Dine Menu, 14.50 euro for two courses and a glass of vino. Well we had to start somewhere… I had a creamy Camembert tart with rocket, asparagus and onion marmalade, while Dad tucked into seafood pie with a golden breadcrumb topping. Both were absolutely top drawer. We followed with Eton Mess for me and chocolate tart for him. The best thing about the Rooftop Restaurant is that we were done and dusted in an hour. Satisfied customers!

Off we trotted to the Mansion House. The Round Room was kitted out with 45 different wine merchants from around the globe. We were handed a glass each, on arrival, and set free into a Willy Wonka world of wine. The tables were arranged in order of country of origin, with each producer offering their glug, San Pellegrino and Carr’s Table Water biscuits. Ambassador… The idea was to take a sip and move on.

We started with Norton Argentina, from – you guessed it – Argentina. 2010 Syrah Reserva for me. Next up was Bethany, from Australia, where I sampled their Old Quarry Tawny Port. A taste of Christmas. Vina Chocolan, from Chile, was an early favourite with their 2011 Syrah Reserva and 2011 Malbec Gran Reserva both tickling my tastebuds. We milled about the room, rather than from table to table.

I got talking to one or two wine buffs, chaps who were only too delighted to shoot the boozy breeze. I know nothing about wine, just that I like it. Dad bumped into an old pal who tipped us off to a couple of numbers. According to these sources, O’Briens Wine Fair was one of the better events they’d been to. Good to know! Certainly in terms of variety and ease we were impressed. And enjoying it very much…

In fact so much that I tried four wines from Spain’s Coca i Fito. 2009 Sao Abrivat, 2010 Jaspi Negra, 2009 Coca i Fito and 2008 Planets de Prior Pons. Modern and delicious, these bottles were beautifully packaged too. My must-have white was New Zealand’s Man O’War 2011 Valhalla Chardonnay. It’ll be on our table on Christmas Day. Domaine Duffour, from France, was a single 2012 Gascogne. Yummy!

And so to Champagne, darlings. Beaumont Des Crayeres Grande Reserve fizzed on my lips, decadent and sharp. Nothing like the real thing! Except maybe a really good Prosecco. Rizzardi Prosecco Spumante was the party tipple of choice for Mother’s recent birthday bash. I recommended it to a bride-to-be who was totting up a list of prospective toasts for her wedding. Seems everyone was having fun!

Two hours in, slightly tipsy but well diluted with water and crackers we had made our picks. Dad was a happy camper as many wines were discounted and there was a bonus 20% back on his loyalty card for every six bottles bought on the day. Deal-tastic. The final cut included the Sao Abrivat, Delheim Chenin Blanc, Chocolan Malbec and Privada Blend. It was soon high time for some well earned Americanos.

www.obrienswine.ie

Nov 6, 2013

Corfu – Greek Feast

As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of dining deals. There’s so much good food in this city and often it’s below the fashion radar. I’m not talking online discount sites, but genuine lunch offers and early birds. So when a mate called me yesterday, for a spur of the moment rendezvous in Temple Bar, I knew we’d find nice nosh at a stone’s throw. Corfu on Parliament Street was the venue. A Greek triumph!

Two courses and a glass of wine (or soft drink) for a tenner makes for a pretty good lunch in my book. Eating in good restaurants for less is a bit like clothes shopping in the sales. D’ya see what I’m saying? The lunch menu at Corfu offers quality over quantity. We started with feta pies, delicious salty cheese spiked with herbs and wrapped in the most delicate filo pastry. Me and my mate ate these on holiday.

My request for vegetarian moussaka was kindly obliged by our lovely waiter, while my pal went for the traditional minced Irish beef version. Mine was a colourful square topped with rocket. Rich in flavour and light of texture, layers of aubergine, peppers and butternut squash were sandwiched between potato, tomato sauce and a fluffy bechamel topping. So simple, so tasty. I was left satisfied, not stuffed.

Corfu offers an extensive menu of trad Greek fare, including impressive mezzedes (mixed platters), souvlaki (charcoal skewered meats) and kleftiko (lamb on the bone). Not to mention home made desserts. Mmmn, baklava… We’ll be back for the mezzedes, for sure. Like tapas, you can sit for hours sipping wine and savouring Mediterranean bites. And gossiping. In a cosy farmhouse atmos to boot.

Corfu, 12 Parliament Street, Dublin 2 / www.corfurestaurant.ie

Oct 16, 2013

The Threepenny Opera – Jazz Hands!

So it was that I met a friend at the theatre on Saturday afternoon. Matinees are such a pleasant way to while away the weekend. I’d had a busy morning, whisking Dad and the Bruv around town in search of a birthday present for Mother. I know, I’m a saint. We ducked in and out all over the Creative Quarter (South William Street & Co), Powerscourt Townhouse and eventually up to Wexford Street. Phew!

We struck gold, or should I say an opal and silver ring, at Djinn Jewellery. Gorgeous contemporary pieces. Designer and maker Simon Phelan advised us with his expert knowledge on gems and wrapped the dainty ring in a cool wooden box. Job done. Back down town and into the belly of Temple Bar, it was Mexico To Rome with the lads for a lunch deal. Burrito and chips with a bottle of Peroni for a tenner. Can’t go wrong!

Off they went, for more shopping (crafty pints), and I made the final stretch up to Parnell Square to The Gate Theatre. A small but smart space, The Gate features a low, open stage. You can catch all of the action, no matter where you’re sitting. Me and my mate were here for The Threepenny Opera, by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. It’s the high octane story of lusty criminal Mac The Knife.

The production opened in style with the Street Singer (David Shannon), a sort of musical narrator, belting out signature tune ” Mac The Knife”. A tale of petty crime, street urchins, silly girls and crooked police, The Threepenny Opera unfolds first in the back street shop of Mr. Peachum (Mark O’Regan) and his formidable wife (Jackie Marks). This pair and their charge, the hapless beggar Filch (Laurence Kinlan) set the tone.

The Threepenny Opera is bawdy, in your face and actually does jazz hands. Brilliant. This version is directed by Wayne Jordan, with musical direction by Cathal Synnott. The cast, both young and vintage, are fresh and full of energy and there is some great voices in the mix. Set in Victorian London, though there’s Dublin accents at The Gate, Brecht and Weill offered a socialist critique of a capitalist world.

And so we are introduced to a cast of scoundrels, drop outs and hopeless romantics. Main protagonist Macheath (David Ganly) is a charming thief who steals the heart of not so innocent Polly Peachum (Charlotte McCurry). Their marriage causes ructions and we are treated to much hilarious to-ing and fro-ing, with Mac dodging the cops and Polly answering to her parents. His cronies add to the mirth.

We learn that Mac has friends in places high and low. His friendship with Tiger Brown (Stephen Brennan), Chief of Police, has kept him out of trouble. But he can’t resist Low-Dive Jenny (Hilda Fay) and her ladies of the night. Mac will never go straight and when Polly discovers a love rival in his other “wife” Lucy Brown (Ruth McGill), all hell breaks loose. The tussle for Mac’s affections land him in jail.

Ganly gives a big and bold performance as the incarcerated Mac The Knife, but it’s his women who steal the show. A scene with McCurry and McGill is great fun with the two gangster’s molls finally bonding over their plight. Hilda Fay shines as the tart with a heart, looking steely and sad all in one go. Mac is to be hanged. Alas, a comical reversal means that Mac is freed and a musical romp ensues.

I suppose the message is, life ain’t all that bad. We’re all in it together. That’s Mac The Knife, Tiger Brown and the Peachums. The beggars and the whores remain in the gutter. The Threepenny Opera, almost a hundred years old, is relevant in any society. The good and the bad triumph over the ordinary, as ever. This production at The Gate is action packed from beginning to end, a feel good take for sure.

The Gate Theatre, Cavendish Row, Parnell Square, Dublin 1 / www.gatetheatre.ie

Oct 10, 2013

Mexico To Rome – Mojitos and Burritos

When the Bloke suggested dinner last Sunday, I put word out to my Facebook peeps. Where to go? With Himself living in Temple Bar, we have the world at our feet and I wanted to try somewhere I hadn’t been before. Mexico To Rome piqued my interest. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a restaurant that serves Mexican and Italian food. And Asian. And Irish. There’s something for everybody in the audience!

Genius for a couple, or a party, in different food moods. Both of us were channelling Mexican, as it happens. Off we went down the cobbles, to East Essex Street. Temple Bar was alive with a brilliant band busking outside the door. I love this town! We settled in with a beer and a mojito (quite a good one for a fiver) and shared toasted tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole. Enough to whet our appetite…

I munched on a veggie burrito while the Bloke tucked into a beef taco. Mine was a soft tortilla with crunchy edges (how do they do that?) packed with mixed veg and re-fried beans in a spicy tomato sauce. Covered in sour cream and salsa, with Mexican rice on the side. It was seriously yumsters! Himself enjoyed the chilli beef but would have liked more heat. Jalapeno peppers would add extra kick.

Mexico To Rome is homely, a nice place to chillax of an evening. We found the service just the right side of easygoing, which helped us to wind down. With such a reasonable and unpretentious menu, this is the sort of place you can pop into off the cuff. Just what you want in Temple Bar. For dessert it was whiskey and rum at The Globe, where we bopped along to top rockabilly boys The Pavement Kings.

Mexico To Rome, 23 East Essex Street, Dublin 2 / www.mexicotorome.com

Oct 3, 2013

Cappuccino Bar – Breakfast of Champions

This is one of those places I’ve walked past a million times, but never gone in. Y’see, despite what it says on the tin, Cappuccino Bar isn’t chic or slick or like a little Italian cafe. There aren’t any cakes in the window. It’s all pizza, paninis and burgers. So, none of the things I like…. But the Bloke loves it. They serve all-day breakfast and it’s next door to his gaff. He doesn’t need fancy decor. Less is more.

When we met for brunch on Saturday, instead of mooching about town deciding what to eat, we went here. He got the Full Irish, I got the Veggie Breakfast. So that was sausage, bacon, eggs, beans and tomatoes for him and mushrooms, eggs, beans, tomatoes and hash browns for me. Cappuccino Bar don’t deal in gourmet fare, but rather straight up grub. Our breakfasts were fresh, fast and very tasty!

Fifteen quid for the pair of us, which included rounds of toast and a pot of tea. It’s a winner! The menu, otherwise, is all about carb loading. Great choice of sambos, wraps and bagels. Not for salady sorts like me, but Cappuccino Bar is a good place to fill up. There are plenty of meal deals including Big Al’s burgers (beef, chicken, veggie or fish) with fries for a fiver. Sit outside for Temple Bar people watching.

Cappuccino Bar, 10 Crow Street, Dublin 2