Updated: Jun 21, 2019
This place shows you don't have to be as generic as the developments around you
Publisher: Irish Times
Author: Catherine Cleary
Rating out of 5*: ****
There’s a butcher in this back story. Danny Coogan and his wife Gillian rear cattle on their farm and turn them into meat at their abattoir Coogan Meats. Some of their brisket goes to Gillian’s brother William Monaghan’s new cafe in Dublin, where it’s cooked into juicy threads in the kitchen. This might look like a cookie-cutter coffee place but in one important dish it’s one of the few farm-to-fork operations in the country.
One Society is on Gardiner Street in Dublin’s north inner city. It’s in the corner ground floor of one of the new buildings that have popped up in this part of the city, the neighbour to a new student housing block.
South of the river, at our local student housing compound, Deliveroo bikes often provide the only sign that life inside these blocks is sentient and in need of food. Our student silo has branded film slapped on the inside of all its street-level glass frontage, which sucks life and soul out of any public realm that could have been created. There isn’t even a Spar to add to the local sum of happiness, employment or amenity.
So One Society is a welcome sight, not least because it’s the end point of an epic bike journey through sideways hail and bad driving. But also because it’s the kind of place I imagined might be spawned by the arrival of hundreds of new people. The furniture is all steel and repurposed timber, a curved wooden bench with cushions in the prow of the building and a tiled pizza oven which gets fired up at 4pm. Until then it’s a brunch-and-lunch menu with a couple of showstoppers to lift it out of the pancakes and avo-toast bracket.
One of these is that brisket in a dish with greens, as country-sized a plate of food as you’ll find for this money between the canals.
One Society is the new kid on the block with a sense of where the block actually is. Food grounds this cafe in a place and connects it to places further afield
Brisket is the cut of beef from the lower chest of the animal. It’s full of connective tissue that needs to be cooked low and slow to tenderise it. Here it’s forked into threads finished with its own cooking juices stirred through it and the tiniest hint of spice. The yolk of a soft poached egg with a dash of chilli seasoning on top adds another depth of flavour to it all. And there’s organic spinach and kale cooked into a tasty tangle and topped with toasted cashews. Cherry tomatoes have been roasted and are presented on the plate still attached to the crispy remains of the vine on which they were grown. The only let down is some broccoli which has gone over to the watery side.
The “not so classic Irish breakfast” is not something you could eat every day unless your job involved the hewing of rock and carrying of hods. Good sausages are teamed with Rick Higgins smoked black pudding – another kind of idea so good you wonder why no one else thought of it first. There are two fried eggs and a puddle of “caramelized green apples” which is just apple sauce but still good. There are “homemade Mexican spiced beans” to round it all off and more of those roasted cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. All of it comes with springy Le Levain sourdough on the side, just to round it out with some classy carbs. My friend says it’s probably as good a breakfast as he’s ever had.
We finish with the house-made brownie and the mixed-berry crumble that William is upfront enough to say is “bought in”. The brownie is gluten free and pleasantly chewy. The crumble is good too and coffees are excellent.
One Society is a heartening cafe. The owner is coming from a career in sales, his sister tells me when I phone a few days later. That explains the different feel to this operation. It’s the new kid on the block with a sense of where the block actually is. Food grounds this cafe in a place and connects it to places further afield. The result is a simple lunch, like carvery without the snooze button. It is hope for a future which might not be as generic as the developments that surround it.
Lunch for two with coffees and desserts came to €43.75
Verdict A great addition to Dublin’s north inner city
Food provenance Good. “My sister’s farm” being the star name
Wheelchair access Yes
Vegetarian options Good