Meal Ticket: Café Joly, The National Library of Ireland, Dublin 2

Café Joly is tucked away in a corner room on the ground floor, one of the few rooms not given over to books and records

Café Joly
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Address: The National Library of Ireland Kildare Street, Dublin 2
Cuisine: Fusion

The National Library of Ireland is home to records of Irish life, made accessible to those readers who wish to study the documents and archives of this public library. The Library is free of charge to anyone who wants to consult the collections, though a reader’s ticket is needed, and available from the library’s front desk in the building that overlooks the Dail, where the library has lived since 1877.

It’s not a lending library and instead reading rooms abound in this impressive space. There is often a small exhibition in the hallway just before you enter the café, meaning you can get your five minutes of culture without having to dive into the archives of the library.

Café Joly is tucked away in a corner room on the ground floor, one of the few rooms not given over to books and records. Named after Dr Jaspar Robert Joly, who donated his private library to the Royal Dublin Society in 1863, the café is run by Brownyn Bailey and Michael O’Malley. They source Irish cheese, pates and charcuterie to serve on boards alongside their homemade soups, tagines and sandwiches.

They make and source everything fresh on a daily basis, meaning that they can often run out of food by around 4pm. This is a good sign – until you turn up hungry at 4pm that is. It means you could miss out on their daily soups, which can include chicken and thyme (€6.50) or spiced courgette and fennel (€5). Sandwiches are on ciabatta rolls and are stuffed full of Irish ingredients, such as Knockadrinna Ewes cheese with spiced clementine jam (€6) or Mcloughlin’s corned beef with horseradish and baby beetroot pickle (€6).


You can opt instead for one of the tasting plates, such as the selection of On The Pig’s Back terrines, toast and relish (€9.50) They offer a hot dish of the day, too, which could be a beef and cider stew or a tasty tagine, and priced at around €9.50. They do a popular Cup and Crust lunchtime deal of a half a cup of soup and half a sandwich for €6.70.

They don’t have WiFi, making it a terrible place to get some work done and a wonderful place to get away from your daily strifes and struggles. It can be deliciously quiet in off peak times, and is most certainly off the beaten track.

Aoife McElwain

Aoife McElwain

Aoife McElwain, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a food writer