Return to Odessa

Brunch is now more a recovery from book clubs than night clubs, but the original venue remains

Sat, Dec 21, 2013, 01:00



If like me your hangovers originate in book clubs rather than nightclubs these days then the next statement might shock you. It’s almost 20 years since brunch came to Dublin. The sitcom Friends was new when Odessa Restaurant opened in 1995. This was not a coincidence. Until then restaurants had sit-up-straight chairs and tables. Suddenly there were armchairs and couches for lounging. Sunday morning had a place to curl up and be stroked better, with newspapers, maple syrup, smoked ham and a side of cubed chips they called home fries.

I wasn’t anyone’s mother the last time I did brunch in Odessa. So it’s thrilling to be setting out in winter sun away from the porridge-splattered bedlam of home to meet two friends. The surprise about the brunch here is nothing has changed. Downstairs from the tall-windowed restaurant in the clubby den below there’s a bomb-shelter feeling. So much has come and gone above our heads and this comfy cave has withstood the rumbles.

Extracting yourself from the people-swallowing leather armchairs still requires a full body workout. The staff are still cooler than me. And the 20-somethings, who were small children when this place first opened, still settle in for long leisurely inhalations of eggy carbs, meat, salt, fat and sugar.

We’ve picked the three classic Odessa brunch dishes: eggs Benedict, huevos rancheros and French toast with smoked ham and maple syrup. There’s nothing grown-up or innovative about all this nursery food. It’s tasty. It’s hot and it hits all the right spots. Jeanne dreams of the huevos rancheros on certain mornings. They come with perfectly sliced green chillis, guacamole and tangy crème fraiche along with chicken chunks wrapped with melted cheese.

Gerry’s impressed with his home fries which are just the right amount of crisp and not too oily. My French toast looks a little basic but does what’s required. It’s three large Jenga-style wedges of toasted eggy bread with crusts cut off because, let’s not forget, we’re regressing here. Some folded ham sits on top and there’s a pot of maple syrup to dump over the whole artless plate.

We go for the tweedy option of teas and coffees rather than pitchers of cocktails because there’s only so far you can take the pretending to be 20 experience. On the main menu their fivers (small plates of things like chickpeas and chorizo) have become sixers, while tenner main course plates are now eleveners. It’s still terrific value. And although it has all the freshness of a Friends repeat, I’m happy Odessa is still here.

Brunch for three came to €56.35.

THE VERDICT: 7½/10 Consistently comforting brunch now officially a retro experience
Odessa, 13 Dame Court, Dublin 2,
tel: 01-670 3080
Facilities: Fine
Music: Low-level
Food provenance: None
Wheelchair access: No

Second helping: the best brunches
Brunch is a nice way to catch up with friends and family in the coming days. Here’s my pick of the great places:

Near Odessa is chef Temple Garner’s San Lorenzo’s where a great value brunch includes Welsh rarebit, crab cakes and Belgian waffle sundae. Sth Great George’s Street, Dublin 2, 01-4789383.

On Aungier Street the Whitefriar Grill does a crab cake Benedict or a lobster hash for brunch, with the option of a veggie dream hash made from quinoa, squash, beets and Fivemiletown goats cheese with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.
16 Aungier Street, Dublin 2, 01-4759003.

Further south, past St Patrick’s Cathedral The Fumbally does the best brunch for a fiver: Fumbally eggs consisting of brioche, eggs scrambled with Gubbeen cheese, with chopped tomatoes and basil.
Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8, 01-5298732.

A more grown-up option is the Merrion Hotel’s Cellar Restaurant where they do brunch on Sundays. Staples include brioche French toast, eggs Benedict and oysters, razor clams and Dublin Bay prawns.
Merrion Hotel, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, 01-6030630.

Brunch is an all-day event in Capel Street’s Brother Hubbard at weekends. Porridge or a Middle Eastern breakfast plate of egg, sumac sprinkled hummus, feta with za’atar are staples. 153 Capel Street, 01-4411112.

Away from the city centre, the lovely Food Game in Ringsend has mushrooms on sourdough or scrambled eggs and bacon on soda bread on its weekend brunch menu.
10 South Lotts Road, Dublin 4,

They don’t call it brunch but Cork’s Electric Restaurant does an all-day menu from noon that includes grilled halloumi salad, Oysterhaven mussels and chips with a fennel sauce and cider and dill battered fish with chips.
41 South Mall, Cork, 012-4222 990.

On Oliver Plunkett St Italee (see what they did there teaming Italy with the River Lee?) does all the Italian staples for brunch at weekends including pasta and plates of antipasti. 128 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork , 021-4226006.

In Drogheda the Brown Hound Bakery (best teashop and cafe in The Irish Times Best Shop awards this year) has lovely baked goods, or you can order ahead and take them home to host without having to be a short-order cook. 2 B ryanstown, Drogheda, Co Louth, 041-9833792.

It’s not brunch, but in Belfast Il Pirata serves food from noon at weekends with plenty of Italian staples such as duck ragu with gnocchi . 279-281 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, 0044 -28 90673421.

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