Archive for November, 2011

Moore Street Chinese Buffet

Traffic in Dublin was appalling today. Please don’t tell me this is the start of the annual Christmas snarl-up. Not sure that I could take another month of this.

Anyway, I had an urge to go back to Moore Street. When we were there for the first outing (Delhi O’Deli) I remember spotting a Chinese buffet a few doors up, with €4.99 signs stuck on the window.

So I battled my way down Henry Street, cut through the ILAC centre and emerged exactly opposite the place I was looking for. On the way, on Capel Street, just near the bridge I passed Soup Dragon, which does a Friday Fiver lunch and then I found Bonza Pies in the ILAC centre which sells various pies for under a fiver, both noted for future outings.

So …

Chinese Fast Food Buffet, Moore Street, Dublin

… in I went, alone this time.

It doesn’t seem like a place that would be noted for its atmosphere, or maybe I just caught it on the wrong day. It was 1.45pm and maybe it was a hive of babbling activity a little earlier, but now, it felt a bit like a library. There were about 8 patrons there, most dining alone and just finishing up their meals, and by the time I sat down with mine, only one was left, and he went shortly afterwards. Pretty quiet for a place that provides huge amounts of food for a fiver. Why?

Chinese Fast Food is a buffet, so I took my plate and checked out what was on offer. There were three big buffet catering units, each with eight trays of food.

The one on the right has two types of fried rice, noodles, chips, cocktail sausages and a few other bits and pieces. The other ones contained a reasonably broad range of standard Chinese restaurant/ take-away food: pork, chicken, tofu and vegetables, cooked in a variety of ways some in standard looking/smelling sauces and others deep fried in batter.

I wasn’t massively hungry but I wanted to try a few dishes, so I spooned out some rice and tried some cauliflower, some broccoli and a few different pork dishes (one rib and two other fried pork portions, one in sweet and sour sauce).

My lunch

It wasn’t hot. That’s the first thing that crossed my mind. Not helped by being spooned on to a cold plate. The rice was nicely cooked, with egg, and it wasn’t greasy. The vegetables were quite crisp, especially the broccoli and served in generic, hard to define but tasty sauces. I could taste salt or MSG but it wasn’t the dominant flavour.

The rib was gorgeous, with a strong five spice flavour. Very tender and not fatty. The two other pork dishes were fine. The sweet and sour sauce was as I expected and the pork was a bit chewy, but not tough.

To be honest, I enjoyed this meal and it was only €4.99. The only other Chinese buffet I had experienced was the rather more famous one on the quays, where every dish seemed very oily and overcooked and from which one emerged smelling like a chipper. In contrast, there was no residue of grease on my plate after this meal. I had plenty of food and there was no limit on the amount of food one could pile on the reasonable sized plates.

The place itself is plain and pretty devoid of atmosphere…

… which is a pity and I still find it odd that it was so empty. On my way back to the quays after lunch, near enough to 2.30pm I passed several other restaurants, none of them as empty as the one I had just left.

I’m not going to not recommend this place, if you know what I mean, but I’d suggest that if you are going to give it a try, go with a few other people and liven the place up.

(PS. I confess to being a bit nervous of buffet food in general. It’s quite exposed to the atmosphere and, of course, to people, with our various unpleasantnesses. You’re never quite sure how long the food been there and at what temperature. These are general concerns, you understand, not particular concerns about this buffet.)

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So … Ballymount. Not my first choice of location for finding lunch but, actually, it turned out OK.

Why Ballymount? Well, son #2 somehow managed to lose the battery from his phone (I know – don’t ask) and a very helpful person in Carphone Warehouse (where they ALL seem to be helpful) suggested contacting a place called Vibe Centre, which I did. They had a replacement battery in stock (for a tenner) and so I called into them at lunchtime. The Vibe Centre is an amazing place in the Robinhood Industrial Estate that sells bits of, and accessories for, all types of mobile phones.

Battery bought, I felt, much as Pooh felt, that it was ‘time for a little something’.

The Ballymount area is spectacularly unattractive with a lot of what look like newly vacant warehouses and older dilapidated industrial units. It’s also not that flush with places to eat but eventually I spotted a Spar and thought that, if I couldn’t find anywhere else, I’d grab a roll in there. As I drove in to the Ballymount Retail Centre (for that was where the Spar was located) I spotted Josh’s Place, packed with what seemed like happy people eating.

 

 

To be honest there’s not a lot of choice for a fiver but, if you could stretch to a tenner you could choose from pretty well anything on the menu. They have a good selection of food from breakfasts (I saw one of them being served – it was massive) to salads to three kinds of soup to pasta or meat dishes. It’s a counter-service place and the staff were helpful in explaining the options (I seem to have hit a good vein of helpfulness today, which was pleasing).

I chose a salad plate for €4.70 which, apart from soup and bread (which I don’t really count as a meal for the purposes of this blog) was the only thing available for my fiver. No meat (that would have added an additional €1.25) but the portion was very generous.

 

 

The salad plate comprised shredded carrot with celery and herbs; coleslaw; noodles tossed in a sweet oriental sauce; broccoli, cherry tomatoes and red onion; and sliced tomatoes with cucumber (and a little more red onion). All the salads tasted fresh and the dressings in which they were tossed were well-balanced. (I’m not a fan of over-vinegared dressings which do seem to be quite prevalent.) The coleslaw was a little too mayonnaise-y for me but that’s really a matter of personal taste (and concern over my stubborn waistline).

I grabbed a big glass of water and some ice and made may way to a table. It was about 1.30 and some people were making their way back to work so I was able to find a space without too much bother.

The place was buzzing with animated conversation and, for those eating alone, there were newspapers and FREE WiFi. FREE WiFi – are you listening, all other restaurants, cafés and bars in the city? Free WiFi is a BIG draw for me.

 

 

The salad was good and filling and I genuinely enjoyed the atmosphere in the place. There seemed to be plenty of staff serving and clearing away and they were pleasant and smiley, which was nice.

 

The receipt (till person made a genuine mistake, corrected without fuss)

 

In the Retail Centre there’s also a Subway, which does a 6″ sub and a medium drink for €4.95, and the aforementioned Spar, in which one can sit/perch and eat a 9″ pizza with three toppings for a fiver.

Unless you work nearby or are in the market for power tools, fitness equipment or expensive office furniture, there wouldn’t be much to bring you to the Ballymount Retail Centre, I’m afraid but, if you happen to be within shouting distance, Josh’s Place is well worth a visit.

 

 

And finally, another quote from Pooh: “Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”

 

 

Honest and Good

I’ve always liked South Great George’s Street in Dublin (well, one side of it anyway). I like its proportions, the attractive red brick facades and the way it sweeps down to Dame Street. It’s a pity it’s always been run down, that various attempts to pretty it up have not been successful and that the planning authorities sometime in the 1970s (probably) sanctioned the destruction of a big chunk of its west side in favour of an anonymous block.

Shops in particular seem to have been spectacularly unsuccessful. Pubs and restaurants are another matter. From the long established Long Hall and The George to the new Rustic Stone, South Great George’s Street has plenty of drinkeries and eateries of all styles and types, and to suit most pockets.

I’m pretty sure the Market Arcade on South Great George’s Street is unique. I can’t think of any other arcade in Dublin with such a curious mix of market stalls and permanent shops. It’s a must for anybody looking for vintage clothes. Retro, near the South Great George’s Street entrance has been in the arcade for about 20 years and I remember buying a tuxedo there about 12 years ago. The arcade is also a place where you can find vinyl records, old coins and badges, posters and old advertising signs, hats and scarves, and get your ears pierced. It has a few eateries: Simon’s Cafe is probably the best known of them but it, unfortunately, has nothing more substantial than soup or a cake for a fiver.

Honest To Goodness, on the other hand, and at the other end, is a bit of a find. I had coffee there a few weeks ago when I had time on my hands. Nice coffee it was too and the atmosphere was very pleasant and calming. I noticed than that, although most of the items on the menu are between €6.95 and €8 to eat in (but between €5.20 and €6.50 to take away), they do a special every day for a fiver. I’m not going to list the specials here – you can find them on their Facebook page.

Today's venue

Friday’s special is a Sloppy Joe. In Honest to Goodness this is spicy minced beef, a slice of cheddar cheese, a slice of tomato and some mayonnaise between two slices of bread baked in the shop. You get two of these and a couple of spoonsful of couscous. What’s more, you get a choice of breads. The young lad chose white bread and I chose tomato bread.

My Sloppy Joe

The young lad tucking in

Honest to Goodness is small. And narrow. About two thirds of it is taken up with a kitchen/serving area, the remaining third containing ten small tables seating two people each. It’s popular. I had heard this and so we arrived at about 12.20. From the door it looked packed. And there seemed to be a substantial queue. It turned out, however, that the queue contained people who had ordered food to take away and it so happened that there were a few tables free.

The internals

It’s a busy place. I counted seven people behind the counter cutting, spooning, assembling, coffee making, getting ready to serve food, and clearing up. The seating area is a tiny bit cramped and the young lad observed that it’s not a place for having a private conversation. That being said, it’s not uncomfortable and it’s not unlike many lunch places you’ll find in the city. And it does have a busy but warm and friendly atmosphere, with unobtrusive decent music.

The food came quickly, with glasses of water, and we tucked in. The Sloppy Joes were delicious. The meat was nicely spiced with a pleasant and not overpowering chilli heat, the tomato fresh, the mayo tasty and the couscous moist. The cheese slices were a little superfluous, I felt. The portions were generous and it was very filling. This was an excellent value meal.

The bit I love

I read some reviews of Honest To Goodness written on other sites. A few mentioned, in negative terms, the service. We found it fine. Our order was taken efficiently, we were helpfully pointed to a free table, our food was served with a smile, plates were cleared from tables quickly and without fuss, and the cash transaction at the end was handled with a smile and pleasant conversation.

This is certainly a place to revisit. Have a look at the menu on the site. There are some gorgeous looking sandwich combinations, fresh soups and nice looking breakfasts. I recommend it very highly.

*The traditional Sloppy Joe is an American invention consisting of minced beef cooked with tomato and served in a hamburger bun. I’m sure I saw a TV programme once that suggested that it was the precursor of the hamburger but I’m not certain that that’s true.

 

 

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