The art café is located in what might be termed as the 'arts district' in Dublin. Many of the city's galleries are located on Francis Street around the corner and the National College of Art and Design is across the road. It's beside Café Nero and the entrance is quite narrow so be careful not to miss it. Inside the café, whitewashed walls display regularly changing exhibitions. As one would expect from this type of establishment, there's a good selection of herbal teas and cakes. Food is a chickpea salad type fare. The prices reflect the quality of the offerings, which is average. But then, this place is more about the arty atmosphere.
I'm told that they have live music at the weekends, my guess is that it would be some sort of semi-insipid singer-songwriter affair.
This tiny "art cafe" close to Christchurch is certainly an interesting little place. It is quirky with a few originally named dishes on the menu - "Smells Like Purple" and "" anyone? But thankfully each one of these creative names is explained underneath in the menu.
Visiting here as part of a Christmas party, first impressions of the place were good. Great artwork on the walls, cute little tables with odd chairs here and there. The menu is appealing and wide ranging - plenty of pastas, salads and "burgers".
There are a wide range of starters. Our large group shared bruschetta and breads with tapenades and olives. This was simply amazing. The bruschetta with fresh chopped tomatoes, basil and rich garlic were absolutely delicious although a killer for your breath! The tapenades certainly seemed home made - fresh basil and coursely ground pine nuts were evident in the pesto. Top marks certainly for the appetisers.
The main courses however were a bit of a surprise. The many 'burgers' on the menu (between 10 - 11 euro) all looked identical when brought to the table. Pattys of mince served on rocket or spinach leaves. No bun. Just mince on leaves. While this idea appealed to me, many of the group were disappointed.
My salad, on the other hand, did not disappoint. My dish named 'Mykonos' promised tomato, feta cheese, leaves and cucumber and that's exactly what it was. I certainly enjoyed it but it was very simple. Thankfully at around 8 euro, the simplicity was reflected in the price.
Being an Italian restaurant, I expected the pasta to be amazing - home made at least and somehow spectacular. My companions who chose the pasta dishes (bolognese and arrabiata) received plates with a lump of farfalle pasta dumped on it. The pasta didn't look homemade, that's for sure. And I have presented and cooked better pasta dishes in my house.
Two of my friends chose the Yellow Fin Tuna dish and spoke excitedly of how much they enjoyed fresh tuna steak. However, the menu never mentioned fresh tuna steak and so when what looked like a can of tuna in the middle of a plate (with the can removed of course) arrived, they were a little disappointed. The can shaped pile of tuna tasted like it was a long way from being fresh and it was surrounded by cold green beans.
In saying all of the above if you go to this restaurant with realistic expectations then I think you will enjoy it. Certainly I would have enjoyed all of the dishes presented (except for the very disappointing tuna). They all are quite healthy - plenty of salad involved and no bun for the burgers just fresh salad leaves. They are simple but the quality of the ingredients seems good. Plus there is a great selection for vegetarians. My vegetarian friend couldn't speak highly enough of her porcini mushroom ravioli. And finally, it isn't expensive.
So now you have read this review, you can decide whether you like your food simple, highly unexpected and relatively cheap. Portions are small so get a starter or a dessert (tiramisu is excellent) and just enjoy the off-kilter ambience.
There is a lot to like about this place: great atmosphere, attractive staff, groovy clientele and good quality art on display. Food? Well, I'm not sure that the best food in Dublin is the point of this place. Our breakfasts garnered reviews from adequate ("Irish breakfast") to excellent (French toast) and the espresso drinks were perfect. We walked by the front of this place on Valentine's night: it was packed with cool looking people and a woman with a guitar was sat in the middle under a spotlight. Entertainment? The evenings art event? Both? We'll be back to find out next time.
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