Healthy and delicious

A happy pair of restaurateurs are spreading their message with food that's good to eat as well as good for you

   
This article is over 6 years old

The Happy Pear

  • International

Happiness is a hunk of meat on a cold day. Take one slab of muscular animal, simmer slowly. Toss in some root vegetables to soften and sweeten and your food hug is ready. That’s how a lot of us feel on days like today when being outdoors is an extreme sport. We want to eat something that has spent a long slow time in heat. No raw food when it’s raw outside. But I’m on my way for a veggie feast. I fear that it could be like Sarah Lund in a twinset, not quite chunky enough for purpose.

In the short dash from the car to the cheerful orange front of The Happy Pear in Greystones, Co Wicklow, I’m drenched. You walk in through the veg shop and grocery part of this operation into a small, canteen-style serving area. The seats are upstairs and I’m early, so I head up to wait before ordering. Blackboards on the way up the stairs give a sense of how deep green this place is. Everything you leave behind on the plate is composted. The van runs on vegetable oil, the electricity comes from wind farms off the Scottish and Irish coastlines.

The twin brothers David and Stephen Flynn (the happy pair presumably) who run this place seem to be men with a mission. These days when every coffee joint has a “philosophy”, theirs seems to be worth the chalkboard on which it’s written. Cheerful phrases are everywhere, painted on walls. “I do not fail. I succeed in finding out what doesn’t work,” one of them reads. Happiness seems obligatory.

The words “Eat Well” are spelled out in spoons on timber over the fireplace which houses a roaring stove. A less rustic glow heater is down the other end battling with the draughts rattling through the sash windows. Chairs are mismatched, tables painted white. There are several paintings of the place hung around the walls, and tables have photos, quotations and sunny postcards under their glass tops. Lots of people know each other up here. Seats by the stove are being passed from one friend to the next.

My dad arrives even more rain-soaked and we head down to where the warm beany smells are wafting up. The first thing you see is the salad counter. These are typically the places where good veg go bad, drying up or soaking up so much of their dressing that the composting process is already well underway. This selection seems to have been freshly-prepared enough to avoid that fate. And there are lots of beans and robust veg that don’t get counter-wilt in the same way. The salads come with the main courses and it’s a simple choice between two soups and two main dishes. We carry them up on trays, with sweet things too, so we don’t have to make another trek downstairs.

Heat comes in two forms – spice and piping hot food. Moroccan tomato soup has harissa stirred through its thick depths so you get clean tomato flavour with a mouthwarming afterglow. The other soup is a greeny-grey concoction of mung bean, parsley and turnip, which doesn’t win any beauty contests but is just right. Chunks of turnip have turned sweet by being treated like chunks of meat. Vegetables do that when you give them a bit of love and time.

The Hungarian goulash is fiery and full of slices of green pepper. Dad’s two salads – a sweetly-dressed spinach and full-on fruit, give all the beany heat of the goulash a clean sweet marriage. I get my dish of the day, a gorgeous sweet potato and aubergine bake, which is a bit like a cream-free gratin.

The moisture comes from the vegetables, the aubergine flesh turned creamy and meaty, layered over sliced sweet potato with an occasional large basil leaf tucked into the layers and all topped with a nutty cheese. I feel well and truly hugged.

A house-made fig roll (“Jim Figgerty had nothing on this,” says my dad) is a reminder of how tangy and full of seeds and texture real figs can be. An apple and cinnamon slice is barely sweeter than a raw apple, I’m guessing flour-free and topped with toasted almonds.

I love The Happy Pear. Its cheery optimism is enough to make it a charming refuge from the world. They are proving that health food can be good food, and the urge to eat well is more than just a slogan spelled out in old spoons.

Lunch for two with juice and desserts came to €32.

The Happy Pear, Greystones, Co Wicklow, tel: 01-2873655

SECOND HELPING ...

Art becomes life on Dublin’s Camden Street as the owners of the building used to film the exterior shots in RTÉ drama Raw have applied for planning permission to turn it into a real cafe, bar and restaurant. Number 72/73 Camden Street Lower is regularly transformed into a convincing restaurant exterior, with a menu on the wall. Television crews often have to explain to passersby that they can’t book a table in this fake restaurant. The interior shots of the restaurant are all filmed elsewhere.

Last month, the building’s owners Indur Ltd, put up a planning notice looking for a change of use from wholesale showroom, storage and offices to a licensed cafe bar and restaurant.

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