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Sally's blog

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Life style is often thought to be a dirty word. Bunsen shows why it’s an essential attribute of every smart food business.

Bunsen’s southern branch, on French Church Street in Cork city, is a study in two exacting disciplines.
The first is hamburgers, of course. Bunsen is all about burgers. It’s all about how you create, make and serve, a hamburger, something Bunsen has done with consistent imagination ever since Tom Gleeson opened his first store on Dublin’s Wexford Street.
But just as significantly, Bunsen is a study in style. 

The Brothers Dosirak: Hiding in Plain Sight on Capel Street

Free egg soup.

Now, who doesn’t want a free bowl of egg soup?

That’s what the Brothers Dosirak offer, at their little shebeen of an eating house, up a walkway beside the meat and fish counters at the side of the Super Asia Foods supermarket, near the River Liffey end of Capel Street.

The brothers are cult. Maybe even beyond cult. Our Dublin friends who know everything about everything know this little eating place, whilst even people who work in this zone have never heard of it. 

Grape Circus wines are high wire acts of viticultural philosophy

There has always been a philosophical strain amongst the best winemakers. Something about the metamorphosis of grapes in a vineyard into sublime alcohol in the bottle invites speculation about our place and our role in the universe.

Whenever we are enjoying the Italian wines which Enrico Fantasia discovers on his travels through Italy, and which he imports through his company, Grape Circus, we find ourselves thinking as much about the philosophy of the winemakers he chooses, as about the grapes they select or their attitude towards sulphites. 

In Camerino Bakery and Cakery everything is artfully confected, even the porridge

Everyone loves Caryna Camerino’s cakes.

Especially the raspberry cheesecake brownies. And the filligree cupcakes. And the lemon drizzle.

But here’s a surprising thing about Ms Camerino’s bakery and cakery, on Dublin’s Capel Street: they make a demon bowl of porridge.

The porridge, in fact, is made and finished as if it is a cake. The proportions are perfectly judged, and the fruit is arranged on top with the exactitude and precision of a patissier, then finishd with a drizzle of honey. It’s superb.

Pilgrims: the hottest table in West Cork just got even hotter

The thing about good cooks is that they are always on the path to becoming better cooks. Look at Ross Lewis, of Dublin’s Chapter One. Or David Hurley, of Gregans Castle. Or John Wyer of Forest Avenue. Each time you eat their food, you can see the lessons learnt, the progressions made.

Mark Jennings, of Pilgrim’s restaurant in Roscarbery, West Cork, is one of those guys. When he opened up shop in the square in Roscarbery, two and a bit years ago, Mr Jennings was a good cook. He had the chops. He impressed you straight away.

You want it darker: Shane and Charlotte of Dublin’s Sceal Bakery are bringing the San Francisco baking style to Dublin.

Time was, if you wanted to be a baker, you went to Paris. Then, thirty years ago, the axis shifted. You want to be a baker? San Francisco became your destination. Home of ACME bakery, of Chad Robertson’s Tartine, of Craftsman and Wolves, of B. Patisserie, home of San Francisco sourdough. When Paul Bertolli wrote “Chez Panisse Cooking”, way back in 1988, the book included lengthy recipes on how to make pain au levain, and spontaneously leavened sourdough bread. Thirty years ago, the guys in San Francisco had already taken on the mantle. They defined the cutting-edge.

Gina Murphy and Maggie Roche together form a mighty two-hander that powers the food and the mood of Hugo’s Restaurant.

What’s more important to you in a restaurant: cutting-edge, or comfort?

In the media, it’s no contest: cutting-edge wins out, everytime. Reviewers never stress the comfort of a room, or its cooking. We write about the guys who move fast, and break things, and who ask you to sit on an orange crate while they are at it.

Everyone is happy to join the queue in Strandfield, even though it’s the longest queue for food in County Louth.

“Are you always, like, this busy?” we asked the waitress in Strandfield.
“Mother’s Day? The queue was right back to this door,” she replied, pointing to the double doors that form the entrance to the restaurant from the shop and flower shop.
We were sitting near to that door, which meant a 50-yard Mother’s Day queue for food at Strandfield.
We’re not surprised. Strandfield is ace. Hannah Byrne’s inspired concept is smart, functional, blessed with incredibly fine staff, and it’s in the right place: a 2-minute detour off the M1, and right in between Dundalk and Newry.


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