When the weather gets a bit cold, and let's face it miserable, we tend to seek out food that is warm, nostalgic and comforting. There is a time and a place for elaborate brunches, fancy dinners and adventurous eating but this is not it. I’m talking soup and sambo, pots of tea, carvery and classic cakes. Here is a list of my favourite no-nonsense feeds around the city, chosen for their straightforward approach and guarantee to make you smile, inside and out
Bewley's Cafe, 78/79 Grafton Street, Dublin 2
The iconic Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street can give you the warm fuzzies just walking through the door, even after the recent multi-million euro refurbishment. They managed to restore this beloved space, keeping all of the original charm, and most importantly, the menu is still jam-packed with old favourites. For your savoury fix, look for classics like The Bewleys Breakfast, quiches, a big bowl of Irish stew or soup of the day with a cheddar and chive scone. Sweet fans will relish in heritage bakes like the original sticky and cherry buns, apple pie and sticky toffee puddings. The highlight of the patisserie has to be The Mary Cake; a chocolate delight with an apricot centre with almond and hazelnut sponge. A Bewley’s classic since the 1940s.
Simons Place, 22 St. Great George`s St. Dublin 2
A well-loved spot since opening its doors in 1997, Simon's Place been a constant in the effervescent George's Street Arcade, feeding hungry shoppers, students and usually a few musicians or artists. It was the café hangout before we really had café hangouts. Head here for homely soup-and-sandwich combos with straightforward choices of egg, tuna, chicken, ham or avocado. There’s also a salad plate, delicious baked goods including their cherished cinnamon rolls and morning toast. An excellent spot to while away the time in town with exemplary people watching too.
The Kitchen & Homemade at Arnotts, 12 Henry St, Dublin 1
I’m a bit biased here, as Arnotts was where we shopped when I was a kid so my nostalgia for the food here is strong (I lived for a plate of sausage, beans and chips). More recently, chef Gary O’Hanlon has taken hold of the reigns here after ten years at the well regarded Viewmount House, and he’s kept the vibe just as I like. In the serve-yourself section at Homemade, you can get a hearty, choose-your-items, Irish breakfast in the mornings and then throughout the day, choose from carvery roast, salad bar and a rotating selection of hot, comfort dishes like chicken bakes, lasagna and shepherd's pie. Upstairs at The Kitchen is the perfect place to stop off for tea and scones and freshly baked cakes. Essential shoppers fuel.
The Kingfisher, 166 Parnell St, Dublin 1
When you’ve got a hankering for some old-school fish and chips, head to The Kingfisher. This Parnell Street institution is a down-to-earth, family-run restaurant serving up traditional fare, their famous fish and chips and plenty of daily seafood specials. They do a great classic prawn salad with fresh, juicy king prawns and just the right amount of zing in the Marie rose sauce. The fish and chips are flaky fresh fish encased in golden, crunchy batter served with proper chips, peas and tartare sauce. Top this off with wonderful, homely service and a dessert menu featuring apple tart, bread and butter pudding and jelly and ice cream, it makes for a must visit for any nostalgic seafood fans.
The Kilkenny Shop Cafe, 6 Nassau St, Dublin 2
Downstairs, you can find all manner of Irish gifts, clothes and homewares in The Kilkenny Shop and upstairs, there’s a gem of an in-store cafe with views over historic Trinity College. Grab your tray and jump in line for a great feed. In the morning, the ‘Potters Breakfast’ is your classic Irish breakfast ‘choose-your-items’ set up and includes your tea, coffee and toast. There’s creamy porridge too. During the day, choose from fresh, homemade cakes and proper scones. Lunches are comforting and hearty — think soups, rustic sandwiches, quiches, tarts and hot pots.
The Pepper Pot Cafe, Powerscourt Town Centre, 60 South William Street, Dublin 2
Tucked away on the first-floor balcony of the historic Powerscourt Town Centre, the Pepper Pot is a quirky café, usually busy and worth a short wait to try terrific food featuring plenty of local suppliers. While it's thoroughly modern in its approach, the cooking retains a homely, old-school vibe. The soup of the day is served with brown soda bread or can be added on to any of the brilliant sandwiches — their most famous being the roast pear & bacon, but there is also an excellent egg and watercress and a sausage sambo. All-day-breakfast is creamy eggs on toast or organic porridge, there are delightful scones and Victoria sponge. Everything comes on colourful, pastel vintage crockery and the most important bit, service is with a smile.
Said to exist as a pub in this spot for over 300 years, O’Neill's must be doing something right. They certainly are when it comes to hearty, wholesome pub food. They are well-known for their Irish breakfast, featuring proper sausages, bacon from Ballincollig and Kelly's of Newport black pudding. The rest of the day, expect plenty of pub food classics with wings, chowder and even oysters but their main draw here is the old-school carvery roast. Choose from roast chicken, collar of bacon, lamb, corned beef and more. Expect your plate to be loaded with vegetables and gravy too. The comfort vibe continues with lamb shanks, Guinness pie and beef casserole and an irresistible selection of homely desserts including homemade Irish apple and blackberry pie, rhubarb crumble and bread and butter pudding.
Hatch & Sons, Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, Charlemont House, Parnell Square North, Dublin 1 and The Little Museum of Dublin, 15 St Stephens Green, Dublin 2
There are two outposts of the homely Hatch & Sons, one off Stephens Green, the other on Parnell Square, and both are doing a fine job with their comforting all-day menu. Irish suppliers include Burren Smokehouse, Mossfield organics and Barry’s tea that make up a handsome menu of old-school offerings. Their star sandwiches are the Blaa’s - soft white bread rolls from Waterford are stuffed with terrific ingredients like Irish spiced beef, Coolea cheese, onion relish and Irish rapeseed mayo. They always have a Guinness & Beef stew on, daily hot specials and fruit crumble with cream. Keep an eye out for their Supper Clubs where they celebrate Irish food once a month on Wednesday evenings.
Despite Avoca being a household name and having stores all over the country, I still sometimes refer to the Suffolk Street store as a hidden gem, because it’s easy to forget that, in the basement and top floor of the beautiful store, you can find classic Avoca food right in the middle of town. Head downstairs for splendid salads — classics like the broccoli, hazelnut and cherry tomatoes or fennel, pomegranate and orange paired with homemade patés & terrines, seeded brown bread, their famous quiches or slices of honey baked ham. The top floor serves more modern fare but also has a great full Irish breakfast, lots of cakes and scones and some warming lunches like roast chicken and beef bourguignon.