Happy Pear review: The ‘Jedward of food’ open a new restaurant
Good veggie fare in a beautiful cafe run with a smile and a very good heart
The Happy Pear
- The Round Tower Visitor Centre, Clondalkin, Dublin 22
- (01) 287 3655
- € € € €
The new monks of Clondalkin have arrived. Converts form an orderly queue. Twin brothers, Stephen and David Flynn, are the brains behind The Happy Pear, the Greystones food phenomenon taking over the food scene one mung bean at a time. They’re the Jedward of food, emojis in human form with two best-selling books, a Youtube channel and a fanatical following. For two men who swear off refined sugar, their public persona verges weirdly on an eight-year-old jacked up on pick’n’mix. With added yoga. At dawn. On a beach.
It’s fitting that their second cafe (their first Dublin venture) is in a former 19th-century dispensary in Clondalkin village. “When people got sick they came here for advice, medicines and even surgery,” a poster explains. Food as medicine is back and September always feels like a mini January when we assess post-holiday selves and vow to eat more chickpeas.
Clondalkin village is a discovery. The area is home to two large prisons with pastoral names, Wheatfield and Cloverhill (oh those romantic old Department of Justice officials). I last visited the area when I was a crime reporter. The Round Tower didn’t feature on my list of things to see. I missed out: it’s beautiful, built on the site of a monastery founded in the seventh century. Now the local authority has made it a centrepiece with a new extension to the old dispensary buildings and a lovely garden sweeping up to the tower to form the Clondalkin Round Tower Visitor Centre.
The cafe is sunnier than a Doris Day song, a bright room with multicoloured chairs extending out into the garden. There is an army of young staff, all smiling (and not in the dead-eyed “they make us do this” way) It takes the edge off the lengthy queue. We’re offered a nibble of a Happy Pear energy bar by another smiling man. “Doesn’t it make all the difference when people are nice?” Alice remarks. The other thing that gladdens my heart is the glimpse of a full kitchen behind the serving area. The food is being cooked from scratch on the premises. It’s the starting point for a good lunch.
The menu is on a chalkboard overhead. Some dishes have a (V+) beside them. This extra mark (the A1 of eating) is to indicate that they’re not just vegetarian, they’re vegan. You order your food and slide it on a tray, canteen-style, to the till as is the way of vegetarianism, laid down by seventh-century edict. We take our seats out in the sunshine and tuck in.
Vegan burgers have a lot to live up to. The sandwiching of juicy meat in a fresh bun with the tang of a pickle and the added umami of cheese is a hard act to impersonate. The Happy Pear vegan burger does a pretty good job. The trick is the crispiness. This burger isn’t just mush from the outside in. The patty has been baked crisp outside and it’s delicious. Not burger delicious, but close.
It comes with a chickpea and bean salad and the tang is some fermented cabbage described as kimchi but lacking in any chilli element so is more a sauerkraut. My two dining partners both have the lasagne. It’s cheesy on top and seems to be made with little or no pasta. Instead there are good fresh vegetables, florets of broccoli still green, not mouldering into a sulphurous sulk, courgettes and chunks of butternut squash. It’s been cooked with a fair amount of coconut oil, which you might love or hate. We like it a lot. The only duff note is a limp cooked kale salad. It could do with being hot and served with plenty of butter, one of our party reckons. There’s a good red lentil dahl with excellent vegetables including a sweet spear of asparagus.
Then it’s back to the top of the queue (you get to jump if you’re looking for coffee) for dessert. There’s a Twix tribute act, which is as faithful to the original as a symphony played on a Kazoo is to an orchestra performance. It’s nicely dark chocolate over a date and almond “biscuit” base topped with a date and cashew caramel. Nice but not a Twix in texture or flavour. There’s a great lemon and poppy seed cake and a carrot cake that’s a bit too claggy but saved by good fresh walnuts. The coffee is excellent, too.
If beaming smiles and a happy schtick is what it takes to democratise healthy food cooked from scratch, then I’m doing a cynicism detox and embracing the Pear. Namaste, boys. The Happy Pear in Clondalkin is a beautiful cafe run with a smile and a very good heart.
The Happy Pear, The Round Tower Visitor Centre, Clondalkin, Dublin 22, 01-2873655
Lunch for three with desserts, two coffees and a hot chocolate came to €50.52
Verdict: 8/10. Proper happy meals in a gorgeous place.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Vegetarian options: The only options
Music: The buzz of bees and conversation in the garden
Food provenance: None
Creamy comfort in Rathmines
If you’re still in the market for that last schoolbook, there’s a lovely ice-cream shop beside Fred Hanna’s in Rathmines where the sting of back-to-school is sweetened nicely. The gelato is creamy and spoon-lickingly good, a last taste of summer in a tub.
Isabella’s, 268 Rathmines Road Lower, Rathmines, Dublin 6