TOM DOORLEY: I FOUND A CROQUE OF GOLD IN THIS NEW CAFÉ ON DUBLIN’S NORTHSIDE
Publisher: Irish Daily Mail & Extra.ie
Author: Tom Doorley
I don’t know why One Society is called that, but I’m sure there’s a good reason. It’s a new café in north inner city Dublin, a happy and somewhat random discovery on a wet November afternoon when I was mooching around the distinctly down-at-heel streets behind the Gresham Hotel.
I returned a few days later to join a friend for lunch there and found that there is a great deal to like, although there are disadvantages to being, if you like, an early adopter. There’s a big pizza oven, brought in specially from Naples, but it had not been commissioned. It was sitting there getting seasoned by just letting everything dry out.
Pizzas will appear in a few weeks, and I have to hand it to the young team here for courage. Dublin is bursting at the seams with excellent pizza these days: Woodfire Café is a short trot away and you have great things happening, also, in Forno 500, Pi and Cirillo’s, to name just a few city centre pizza establishments.
If they make pizzas as good as our lunchtime mains, I’ll be a regular.
The other downside to visiting in One Society’s second week in business was that their wine licence had not yet come through. The food, robust, thoughtful, unpretentious, big on flavour and mercifully low on fancypants stuff, will taste even better with some chunky wines.
The menu reads like it has been mulled over for quite a while, and I mean that in a very good way. I like the occasional aside, like the suggestion, under the heading of ‘Eggs Your Way’: “add peanut butter [surprisingly good]/hummus €1.25.”
I also like the list of ‘trusted suppliers’, including the owner’s sister’s farm near Trim, Le Levain from nearby who are name-checked for their outstanding breads, and others, including a chorizo producer in Logroño, at the heart of Rioja country. This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel at home, music, in a sense, to the rumbling of my gastric juices.
And before we get to what we ate, I might just mention that One Society gives 10 cent for every tea and coffee sold to Temple Street Children’s Hospital which is, of course, not far away. Even before we ordered, we had a feeling that these were nice people.
Typically, the companion managed to snaffle the low-carb dish but I will confess that I secretly like being forced to eat good bread, especially when it’s as good as the rustic stuff that went to make my croque monsieur which I converted into a croque madame by having a fried egg on top.
This was a gargantuan sandwich containing chopped ham rather than the usual slices, enrobed in a rich béchamel sauce and topped with Gruyère cheese, the whole thing then grilled, and an exercise in decadent savouriness, more shamelessly generous than you would ever think of assembling at home.
I’d make one very minor criticism in that I felt it needed more mustard; however, I like mustard that threatens to make the eyes water. A salad of properly dressed leaves and cherry tomatoes that actually tasted of tomato, appeared on the side.
This was good, but the companion’s brisket and greens were outstanding. The meat, slow-cooked to the point of disintegration was ‘pulled’ into strands, bathed in its own sticky juices which had been warmly seasoned with cumin. And there was perfectly cooked purple sprouting broccoli, just in season, and kale made not just palatable but deliciously moreish by the addition of the café’s own almond pesto. If kale always came like this, I would eat a great deal more kale. There was organic spinach too, and little tomatoes roasted with thyme.
Munching my excellent croque and enjoying its Gallic rusticity, I was quite jealous of what was on the other side of the table.
With mineral water, several coffees and a shared dessert (a bought-in vegan chocolate affair that turned out to be too sweet for us), the bill came to €38.65.
One Society 1 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 2. Phone: 01 537 5261