A hipster joint turned grown-up restaurant in Dublin 7

Review: Urbanity is a bright food light in a coffee and pizza-chain wilderness

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Address: The Glass House, 11 Coke Lane, Smithfield, Dublin 2
Telephone: (01) 8747288
Cuisine: Fusion
Cost: €€€

From outside, Urbanity looks like Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. With laptops. A lone man seems lost in other people's thoughts rather than his own on the other side of the glass. To his left, there is a poster with a wine glass and a coffee cup advertising the fact that this coffee place is morphing into a new thing.

Urbanity is jumping the shark from a hipster joint (sorry guys but when you see someone actually juggling with juggling balls behind the counter there is no other term for it) into a grown-up evening restaurant. That’s not as easy as it sounds. By day, we want our cuppa and gluten-free treats place to be businesslike and tasty. By night, we look for something cosier, a room hug as well as a food one.

The restaurant is in Dublin's Smithfield, tucked around a corner on Coke Street away from the bleak bigness of Smithfield Square. It's on the ground floor of the Glass House, a modern glass and steel building with offices on the floors above. It's double height at the front and at the back there is a coffee roaster the size of a small car. In between, tables and long shared benches are pale ply, the floor is painted concrete and the chairs are lightweight galvanised steel.

Last weekend, Urbanity celebrated its second anniversary. "You probably haven't heard of us because we have a marketing budget of zero," they said in a recent email. Head chef since August is Rachel Lynch, formerly the chef in Brother Hubbard. Before that, she cooked in The Pepper Pot at the Powerscourt Centre. She uses ingredients from hero suppliers like McNally Family farms, Tartine sour dough and the Village Dairy for organic milk and cream.


Sounding good

It’s all sounding good. I’ve done the lunch earlier in the week and been impressed. Salmon with polenta cakes and a herb butter was luscious and crisp-skinned with a silken sauce. A smoked trout salad was made with soft flakes of smoky fish, although the overnight buckwheat element was a challenge. Healthy? Yes, but also bitter, a Marmite ingredient in the health-food larder. Desserts were very good – a coconut and passion fruit tart with shards of meringue and a biscuity base. And great coffee and a butter-cream-iced matcha muffin that was the green of a fresh cow pat inside when you sliced down through it.

I assumed the evening menu would be more of those lunch specials on bigger plates and with bigger prices but it’s something different again. All of the well-priced starters are meat-free and nearly half the mains. Neither of us is drinking but if we had been they have a Coravin, the gadget that lets you pour a glass from a bottle without removing the cork. So they can offer a more adventurous set of options than the usual dullard wines by the glass.

We share a bowl of polenta cubes with a roasted tomato sauce laced with harissa. Nice but missing the promised smokiness. Then there’s a beautiful glazed plate of pork neck, thick rounds of meat sitting on fried and roasted squash and potato dumplings with a simple but great cream and mushroom sauce. Gerry gets the haddock with a polenta crust so bright orange it looks like a fish finger on steroids. The fish is served with a blizzard of salad ingredients – fresh rocket, charred sweetcorn and lemony leeks with quarters of purple potatoes to give it some carb heft.

Desserts aren’t cheap but they are pretty and taste suspiciously healthy. If you’re looking for a sugar rush, pack some Haribo in your manbag. There’s a chocolate and mango tart with chunks of juicy fruit encased in a spoon-licking chocolate ganache on a nutty base and a cinnamon and apple muffin with cappucino ice cream.

By the time we leave, we feel like the longest lingerers in a pass-through place. A bigger dinner crowd would help the atmosphere. They could do with turning the heat up and the lights down. But I love the energy and reach here. It’s creative, independent and good value. When Urbanity finds its crowd there’ll be another bright food light in this coffee- and pizza-chain wilderness.

Dinner for two came to €62. Lunch was €41.

Urbanity, The Glass House, 11 Coke Lane, Smithfield, Dublin 2. (01) 874 7288

Verdict: 7.5/10 A great spot for a wholesome pre-movie meal before the Lighthouse

Facilities: Good

Wheelchair access: Yes

Music: Nice

Food provenance: Great. Kish for the fish, Lilliput olives and cheese, and Rod's organic eggs among the names

Vegetarian options: Impressive

Cinema trip a reel shambles
A trip to the newly polished jewel that is the Stella Cinema in Rathmines made us long for the omniplex when an omnishambles unfolded. The night started with a 20-minute queue to order food which culminated two hours later with the actual food. Mine? Tepid deep-fried monkfish in a taco with watery shredded iceberg and tasteless tomatoes like the dregs of a sandwich bar.

“Technical difficulties” meant there was no movie. We sat in the epically comfortable armchairs (loved the footstools with their pop-up lids) marvelling at how the place felt bigger than we remembered. Eventually they apologised, refunded the tickets, the food and drink costs and sent a deeply unimpressed crowd out into the cold to make way for the 9.30pm audience.

The Stella? Glorious. But shame there seemed to be no grown-ups in charge to make that €19 cinema seat feel like money nearly well spent.

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a founder of Pocket Forests