Meal Ticket: Green Bench Café, Dublin 2

This is a compact café; there’s some standing space by the window but mostly the business here is takeaway

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Green Bench Café

On my most recent visit to The Green Bench Café, alarmist headlines about carcinogenic bacon were being strewn across the Internet, hovering around our breakfast routines threatening to destroy all that we hold dear, namely, bacon. Though I know that moderation is key, the hysteria must have seeped under my skin; I was affected enough to order a vegetarian breakfast sandwich from the smiling chef prepping avocados for lunchtime.

The Green Bench Café, which recently celebrated its third birthday, is next door to Credo Pizza on Montague St, the lane that links Harcourt Street and Wexford St. This is a compact café; there’s some standing space by the window looking out onto Montague St but mostly the business here is takeaway.

Sourdough from Tartine Bakery toasted on the grill is the vessel for my vegetarian breakfast sandwich, which is comprised of plump slices of grilled halloumi, a sweet mushy tomato, homemade relish and a handful of rocket, topped off with an expertly fried egg. Having rocket or other salad greens in a toasted sandwich is one of my pet hates – it’s so gross when salad greens become slimy and warm – but somehow that smiling chef has gotten it right here. The rocket has certainly met heat but it hasn’t been dehydrated or destroyed, and it’s the first time I haven’t had to shake my fists to the sky because of greens in a toasted sandwich. Overall, it’s a sterling sandwich. Bravo.

Breakfast starts early at 7.45am and runs till 11am, and the lunch menu takes over at noon. The menu changes regularly but you can expect sandwiches such as BBQ free-range chicken (€6.50) and spiced beef with curry mayo and celeriac remoulade (€5.50). As winter takes hold, there are vegan soups (€4) and meaty hotpots (€6.50) on offer alongside daily changing salads.

The barista is speedy, furiously foaming the milk while banging the portafilter to empty it of used coffee grounds. It’s fun to watch. She’s watchful and is listening to everything; she knows that I’ve ordered the breakfast sandwich from the chef. Her regulars come in and she says things like “The usual?” and “How did that big meeting go for you guys?”. Her coffee is bitter, but in a good way; the coffee’s flavour cuts clearly through creamy milk.

Apart from the bread, everything is made in this small but well-utilised space. A selection of traybakes are lined up temptingly near the checkout, all wrapped and ready to go; banana and walnut bread and chocolate and hazelnut cookies are €1.50 a pop.

The doughnuts (€2.50) are made in-house. They are fat and filled with a variety of delicious goo. Having bought myself some time by not ordering the regular bacon and sausage breakfast sandwich, I treat myself to a caramel-filled doughnut that is covered in sticky icing sugar. Because, that’s how health works, right?