Bitching Brew

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Food in Ireland, or >:(

The Irish diet is slowly killing me. I'm doing my best to fight it, but it's impossible to eat the same way I did in Toronto. I need to establish a compromise position, and then slowly work away from the Irish stuff.

Irish (and British) cuisine is bland, badly cooked and stodgy. Bread, meat and potatoes are the three staples. I did eat a variety of breads in Canada, but I shunned potatoes and ate very little meat. The greatest problem with the diet here is that meat is generally the main offering, with vegetables and such treated almost as condiments. In contrast, when I cook, I treat the carbohydrate (pasta, risotto, or Asian rice) as the centrepiece of the meal, with meat, fish and vegetables as side dishes. It's a healthy principle to follow, though it must occasionally be elided, e.g. when serving salmon or a roast meat. In those cases, I still try to maintain balance by making the meat or fish no more than 50% of the serving.

There is plenty of excellent Irish produce, but the recipes and the quality of cooking fail to make the most of it. In particular, the salads tend to be tasteless and unimaginative. Two varieties of green lettuce doth not a salad make! The best cuisine in Ireland draws on foreign recipes for inspiration, but then blends those with the local specialties and ingredients. I'm hopeful that this trend will spread into homes; it is slowly taking root in Dublin's restaurants and cafes. As for home cooking, people here rely far too much on boiling and frying. Their inappropriate use is an offence to taste as well as health. Way to kill a flavour.

Rant over.

On a more positive note, I'm going to maintain a list of decent cafes, restaurants and bars in Dublin, either here or on Facebook. I'll begin in this post by drawing on my recent experiences, in no special order. A hall of shame may follow in the future... but I haven't got all night. Until then, here are the good ones.

  • The Cake Cafe - Tucked away off Camden Street, this hidden gem serves decent lunches, lovely teas and yummy cakes. Oh - when I say hidden, I'm not kidding.
  • Busyfeet & Coco Cafe - I've been fond of this place for years. The food is good, the coffee decent, and the chai lattes are among Dublin's best. The food is a little pricey though.
  • The Market Bar - Good value for a small group. Mmm, patatas bravas to share. The tapas menu is reasonably priced and of decent quality. I recommend the fish pie.
  • Il Caffe di Napoli - Genuinely excellent coffee (a rarity in Dublin). Westland Row commuters are lucky to have it.
  • The Woolshed - I'm including this sports bar because the nachos are the best I've had in Dublin. They'd easily pass muster in North America.
  • Fallon & Byrne (cafe) - Excellent sandwiches, available for take-out if desired. Warning: a number of friends have been disappointed by the restaurant downstairs.
  • Zaytoon - Dublin's best kebabs. The ideal 3am snack.
  • Dunne & Crescenzi's - It's over-run these days, but if you can get a table, yum. The coffee is fantastic (as is its price). I'm a fan of their bruschetta and smoked salmon salad. Glasses of wine are good value.
  • Keogh's Cafe - Go for the scones, the scones!
  • Cornucopia - Vegetarians in Dublin aren't spoiled for choice. Cornucopia is a fine spot for lunch (try the garlic potato salad), though I'd never choose it for dinner. I dearly miss Toronto's veggie restaurants. :(
  • Lemon - I still haven't tasted better crepes in Dublin. Question: why do people eat savoury crepes? I don't get it...
  • Il Baccaro - I really liked this Italian restaurant, concealed in a Temple Bar cellar.
  • Botticelli - Pop in for some ice-cream to go. You won't regret it. Not unless you're dairy-intolerant.
  • Lemon Jelly - Eat at the Northside branch, not the Temple Bar one. It's a good place to snack. Oddly, their take-away coffee is rubbish, but inside it's fine.
  • Cafe Cagliostro - Very nice coffee and hot chocolate.

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  • I remember Lemon - their crepes are very good, I do recall. As to the savoury crepes option, I don't know.

    By Blogger dpineapple, at Sat Jan 12, 04:39:00 a.m.  

  • I love a good crepe. The way I see it, a crepe is meant to be a sweet treat, not a meal. Ice-cream, strawberries, chocolate, banana, Grand Marnier, etc.... mmm. The idea of a spinach and turkey crepe is revolting.

    Sidenote: one of the most awful crepes I've ever had was at Cafe Crepe in Vancouver. They served great omelettes and good cocktails, but their crepe were rubbish. Many others concurred... it wasn't just my crepe, that day.

    By Blogger Martin, at Fri Jan 25, 11:20:00 a.m.  

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