Review: Finally, a hipster coffee joint with fabulous food

This hipster cafe is precious about its coffee, but the superb food is the real gem here

Two Pups Coffee
    
Address: 74 Francis St
Cuisine: Fusion
Cost: €€

Sorry, coffee aficionados, but I’ve a bean to pick with you. It’s not that I long for the days when coffee tasted like it was brewed from powdered mice and spent matches. I don’t miss that last cup you could eke from a Nescafé jar by pouring in boiling water to melt the last weapons-grade gloop off the inside of the glass. But here’s the thing about places that put their coffee on a pedestal. Those single-estate beans sluiced in dolphin tears and individually hand-roasted over Amazonian beeswax candles may be life-altering, but the food? Well, it’s typically a bit meh. It’s as if (despite all the caffeine) there’s a finite amount of energy. Coffee geeks can only get precious about one thing at a time before needing to lie down in a darkened room for a bit.

I'm bringing all that prejudice to Two Pups, a coffee shop on Francis Street that couldn't get more brewster-hipster if it was dreamt up in the Portlandia writers' room. The front room is a coffee-shop, all grey-painted concrete floor and tables made from slabs of white-stained timber. Behind that there's a vintage clothes shop and then more tables in a dark space beside the small kitchen. It's such a new-old mash-up I wouldn't be surprised if there was a blacksmith in the yard out the back. There are many words on a blackboard about the different types of coffee they serve here. So far so familiar – until the food arrives. And pelt my cynical head with Arabica beans if it isn't bloody great.

Funny old dive

Francis Street is a funny old dive of a street. You can casually drop the price of a Nama-ed apartment on an antique sideboard but there hasn’t been a decent restaurant since the dowager that was the Old Dublin served her last spoon of caviar and closed her doors.

Two Pups is her hipster grandson. It’s nearly a vegetarian cafe. The only meat is the Gubbeen hot-smoked ham on the toastie. The vegetables come from the McNally Family Farm, a name that is now the common denominator in places I have loved recently. On my first visit to Two Pups (there have been three) yellow and orange carrots are stewed with kale, potatoes, parsley and a couple of handfuls of pearl barley. It’s a big hug of a bowl that needs every crumb of the freshly toasted wedges of Le Levain sourdough to mop up the juices. Made with vegetables shipped from those vast Spanish fields that we now know supply so much of our food, this stew would be nothing special. Made with these ingredients, it’s a taste of a richer past when backyard growing was part of life in a city and vegetables tasted more of themselves. The bread on the toastie has been slathered with butter on the outside and then griddled crisp with the ingredients a great toastie needs inside: good cheese and great ham.

Earthy sweetness

The McNally roasted beets are in my sights on a second visit. They’re simply cut into quarters and roasted skin-on until their earthy sweetness is taken up several notches. There’s Toonesbridge ricotta and paprika-roasted pumpkin seeds for creaminess and crunch. And it comes with more sourdough and salad leaves that taste like they never saw the inside of a modified-atmosphere cellophane bag. The €6 daily dahl could become a daily staple. It’s a buttery soup of split red lentils cooked slowly until they’ve yielded almost all their bite. The heat comes primarily from ginger and it’s topped with yoghurt, fresh coriander and a sprinkled line of black mustard seeds.

They outsource the cakes to a couple of bakers. I get the Arún Bakery blood orange and polenta cake on my final visit, a cake that’s not so much moist as sodden as a lower field in north Longford. Slices of orange, peel and all, have been baked onto the bottom of this upside-down cake for more simple food that tastes homemade.

The menu is short and sometimes the wait is long. I’m not the only one who’s discovered that this is a great food place hiding its light under a bushel. Oh, and the coffee’s delicious – fruity, bitter and serious without tipping into nose-wrinkling sludge territory. And it’s €2.50 for a cup. Three cheers, Two Pups. Now do something about the gulag of a loo out the back and you’ll be perfect.

Lunch for two with sparkling water came to €17.50, a lone lunch (with doggy bag) was €17.50 and that coffee and cake was 5.50

Two Pups, 74 Francis St, Merchant’s Quay, Dublin 8 

Music: Lovely and laid-back.

Facilities: Describing them as basic would be a kindness.

Food provenance: Great. McNally's veg and Gubbeen meat are the stars.

Wheelchair access: No.

Vegetarian options: You will feel at home here.

THE VERDICT: 8/10 Come for the coffee stay for the food.

Second Helping . . .

Asahi is the Guinness of Japan and also the name of a new restaurant on Charlemont Street. Calling itself an Asian street food restaurant, the place is a large, friendly place to eat what feels predominantly like takeaway food. Miso soup comes in a cardboard cup, even thought we’re dining in. That soup, along with the tuna avocado sushi roll, is probably the best choice here if you don’t want to feel like you’re decanting dinner from a takeaway box onto a plate. Seating is mainly in a long corridor ending in a series of projections of pagodas and wipe-clean aphorisms of the “life is a journey not a destination” variety. A free soft-scoop ice-cream cone at the end is the added bonus for leaving your house.

Asahi Asian Street Food, 33 Charlemont St, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin 2