Archive for the ‘ Mediterranean ’ Category

IstanbEl FalafEl

My Dad used to cut my hair until I was about 16 or so. I’m not certain that the result was all that much help in attracting potential girlfriends.* The vague relevance of this Dad haircutting revelation is that I walked past Snips in Middle Abbey Street (the site of my first non-pudding bowl haircut in 1976) on my way to my latest eatforafiver venue.

snips

It’s looking a bit battered but it’s still in business.

My eatforafiver venue of choice is of a much more recent vintage.

Extuse

Google didn’t believe the spelling, asking politely if I meant Istanbul. But there it is, in red and white, at 10 Lower Liffey Street, just a couple of doors down from the Food Emporium and the Gin Palace.

To me, Lower Liffey Street is like a corridor that you have to go through to get from the Ha’penny Bridge to Henry Street. The shops have no sense of permanence, apart from the enthusiastically evangelical Games Workshop with its bespectacled, black t-shirted and acne’d patrons endlessly strategising on behalf of their plastic orc armies.

I don’t know how long Istanbel has been there but a Google search showed that it was established as a company just over a year ago.

Its food offerings are plastered brightly all over the outside of the building, with more on the backlit panels behind the serving area. It caters for a broad range of tastes, offering kebabs, pizza, burgers, chips, a range of Indian and Thai curries, and Mediterranean/Turkish staples such as falafels, Lahmacun, Kofte and Baklava.

I was greeted warmly by the woman behind the counter and I ordered the falafel plate and handed over my fiver. I took a seat beside a massive wall mirror that makes the place look twice as big as it is, and had a look around. There were only two other patrons. Well, two and a half really: a couple with a baby.

Inside, it’s clean and bright but a little spartan.

Int02

Not a venue for a romantic evening but not a bad place for a quick bite and a chat, or to fill up in if you happen to be passing. At a guess (lazily, I didn’t count), it seats about 24 but I’d say a lot of its trade is take-away.

My falafel plate arrived …

food01

… with its salad

TheSalad

pickled chilli (I love those)

PickledChilli

and, under the bread, my falafels.

Falafels

There were also two sauces in one ramekin: a garlic mayonnaise and a VERY mild chilli sauce.

As you’ll see, my falafels were the doughnut type, with the hole in the middle. I understand that the purpose of this design is to allow more of the outside of the falafel to come in contact with the hot oil thereby making it crunchier. To be honest, I prefer the traditional type, made with the miniature ice cream scoop but that’s just me. I’m not that fussed about crunch. They tasted, well, falafel-y and not at all greasy.

As for the rest, the salad was fresh and crisp and the pickled chilli was as you might expect. The garlic mayonnaise I kept tasting for the rest of the day. The flatbread, however, was excellent.

This was a pleasant lunchtime snack, in a clean if rather featureless venue, served efficiently and pleasantly. If I was looking for a good value and reasonably healthy snack and I happened to be in the area, I’d go back to Istanbel rather than some of the places in the food emporium a few doors up the street.

I was there last Wednesday. Later in the evening, I was back in the area being dragged (willingly, to be honest) by Jacko, an old college pal, to The Academy to see Blackberry Smoke do their stuff. They were hairy and authentic, and it was a most enjoyable evening. What intrigued me were the fans. Blackberry Smoke is hardly a household name but the majority of the crowd (mostly men in dark t-shirts, aged between 45 and 60) were singing along to every song. They opened with this:

 

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*that is if you don’t count Maeve, with whom I almost shared a kiss in a nettled laneway when we were 9. It certainly doesn’t include Susan, however, who dragged me on to a bed when I was 10 and gave me an unrequested and unwanted wet kiss, the memory of which, to be honest, still has me a bit traumatised.

 

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Falafel O’Falafel

It’s not often that one comes across a pregnant woman in a wire cage, on a vacant site. But there she was …

Pregwomaninbox

… at the corner of Harcourt Road and South Richmond Street. She was there as part of the Dublin Live Art Festival. She seemed a lot more squished in when I saw her first. I think this is her relaxing.

O’Falafel, where I went on Friday for lunch is on South Richmond Street; the bit of it that forms two sides of a triangle at Kelly’s Corner. If you need a landmark, it’s near the Bernard Shaw pub (see below).

O’Falafel is new. And orange. Bright. Eye-catching.

Entrance

Interestingly, I had two emails last week from people who, in one case (Siobhan), lives in and in the other case (Ian) works in this area who suggested that I give O’Falafel a go. I was more than happy to.

O’Falafel opens onto both parts of South Richmond Street. Here’s the inside out:

Insideout

The last time I was in this space was when it was Grub Hub, and the bloke ‘serving’ was more interested in his mobile phone than in the only potential paying customer in the place.

O’Falafel was notably different and service was both swift and attentive. My questions were answered clearly and my order taken without fuss.

O’Falafel is open almost all the time. I’ve been trying to find them online to check but they don’t seem to be there. As far as I can remember, the pleasant young woman behind the counter said that they open at 7am on weekdays and close at something like 2am.

Inside, it’s small but clean. There are five or six small tables but my guess is that it’s really more of a take-away place than a sit-down place.

The menu is very tempting. Lebanese inspired, there was lots on it that I want to eat and I’ll be back to work my way through other bits of the menu in due course. Here it is. (Click to big up.)

Menu1

 

Menu2

As you see, there’s lots of choice for a fiver or thereabouts, and lots of tempting treats, including things like Halloumi (a packet of which resides in my fridge and will remain there until I work out what to do with it) and Fattoush (which I made once and is gorgeous).

I went for the Spicy Sujuk, mainly because I was intrigued by the idea of a filled falafel, something I haven’t encountered before.

My Spicy Sujuk came soon enough. The falafels, tomato, lettuce and pickles were wrapped in a flat bread which had then been heated in a panini grill. While I’m quite happy for my wrap not to be grilled, the grilling process makes it a little crispy which is nice, and it also makes the thing less susceptible to splitting open and depositing its contents on your lap.

Taste-wise it was good. A little over-dominated by the pickles and, although the title and description emphasise the work ‘spicy’, it wasn’t much. Let’s not be too critical here, however. The wrap was very substantial and tasty and, if all the food on the menu is a) made with such care and b) as filling and tasty as this wrap then O’Falafel is exceedingly good value for money.

Pretty well stuffed, I paid and left, feeling that this was €4.50 well spent. Give it a try.

Wandering down Harcourt Road, I noticed that Soup Stop, which I wrote about some time ago, hasn’t reopened since it closed its doors a month or so ago. That’s a pity but around this area there are now quite a few nice cheap places to eat and drink coffee in, and South Richmond Street itself which has looked a little messy in the past is now getting interesting.

I mentioned the Bernard Shaw above. Here it is …

TheBS

I’ve always liked the look of this place, and the street art around it but I’ve felt this weird reluctance to go into it for a drink. I somehow always feel that I’m too old and dressed in the wrong clothes.

It has a sibling however, which is gorgeous. It’s the MVP on Clanbrassil Street, beside where the Man of Achill used to be, on the right as you go up the hill to cross over the canal bridge heading from town towards Harold’s Cross. I spent a very pleasant Friday night there a few weeks ago in the company of a couple of old pals. It’s got two floors, is basic but atmospheric, has lovely staff and mixes real cocktails. Well worth a go.

 

Ephesian Revelation

The real Ephesus seems to have been a pretty significant place. Inhabited from about 6000 BCE, it developed from the Bronze age onwards, and throughout history it has been a seat of learning, political intrigue, evangelism and architecture. It’s now a tourist hot spot.

The Capel Street one appears to be suffering some sort of an identity, or at least branding, crisis. The last time I saw it, it was VERY definitely called Ephesus, in big red letters. Now it’s called Ephesus in small white ones, and the ‘Capel Kebab and Pizza House’ in big white ones.

2013-10-17 13.38.34

Whatever. It’s been on my mental list of eatforafiver places to visit for ages and so it got done today.

Most things on the menu are a fiver or just a little bit more, as you can see (as ever, click to embiggen) …

2013-10-17 13.39.19

And there’s this …

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The item that intrigued me most was the Turkish Pizza (Lahmacun) just because I’d never heard of it before. It wasn’t available unfortunately. The main man behind the counter (who was most welcoming and friendly) said that it may be available sometime after Christmas. I suspect it’s not a big seller. The other item that caught my eye was the Ayran which is a Turkish yoghurt drink with salt, a little like the Indian lassi. They didn’t have any of that either. No matter.

I chose the Falafel, in the Kebab section. I was told it included some salads and flat bread and was invited to take a seat. The warming process complete, I was asked to choose which salads I wanted (I took the lot) and was handed my plate of food.

2013-10-17 13.49.59

There it is. That’s a pretty sizeable feed for a fiver. Six warm falafels, shredded lettuce, non-mayonnaise slaw, shredded red cabbage, sliced tomatoes, sliced onion, a couple of pickled chillies, and some garlic and chilli sauce. With the promised flatbread.

The salad items were crisp and fresh and the flatbread was warm and soft. I’ve eaten quite a few falafels over the last few years but I wouldn’t consider myself to be an expert on them. These ones were OK. They were crispy on the outside and had a pleasant consistency inside. Yer man in Dublin Falafel Hunt rated the falafels in Ephesus pretty highly and he eats them all the time, so I’m not going to be at all judgemental about them.  For a fiver, this was a decent plate of food and that’s what this is all about.

It seems to be a pretty popular place. I was there just after half one and there were about 10 people in it with a few more drifting in when I was there. It’s bright and clean, with big windows on two sides through which you can watch the world go by. The man and woman behind the counter were kept busy. I left, full, satisfied and with a pleasant chilli tingle on my tongue. This place is a good option if you’re at that end of Capel Street (it’s at the junction with Upper Abbey Street), you’re hungry and you only have a fiver to spend.

 

So …

Sad to say, one of the places I ate in not too long ago, Flavor (sic) on Camden Street has closed. I have a hunch that it never quite identified its market. Pity.

 

And for students: just around the corner from Capel Street, on Ormond Quay, is quite a new Brazilian place …

2013-10-17 14.10.35

I seem to remember this used to be an art gallery. It’s HUGE, has a buffet lunch offer …

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… and, if you’re a student (and have your student card on you), it seems as if you can stuff your face for a fiver. The buffet is downstairs and the queue for it today was massive.

 

Finally: question of the day. You see this woman on the right …

Sabina Coyne

She’s married to President Higgins and her name is Sabina Coyne.  Or rather, her name WAS Sabina Coyne. Since her husband became President, she’s almost universally referred to as Sabina Higgins. What’s that all about?

 

 

 

Bah! Stodge.

I don’t want to be unfair here to The Cedar Tree in St Andrew’s Street, Dublin because first, it’s a nice looking place (inside) and second, it’s got overwhelmingly positive reviews for its food on Tripadvisor and other sites. My lunch here today, however, was disappointing.

outer

Thanks to a tip from Cici in a comment left on eatforafiver a few weeks ago, I decided to try it today at lunchtime. The lunch menu is posted outside …

lunchmenu

The wrap choice is Shawarma Beef, Shawarma Chicken, Falafel and Kafta. I’d had enough meat this week so I decided before I went in to have the Falafel one.

The Cedar Tree is quite big, seating about 50-60 at a guess. Muted lighting, Middle-Eastern music, these …

wall

 

… on the walls and mosaic inlaid tables contribute to a pleasant ambience. I got there at just after 1.30pm and the place was pretty full. Interestingly (to me, anyway) there were more women wearing hijabs and niqabs than I have ever seen in a restaurant before.

I was shown to a table and handed a laminated menu. On the menu the price shown for the wraps was €5.50. I asked about this, and was assured that they were actually €4.95.

I ordered and waited. On the menu, the Falafel Wrap was described as including ‘tomato, radishes, pickles, parsley and tahini sauce’. Sounded good.

It arrived.

wrapwhole

 

I took it out of its wrapper and broke it open to look inside.

wrapinside

 

It was unusual in that the outside was crisp, as if it had been toasted after having been wrapped. This gave it a crunchy texture which was quite pleasant.

The falafel wraps I’ve had in the past have comprised falafels, the quite dense texture of which has been contrasted with the freshness of its accompaniments (usually vegetables of some sort) and the moist tanginess of a sauce. The overall effect has been one of reasonably balanced flavours and a variety of textures.

This wrap had neither, sad to say. It was stodgy. There’s no other word for it. I came across a faint taste of tahini in the first bite but didn’t taste it in the remainder of the wrap. I didn’t find much tomato and the tomato I did find didn’t taste of tomato. There were some pink slivers of something in it (radishes? pickles?) but they didn’t really taste of much either and they had certainly lost any crunchy sharpness that they might previously have had. Near the middle, I think I saw some parsley but I didn’t taste it. It was filling. But it was also stodgy. And disappointing.

But as I said at the start, I don’t want to be unfair to The Cedar Tree because of this one wrap. Maybe falafel wraps aren’t really their forte. The other items on the lunch menu look pretty good value and the place was pretty busy with (mainly) groups of diners all chatting and munching away. In other words, don’t write it off just because of my impression of the wrap.

Just around the corner, at the junction of Trinity Street and Dame Street is the shop that feeds my fountain pen habit: The Pen Corner. If you share my pen habit (or even if you don’t) have a look at the Yelp reviews of this place: here. If you’re looking for more pen (and who wouldn’t), take a look at this site: Pen Addict. (By the way, I can handle my pen use. I can use a biro whenever I want. I choose to use a fountain pen. Honestly.)

Lamy.

Mmmmm.

pencorner

An East Essex Street Jewel

A good end to a good week. So, on Tuesday evening, I went to the theatre. Actually, my favourite theatre: the Project Arts Centre on East Essex Street. To see Focal Point*.

Just opposite the Project, I saw this place …

Outside

… and, on the basis of the menu posted outside, marked it down for a visit.

Falafel and Kebab (which seems to be the preferred spelling, despite the sign over the window) has been here for about eight months. It’s clean and well-kept although it looks a little lived in. It has a Facebook page: here.

Inside is a split level dining area and a serving counter with a kitchen behind it. The hookahs in the window …

shisha

… are not just for show. They serve shisha – I saw two men sharing a pipe last Tuesday night.

It styles itself as a Mediterranean restaurant, the principal offerings being falafel, kebab (shish and doner), and chicken presented in a variety of ways. As sides/extras, it offers hummus (made on the premises), baba ganoush (however you want to spell it), stuffed vine leaves and tabbouleh (all at a very reasonable price). It also has a tandoor, in which it makes flat breads.

Here’s the menu (click to embiggen) …

menu1

menu2

I ordered the Falafel Sandwich for €4.50 from the friendly man behind the counter, took a seat and had a look around.

The restaurant seats about 25 people and the predominant colour is that orange you can see just inside the door in the first photo. There are a few wall hangings and ornaments and, although the place is quite small, it doesn’t feel at all cramped. The music was unfortunate (‘Now 66’ or whatever we are up to at this stage).

My food arrived, tastefully arranged and delivered to my table gracefully.

Food1

A fresh flatbread on which were four falafel, some fresh and pickled salad vegetables, chopped tomato, a pickled chilli, hummus and two sauces: garlic and chilli.

The falafel were fresh tasting, crunchy on the outside and soft inside. The hummus was good, with enough chickpea texture to indicate that it hadn’t been over blitzed in a processor. The vegetables were tasty and varied. There was just the right amount of sauce, and the sauces accurately reflected their descriptions. The bread was fresh, warm and provided a good background to the meal.

For €4.50, I think this was excellent value. (For an extra €3 you can make this into a ‘meal’ with the addition of chips and a can. I can’t think of any reason why you would want to do that.)

My lunch was filling, tasty, pretty healthy and nicely presented. The surroundings were comfortable and it’s a place you could hang around in for a while. I liked it and I’ll definitely go back to try some of their other offerings. I’d say give it a go.

 

Today, I bought ink and hemp.

 

* Focal Point, the play I mentioned above, is produced by TEAM Educational Theatre, with which I have an involvement. It was written by Manchán Magan, a polymath with a refreshing view of the Irish language and how it is being adopted and adapted by young people. Mikel Murfi directed it with an acute sense of dramatic pacing and the actors, Dónall Ó Héalaí and Jody O’Neill, brought it alive. Great stuff. It ends its run in the Project tonight and goes on tour to schools after half term.

 

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