Have lunch for under a tenner without damaging the planet

Review: This Dublin cafe offers zingy salads, vegan bites and delicious cakes

   

Tang

  • Proprietor: Stephen O’Dwyer Claire O’Dwyer
  • 23c Dawson Street, Dublin 2
  • Tel: 01 873 3672
  • www.tang.ie
  • Middle Eastern

Eleven Madison Park, the New York restaurant that was voted the World’s Best Restaurant in 2017, grabbed the headlines earlier this year, when Daniel Humm, the chef/patron, announced that he would no longer be serving meat or fish.

He approached the “vegetable whisperer”, Toshio Tanahashi, to help him on his “vegan journey”, but it would seem that a mere 40 days were not enough to absorb and understand thousands of years of Japanese tradition. A scathing review of the $335 10-course vegan menu by New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells, had him in the headlines once again, and his cause was further damaged by the revelation that roast tenderloin was on the menu in one of the private rooms.

You don’t need to be a mathematician to conclude that a few wealthy diners taking a day off meat will do little to turn the unsustainable tanker around in our plastic ridden waters. The focus should, of course, be on the small changes that many people can make. Which is easier said than done, because no one likes to be told what to do. You need to inspire people and make it easy for them to make that change.

Tang, a breakfast and lunchtime operation, with a cafe on Lower Abbey Street and another at the top corner of Dawson Street, both in Dublin, has been quietly doing all the right things, leaving as little trace as possible on the environment, for quite a few years.

It is a compact space, all grey paint, and pale, unvarnished wood. When I visit the Dawson Street cafe, the words, “free flatbreads for climate change” are emblazoned in orange on the large picture window. It’s a campaign that owner Stephen O’Dwyer launched to encourage people to email their local TDs, voicing their concerns about climate issues.

There’s no table service. Instead, the one-way system, through a door that is held open with a large tin of chickpeas, brings you into the cafe. Large empty glass jars are piled up on an industrial shelf to your right, with an invitation to take them home for free. And on the left, where the queue starts to form, are shelves with their granola, extremely good nutbutter (be sure to pick up a jar), and raw honey from the Dublin Honey Bee Project.

Tang restaurant on Dawson Street. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Tang restaurant on Dawson Street. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The daily salads are chalked on a blackboard, three for €7.50, and bowls are piled up alongside the brightly coloured salads. There is an option to add Middle Eastern chicken, Moroccan lamb or Lebanese beans for an additional €2.25, which you can have served in a bowl, or in one of the flatbreads, which are made by Safa Foods, a Dublin-based family-owned bakery. There are a few tables inside, more outside on the street, and there’s an option to eat in or takeaway.

The flatbreads, which are wrapped into large burrito-sized barrels, are rammed with goodness – beetroot hummus, pickled cabbage, leaves from McNally’s Farm, tzatziki, tahini, and the brooding spice of coriander and cumin from the minced Moroccan lamb. The vegan option is similar, just no tzatziki, and Lebanese flavoured chickpeas which have herby flavours of mint and fresh coriander.

The salads are zinging with flavour, which is not surprising, as the chef here, Anjana Murugan, previously worked in Aimsir and Forest Avenue. Roast beetroot and roast yellow parsnip have sweetness and depth, with mixed seeds, plum and micro coriander; the fresh salad is a wonderful mix of McNally’s salad leaves, with crunchy apples, cucumber, kohlrabi, shredded carrots and thinly sliced radishes; and the earthy grain salad has a mixture of brown and wild rice with roasted chickpeas, kale, mushrooms, peppers, mint, parsley and coriander.

Upside coffee is the brew of choice here, and the flat whites, both vegan and regular, go down very nicely with the orange and almond flourless cake, a deliciously moist carrot cake, and vegan bites, all of which are made in-house.

It may sound like this is a destination restaurant, but it is essentially fast food, to grab and go at lunchtime for under a tenner. Every detail is thought through, from the organic produce and higher welfare meat, to the compostable packaging and the electric cargo bike used for deliveries. Eating here is probably one of the easiest ways to make a difference. And it’s delicious. The only surprise is that there aren’t more Tang cafes around the country.

Lunch for two with cakes and two coffees was €32.50.

Verdict: 8.5/10 Delicious food that is sustainably sourced and follows a seasonality chart
Facilities: Downstairs, with Archie & Izzy toilet paper which contains no harmful chemicals.
Music: The Budos Band and chilled sounds
Food provenance: McNally vegetables, Ring’s Organic Chicken, and Gubbeen Smokehouse
Vegetarian options: Plenty of vegetarian and vegan options
Wheelchair access: Dawson Street is accessible with no accessible toilet, Abbey Street is fully accessible