Takeaway

Dublin for the herbivores

Charukesi Ramadurai | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on December 18, 2015
Teatime goodies at Pepper Pot Café. Photo: Charukesi Ramadurai

Teatime goodies at Pepper Pot Café. Photo: Charukesi Ramadurai

Hunger strikes: Inside Sheridan’s Cheesemongers. Photo: Charukesi Ramadurai

Hunger strikes: Inside Sheridan’s Cheesemongers. Photo: Charukesi Ramadurai

Vegetarian offerings in the meat-obsessed Irish capital go beyond greasy potatoes

When I leave for the food walk, I’m convinced all I’m getting is potatoes. With meat. And I’m not interested in it, seeking better things despite being a vegetarian (gasp!) on the streets of Dublin. But Eveleen Coyle from Fab Food Trails has promised I won’t go hungry on this tasting trail. So I might as well give it a shot.

Coyle begins by talking about the great potato famine — no surprise there — but goes on to say that Irish cuisine has come way past that dependence on the tuber. “We have an exciting food scene now in Dublin,” she says with a meaningful smile in my direction.

We kick-off at Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, and what better way to start a meal than with bits and bites of smooth cheese? Irish cheese has been making waves in the last few years, with artisanal brands like Cashel Blue, Cooleeney and Milleens. And this store in the heart of Dublin is considered the best place to sample and buy cheese to bring back home. Sheridan’s sources cheeses directly from producers across the country and the friendly staff is happy to talk about the vintage and source of every single cheese in that busy store.

As Coyle keeps up a steady flow of information about the history of Irish food, we head to The Pepper Pot Café, located inside a beautiful period building. The café is a dozen-odd tables squeezed into a narrow passageway overlooking the central courtyard. But that in no way means an uncomfortable space. It is cheery and festive, with bright tablecloth and brighter smiles. With its fresh organic produce and quirky combinations (how about a roast pear, bacon and cheddar sandwich?), this café makes it to every list of Dublin’s best culinary experiences. I have the same sandwich, with crisp mushroom in place of the bacon.

There is a quick pit stop at The Swan Bar, which dates back to 1723. Although it exists in its present avatar only since 1897, it is one of 12 original Victorian bars in the city. The idea is to take a swig of Jameson, while the bartender takes us to the ‘snug’ to regale us with stories of how women were not allowed inside pubs until the middle of the 20th century, and even then, only into these tiny enclosures.

No such limitation at the Guinness Storehouse, which I visit later in the day. Believe it or not, the Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s biggest tourist attraction, taking in over 10 lakh visitors every year. I join the hordes for a tour across seven floors of Guinness history, advertising, memorabilia and brewing process. After learning to pull the perfect pint (and I have a certificate to prove it), I zip up to the Gravity Bar on the top floor, where I find 360° views of Dublin along with a tall and refreshing glass of the beverage that keeps Ireland hydrated and happy.

As it happens, I also manage to combine the two things Dublin is known for: its writers (James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Oliver Goldsmith) and its tipple (think about the fact it has over a thousand pubs). On the Literary Pub Crawl in the evening, I take in Dublin’s best-known pubs, even as I drink in (among other things) trivia about the city’s rich literary history and its writers.

But to go back to the morning. If this has been a food pilgrimage so far, then the Mecca surely is Blazing Salads. I believe Coyle when she says that even diehard carnivores swoon at the salads and vegetarian curries dished out by the Fitzmaurice sisters here. They shook up meat-loving Dublin more than a decade ago with their strict vegan, vegetarian, no-white-products approach. Instead, they use ingredients like spelt flour, quinoa, agave syrup and brown rice syrup to flavour their food. Going by the long queues at lunchtime, nobody is complaining. And even our long wait for a taste of miso soup and green salad is totally worth it.

After all that green goodness, it is time for a bit of indulgence at the boutique Cocoa Atelier. I ignore the siren song of the gooey macaroons in the display window, and bite into a spicy-sweet chilli chocolate instead. I take this piquant theme forward later at Butler’s Chocolate Café, with a chilli hot chocolate, the perfect antidote to this cold, cold day.

But my true moment of discovery — and delight — comes at Lolly and Cooks (really, how can you resist a name like that) nestled inside Dublin’s oldest shopping centre, the George’s Street Arcade. After a creamy quiche, the girl at the counter hands me a slice of brown cake saying, “Guess!”

Chocolate, of course, rich, dark chocolate. Mingled with it, an unfamiliar, though not unpleasant taste. It turns out to be aubergine.

That’s when I know why Dublin is my kind of place: any city that can feed me, a diehard vegetarian, nonstop, and end the binge with a divine dark chocolate and aubergine cake, has to be.

Travel log

Getting there

Fly Etihad/British Airways from Mumbai or Delhi via Abu Dhabi/London.

Stay

The Fitzwilliam Hotel (www.fitzwilliamhotel dublin.com) has one of the best locations, right opposite St Stephen’s Green and close to the pedestrians-only shopping district of Grafton Street.

Tip

Central Dublin is small enough to explore on foot and create your own food walk. Another smart option is to buy a Hop On Hop Off bus ticket for €16.50, which is valid for two days.

Charukesi Ramadurai is a Bengaluru-based freelance writer-photographer

Published on December 18, 2015

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