If Helen Cunningham wasn’t running the brilliant Phoenix Café, in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, it’s forseeable that she might turn her talents to some other end. She might be Taoiseach, for instance, or President of Ireland, or she might edit The New Yorker, and run ultra-marathons to relax when she wasn’t running the country. She has an imperious command of her situation, and the best way to see this is simply to take yourself to her award-winning café, in the Phoenix Park, and sample the food that Ms Cunningham and her team offer. Her cooking has all the grace notes of the naturally talented and confident cook: this is vivid food, bright with colours, flavours, textures, bright with life. Working with the produce from the gardens just outside her doors, she unlocks the essence of the ingredients she uses: she’s an alchemist of flavours, and even the simplest things shine brightly: her scones, for example, are legendary, and we would walk to the ‘Park just to eat her breakfast blaa. Time and again, attempting to describe what she accomplishes with her cooking, we return to the adjective ‘vivid’. But it’s not just the food that is vivid in the Phoenix Café: every detail of this beautiful place offers a vivid experience, a magic moment, thanks to magical culinary creativity.
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