Friday, 31 October 2014

Sister Sadie, 46 Harrington Street, Dublin 8

Brother Hubbard was one of the first places I ever reviewed. I still remember my first visit on a Saturday, it was my first Dublin cafe crush really. At that time it was still quiet enough and easy to get a table. A few years have passed and it has became one of my favourite places and I pretty much always have to queue for a table every time I go. The family has even extended with Little Brother next door (mainly for take-away food) and we have now Sister Sadie on the Southside.

Located on Harrington Street Sister Sadie looks as good as her siblings, which were all designed by Designgoat. There are two parts to the cafe, one where you can order food and drinks to take away, buy some coffee related products or simply wait for a table. The other part is the main sitting area where you can enjoy food onsite. The interior is sleek and minimalist, it is certainly stylish with the copper lights and the ultra modern matching tables and stools.

The menu is pretty much the same as in BH: breakfast options, soup, salads, a selection of sandwiches, some specials, a great selection of hot and cold drinks and baked goods. They also have some of their brunch specials and I'd imagine they will add more to the menu, like in the other branch.

I visited on a weekday at lunchtime with a friend and it was jam-packed, we only had to wait for a few minutes to get a table though. When it's busy like it that the noise level is quite high (maybe because of the high ceiling) and people are sitting quite close to each other.

My friend went for the soup, a great inexpensive lunch option for only €5.95. It was Turkish red lentil, tomato and mint with fresh herbs and a smoked aubergine yogurt sauce. I love the Middle Eastern influence in their food, it is always packed full of flavours. It came with a sourdough bread and lovely hummus. She really enjoyed it.

I went for the salad special (€11.95) which consisted of roast red peppers stuff with lemon and herb couscous, caramelised onion and goat cheese. I chose the cucumber salad and the carrot and fennel salad to go with it. The portion was massive, the food was beautifully fresh and seasoned with the most perfect dressings. There was home-made hummus and sourdough bread with it too. It was a generous colourful healthy lunch which was just excellent and left me full to the brim.

My friend decided to indulge and went for one of their hot chocolates, one of the best in Dublin. It's presented in two jugs, one filled with a rich thick chocolate ganache and the other one with chocolate milk. Then you can just mix them and just go straight to chocolate heaven, it deserved a GIF... Here you go...

Sister Sadie doesn't disappoint and is a charming addition to the family. The staff are friendly and welcoming, the food excellent and she surely is a pretty gal. No doubt it will become a Southsider’s favourite soon where people will queue for their weekend brunch.

Sister Sadie
46 Harrington Street
Dublin 8
Currently open M-F 7.45 to 5.00

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Afternoon Tea at The Shelbourne Hotel

Mr. FFID's mammy is the typical Irish Mammy. She managed to join us in New Zealand for three weeks while we were half-way through our round the world trip in 2010, yep she's like that. She also ran an intensive voting campaign at her workplace to get all her colleagues to vote for my blog at the Blog Awards, as if I were her own daughter. She looked after her grandchildren our cats while we were away this summer and was the most enthusiastic volunteer at my French Food Fair a few weeks ago. Last but not least she recently completed a Master degree while working full-time at the age of 53. So did she deserve a special treat? Most definitely.

None of use had tried afternoon tea at the Shelbourne Hotel so Mr. FFID and I treated the Irish Mammy to it, to thank her for everything and celebrate her academic success. 

Booking a table seems to be essential as the room was packed and we had to queue to get in, even with a reservation. The Lord Mayor's Afternoon tea is available all week with the classic priced at €34.95 and the champagne option at €46.95 from Monday to Thursday. From Friday to Sunday it's an additional €2 but you might be lucky enough to hear a classical piano being played on these days (sadly we didn't).

The afternoon tea takes place in the Lord's Mayor Lounge which is a bright elegant room with a fire place, piano and lovely armchairs all around. The room isn't very large but nicely laid-out as you don't hear people's conversations (if you're not too nosy).

We were brought the menus and asked our choice of hot drinks. I was eyeing the display of Moët champagne right next to me and we couldn't say no to the Irish Mammy when she asked if we should get champagne. So Champagne afternoon tea it was, feck it, you only live once.

We kicked-off with a glass of bubbly and waited quite a while before our plates of sandwiches arrived. They were busy but in fairness we were in no rush, soaking up the luxury surroundings. 

The savoury plate included four different sandwiches: turf smoked salmon on brown wheat soda bread, braised Waterford ham with shallot bound and mayonnaise on sourdough baguette, cherry vine tomato with St Tola Goat cheese on pumpkin and turmeric bread and egg & chicory on low GI bread.

The salmon and the ham sandwiches were the highlights for me but all sandwiches were good, fresh and using quality ingredients with decent breads. 

The first thing that struck me when the cake tray was brought to use was the size of the cakes, they were not small. 

The lower tray included delicious small warm buttermilk scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam and also a nice thick slice of Irish tea brack. 

We had a conical shaped coffee and praline, chocolate vanilla crunch dessert. This was my favourite, the coffee flavour was quite subtle, the mousse texture was light and the crunch brought a nice contrast. It was a proper, elegant afternoon tea treat.

The carrot cake was lovely and moist, topped with a vanilla cheese cake topping that might have been  a little heavier for me.

There was a caramelised banana and coconut macaron, I liked the flavour combination and the softness of the banana filling however it was very sweet.

Now if there's one thing you'll never make me eat it's trifle: it's not an appealing dessert for me. I'm just not a fan of the jelly texture and I think the use of hundreds & thousands looks cheap, so I didn't eat it. That's said, my French palate is totally subjective and I admit being picky when it comes to cakes.

We were initially given a table for 90 minutes but stayed a bit longer and weren't rushed in any way. The room emptied for the second service, which was great as I could take pictures with no one around. We didn't manage to finish the food and asked to bring everything away in a little doggie bag.

Overall I thought it was one of the best afternoon teas I've had in Dublin, the service was very polite and professional and the settings just beautiful. The savoury plate was spot on, the desserts a little too rich but the selection changes regularly so the evil trifle might not be there all the time and my two Irish afternoon tea companions seemed to have enjoyed the desserts more than me.

At the end of the day the Irish Mammy was over the moon, mission accomplished.

The Shelbourne Hotel
27 St Stephen's Green
Dublin 2

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market

Open House Dublin was a free event organised by the Irish Architecture Foundation and took place last weekend. For one weekend a year, this is an opportunity for Dubliners to visit or join guided tours and workshops in many buildings across the Irish capital, to learn more about their history and architecture.

As usual, I had to combine my love of Dublin and a bit of culture with my love of food and I was thrilled to see that Open House Dublin had a tour of the Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market in their schedule of events.

I've passed by this building many times on Mary's Lane and admired the beautiful red bricks without ever stopping. I know it's open to the public but I've just been too intimidated to step into this Victorian inspired market structure.

Many people were queuing for the tour on Saturday to get a guided tour of the market, it was great to see people being interested in a building that has become a bit forgotten.

Historian John Conroy gave us a brief presentation of the history of the market that opened in December 1892 and was originally a fish and vegetable market. If you pay more attention to the facade you notice sculptures of different fish and veg, the details are quite impressive actually.

Nowadays, the market is a wholesale fruit and vegetable market but during the second part of our tour we were told what it will become.

Even if the food scene has considerably improved in the last few years, what Dublin is missing is a proper market. Now we have a few farmers markets but they don't compare to the English Market in Cork or big permanent markets like you find in other cities around the world. In France pretty much every little town has a market hall where locals buy their food.

The fruit and veg market is going to become what all the food lovers here are hoping for. There will still be the wholesalers on one side of the building but the rest will be transformed into a retail market will many artisan food stalls, seating areas and even a restaurant. The building is huge and the structure is perfect for a great food market open to the public.

The only thing is we don't know how long it's going to be, at least a year... probably more. As I was walking around I could imagine stalls selling delicious Irish farmhouse cheeses, displays of Irish beef, bakers selling proper breads and I could see myself buying my vegetables for the week. We really need this and I can't wait for it to happen.

Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market
Mary's Lane
Dublin 7

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

FFID's Face Lift

Have you noticed? I hope you have. It's my new branding, bien sûr!

I'm delighted to launch the new header and logo for French Foodie in Dublin. I was getting seriously bored of the previous one. I awkwardly designed it (if you can call it design) a few years ago, so I decided it was time for a change.

I met with fantastic New Zealand born graphic designer & illustrator Mel Gardner and I told her I wanted something new and fun, that represents the blog. So the little lady on the left with the beret and stripy top is me and is pretty much how I look (although I'm a bit chubbier in real life) when I run my French food tours. Of course I often walk around Dublin with a baguette, cheese and grapes (in the form of wine) and the Georgian buildings represent Dublin. I think Mel did a great job (I hope you agree) and designed exactly what I was looking for.

You're more and more to visit this blog everyday so I wanted it to look pretty, I hope you like it!

If you ever need a graphic designer/illustrator and like what Mel did for me, her website can be found here.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Dublin's Best-Kept Secret: Blas Cafe

Each time there is a great spot opening on the Northside I giggle with excitement. It's my part of the city you see and I like highlighting its hidden gems, so here is the new cafe to watch: Blas Cafe in the Chocolate Factory.

The Chocolate factory is a community space where creative people work in their studios, they also have an event venue, art gallery and a cafe on the ground floor. 

Blas Cafe is a little gem that I'm happy to have discovered before it got too busy, this will certainly change. If you know about the Fumbally, think of Blas as its Northside counterpart. 

A spacious, bright space with white walls, big wooden tables and a strong artsy feel. There is a drum hanging from the ceiling, a comfy burgundy velvet sofa, mismatched chairs and art displayed in a corner: I'm in love.

As I approach the counter I notice Wall & Keogh's teas and Wild Flour Bakery's cakes, it is already promising. The lunch menu is compact: soup, two meaty sandwiches, two vegetarian sandwiches and a hot dish. However it changes regularly and with a Moroccan chef, expect the dishes to be flavoursome (they have eggs berber with merguez sausage patties for brunch on Saturdays!). The coffee is from Roasted Brown I'm told and coffee lovers will certainly approve.

As I sit by myself at a table with my laptop and use their free wifi I look around and like what I see, Dublin's cafe scene is certainly getting very exciting. 

A friendly gentleman brings my beef po boy (€6.95) to the table served on a enamel plate. I see it's real bread straight away and ask where it's from. It's from Tartine Bakery, owned by French man Thilbault Peigne who I know. His bread is top quality and among the best you can find in Dublin. The shredded beef is tender and juicy, served with tomato, a crunchy pickle, some lettuce and mayo. Not very original maybe but simple and tasty, I lick my fingers with contentment.

I order a pear, almond and cardamom cake (€3.50) for quality control purposes. It looks slightly dry outside but as I bite in it it's just soft, moist and delicate. I'm always happy when I see Kate Packwood's cakes in a cafe as they're the perfect size and level of sweetness that I want with a good (paper) cup of peppermint tea.

So do I like Blas? You can certainly tell. It's very new but looks like a winner already and I just hope there will still be a table for me after I reveal one of Dublin's best-kept secrets.

Blas Cafe
Chocolate Factory
26, King's Inn Street
Dublin 1
Mon - Fri08:00 - 16:00
Sat10:00 - 16:00