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Out to Lunch

From Christmas gifts to suburban goodies, there’s a lot happening on the food scene at the moment

Big in the Burbs

It's all about the burbs right now, with some of the most interesting foodie innovations springing up around Dublin's villages. Karl Whelan and Niall Sabongi's chef-run Saltwater Grocery in Terenure is a perfect example, bringing together the best of grocery, fish and charcuterie, alongside a "raw bar" and rotisserie, natural and organic wines, plus much-loved 3fe Coffee.

It has been mixing things up even further with a programme of evening events on the theme of iconic foods and pairings, including the Return of the Native, a series of intimate gatherings, with two sittings per night over three nights, where guests enjoy a hands-on oyster shucking master class with either Dermot Kelly of Kelly's Oysters of Clarinbridge, or the irrepressible Niall Sabongi himself, with wine pairings by Le Caveau Wines, plus tapas and chat.

If you've missed them, keep your eyes on its Instagram for all sorts of events to come from chefs and pastry chefs as well as cocktail masterclasses. These include blue fin tuna night, with tuna cutting by a sushi master and pairings with sake (a swordfish version is also planned). Look out for its jamon and sherry nights too, featuring six-year aged Bellotta and the best of Spanish sherry.

Lest We Forget

The pandemic has enhanced all our awareness of the importance of wellness. The food sector, despite struggling more downs than most, played its part.


Remember Cian O’Flaherty’s epic Feed the Heroes national fundraising campaign, which partnered with restaurants, takeaways and commercial kitchens to deliver 200,000 meals to frontline workers at the start of the pandemic?

Though the campaign was wound down last year, having raised €1.4million from more than 19,000 donations, plus in-kind contributions of food, services and volunteers, you can continue to help by supporting the restaurants which supported the cause.

That includes – but is not limited to – Bombay Pantry, Camile Thai, the Vintage Kitchen, Red Bird Cafe, Kerala Kitchen, Palmento, Hang Dai and Dollard and Co.

Others promoted wellness in other ways. The Oliver Dunne Group, whose restaurants include Bon Appetit in Malahide, Cleaver East and Beef & Lobster in Temple Bar and the Donnybrook Gastropub, launched #YouDineWeDonate, donating €5 per reservation across all its venues to mental health organisation Aware, raising €6,000 in total – which is quite something when you consider just how long the restaurant sector remained closed.

Make House your Home

House Dublin is back in action, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in its newly renovated and refurbished House Garden. Chef Neil Mulholland, formerly of Peploes, is busy feeding people in the reimagined space, which takes its inspiration from the colours of Miami and features a lushly planted outdoor dining area capable of seating up to 100 people. All well and good in Miami you might think, but how is it going to fare here? Fear not, it has a retractable roof.

It's part of the Nola Clan group, a dizzying array of bars and social spaces across the city – and further afield, including the 37 Dawson Street bar and Xico, its Mexican styled eatery on Baggot Street.

Inspired by Mulholland’s global travels – pre pandemic, presumably – it features signatures such as crisp duck and short-grain rice salad with yuzu and sesame (€12) with chunks of crisped tender confit Silver Hill duck in a warm but zesty dressing, contrasting with the crisp of rice crackers.

John Stone is down as the meat supplier, delivering perfect fillet (€38), sirloin (€32) and burgers (€19), served with traditional sides. Seafood lovers can choose from a lobster and crab corn dog (€18), grilled seabass (€28) or, chef's favourite, the native lobster linguine with roasted tomato jus and grilled chilli (€28), a labour of love that takes days to prepare.

The garden space is beautifully decorated. Running alongside the bar are troughs of herbs picked for immediate use in the cocktails, and if the bartenders run out, they just pick more from the roof, which has another garden on top.

A Grá for Gifts

No one wants to mention the C word – that would be Christmas, shush! – but as everyone in business knows the corporate gift ordering season is already upon us. If you plan to send something sweet this year, the best advice is to get your orders in early. Some of the country’s best loved options ran out of goodies early last year, such was the frenzy.

Now the time to source super swish hampers from the Lismore Food Company, whose gourmet hampers cost about €130 and last for months, making them great bang for your promotional buck.

Get your orders in early too at Grá Chocolates, award winning chef Gráinne Mullin’s confectionary business – which uses only the finest, ethically sourced chocolate, plus Irish cream and butter. The chocolates are hand-painted in a way that makes them almost too good to eat. Almost. Boxes of culinary genius from €25. You’re welcome.

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times