Belfast & Northern Ireland

Over the New Year’s weekend we took a trip to Belfast for two nights, stopping en route in Kildare Village for a coffee and some energy balls at Joe’s.

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And later at Banbridge Outlet, where we shopped and then ate at Linen Hill. I had the green Thai chicken curry with rice and a side of sweet potato fries  (gluten free bread came with the dish). Fresh, tasty, lively restaurant with good meal deals for the cinema next door.

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After checking into our hotel, Ibis Hotel Queens Quarter, we freshened up and made our way to the SSE Arena for our first ever ice hockey game! It felt like we had been transported to the States when we got inside – there were cheerleaders, flame machines, you name it! The entertainment before and during the game really contributed to the atmosphere as 3 periods of 20 minutes made for a pretty long game for newbies to the sport! Nonetheless – GO GIANTS!

By the time we got out of the parking and traffic (be warned – patience is essential here!) I was extremely hangry and it was now just after 10pm which meant most decent outlets were closed. By chance we took a drive and stumbled across Camile Thai on the Lisburn Road. After having one Thai curry already that day I looked for another option and the only gluten free one available was the Thai beef salad – which if I’m honest, I wasn’t that keen about. But I ate my words (and the salad!) when it arrived because it was really tasty! I also had a side of edamame and E had some noodles.

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Next morning, I snuck out of the room early to indluge in my healthy-café-visiting addicion at Raw Food Rebellionalso on the Lisburn Road. A small, relaxed café with friendly and helpful staff (101 questions Emma!). I chose the Classic RFR Porridge made with gluten free oats cooked in coconut milk with swirls of peanut butter, topped with roasted peanuts, maple syrup, cinnamon and chopped banana. In other words – to die for! I also had a really good turmeric latte and I brought back a hazelnut milk latte to the sleeping beauty 🙂

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Fueled up we headed off on our Black Cab Tour. This is a must-do! We learned a lot about our own history and the current day situation visiting various areas around the city and signing the Peace Wall.

After our cab tour we visited St. George’s Market later that day which was really nice for a short wander around. Live music and the natter from all the stands gave a fun, lively vibe to the big, open space. We shared some Indian vegan and gluten-free pakoras and I bought some Suki dark cocoa tea.

We ventured around the city for the rest of the day and drove out to see the Titanic museum, which is very costly to visit so we just took a stroll nearby.

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We stopped by Bullitt Belfast for some tapas style snacks around 4pm and it was buzzing! (Taking into account it was New Year’s Eve). I liked it’s tucked away courtyard setting, their cocktail menu sounded delicious but we just stuck to food. I had the Cauliflower steaks with harissa and sunflower tahini while E had Beef short rib fritters also with sunflower tahini and a side of chips. Definitely just snack size and pricey snacks but I like the ingredients and imagination used for their dishes. Bar staff were unfortunately though a bit rude.

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To cap off the night and to ring in the New Year we made a booking at Home Restaurant. They have a vast menu selection and cater really well to those eating with dietary requirements, be it gluten free, vegan, vegetarian or else wise. Service was seemless and the staff were superb. However it was a very expensive meal for the quantity and quality of food we got – £84 sterling for 2 starters, 2 mains and 1 dessert, no drinks? It was nice, they had some fabulous-sounding options but I definitely wasn’t leaving raving about it or dying to go back.I did very much so enjoy the vegan dessert though but even my partner commented how I must still be hungry after my main course as portion size was small.

Pictured below is a starter of tofu, another mango and beef salad starter, a curry and quinoa main (not pictured steak main) and a vegan panna cotta. (Dishes from a special New Year’s menu so I don’t have exact menu descriptions – must have been the free bubbly that had me distracted!) 😉

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Finishing off a great trip to the North was a noteworthy brunch at Established Coffee  followed by a coastal road trip to Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and the Giant’s Causeway. Definitely a few bucket lists ticked that day!

If you haven’t been Belfast and the North of Ireland should definitely be put on your 2017 travel list. 

For more pics and to keep up with my travels, follow me on Instagram @thecinnamonfiend !

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Coppinger Row

A few weekends back a dear NYC friend of mine and major Beyoncé fan, was visiting Dublin for the first time so when I told her that Queen Bey & Jay-Z once dined in Coppinger Row back in 2014 it was a no-brainer where we were headed for our lunch reunion!

The restaurant is a small but busy spot just off of South William Street with a subtle laid-back atmosphere and if the weather permits it, I’d recommend to dine al fresco (glass of wine optional).

For starters we shared the smaller portion of the Garlic & Chili Prawns á la  Plancha,  which consisted of 5 juicy jumbo prawns.

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For mains, Miss V (my dining amigo) had the gnocchi while I chose one of the daily specials which was a mackerel salad with rocket, orange segments, olives and tomatoes. The mackerel was so tasty and the portion size was perfect.

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We both really enjoyed our time at Coppinger Row. Staff were friendly and there was no rush to clear our table. I think it’s an ideal place for a longer relaxed lunch or a date as many diners including us seemed to spend quite some time even after meals have been finished enjoying a drink or just chatting.

http://www.coppingerrow.com/

https://www.facebook.com/coppingerrow/

@coppingerrow

Staple Foods x Nobó Pop-Up Dinner

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of both Staple Foods and Nobó since both of their early days so when I saw this event on my Instagram feed one day I instantly booked my good friend and amazing blogger Louise Cooney and I in for the first night.

Bookings were available for 6.30 p.m. or 8 p.m. meaning earlier diners only had their tables until 8 p.m. Arriving at 6.25 p.m. to an empty restaurant for what was advertised as a sold-out event was a little bit surprising. By 6.45 p.m. a few more diners had arrived but it was not crowded as I had expected. Staff were warm and quick to come around for orders, I’m guessing because of the time restriction to get the first batch of diners in and out before the next seating.

For starters we both chose the ‘Jamaican style vegan nachos, with slow cooked beans, roasted root vegetables with pineapple and an avocado, tomato, coriander salsa with garlic, lime chili sea salt topped with melted vegan cashew cheese’. Phew – what a mouthful! Pity the same couldn’t be said for the portion size that came however.

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Honestly, I didn’t enjoy this dish. Perhaps to no fault albeit my own, but I had envisioned something completely different when I ordered this dish so I was a little confused/disappointed when it arrived and I found myself tucking into whole cloves of garlic on top of a portbello mushroom. For me, this was the worst dish of the night, even presentation-wise I was really let down as this is course that should set the tone for the night.

After our starter we were given a palate cleanser, provided by Nobó which was a Pink Sherbert flavoured sorbet. I loved the baby pink colour – apparently coming from beetroot; and it really did taste just like sherbert but it was served in a shot glass, meaning it was tiny and with one of those wooden sticks you use to stir your coffee. Melting sorbet and a stick? Not ideal. So far, so not-so-good.

Mains were better though. Louise had the ‘Warm orzo and herb salad on a sweet potato & parsnip purée, served with balsamic glazed figs and pistachio’. 

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While I had the ‘Pan-seared and roasted fennel, with chili baked potato cubes, mixed peppers and edamame pods, served with an orange vegan beurre blanc sauce & crushed toasted almonds’. 

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Both of us chose to add on the ‘white wine, coconut  and orange braised chicken breast with a hint of chili’ which came shredded in a seperate ramekin and was charged a €4 supplement.

I enjoyed my dish. The portion size was much more generous than the previous two courses, particularly with the chicken added on. It was flavoursome yet it lacked any real “wow factor” and frankly, I’ve been more impressed by some lunches I’ve had in Staple Foods than I was by these two courses.

To finish we were served a ‘Vegan sundae with Nobó Irish Salted Caramel Frozen Goodness, vegan chocolate sauce, a banana & coconut caramel, hazelnut sea salt praline and strawberry consumé’. This was delicious, as Nobó always is, I just wish there had been more – a “sundae” in my eyes (and if you Google image search the term) usually depicts something much more decadent.

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Our four-courses, with our chicken supplement but no drinks, cost us €29 and I couldn’t help but feel a bit hard done by for this when you consider how good Dublin and Ireland’s current food scene is and how much that same price tag could get you elsewhere. In future I think I’ll just stick to being a Staple Foods lunch-gal!

For those that are curious to see what the rest of the menu had to offer:

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http://nobo.ie/

http://staplefoods.ie/

 

Foodworks, Kilkenny

So now that I’m back in Ireland for some time over the summer I thought I should share with you so of the wonderful places I find on my treks and trails around the country.

On a recent trip to Kilkenny, my sister and I visited Foodworks for lunch and we were really impressed by the quality of food served. Dishes were well presented and combined exciting ingredients and flavours. An added bonus is that much of the produce used in the restaurant comes from their own Foodworks farm.

I chose what was listed on the menu as Cod, which on the day was actually Hake, with courgette, pine nuts & sultanas. I thought the addition of rhubarb and sweet potato crisps were an interesting play on flavours as well as colours. The hake was perfectly cooked, soft to the fork and the dish also came with a side of roasted potatoes and vegetables.

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My sister chose a lighter option of their daily soup – a deceivingly big bowl of green goodness – Spinach & Courgette.

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Foodworks is located on 7 Parliament Street, Kilkenny, just after the entrance to Market Cross shopping centre car park and is definitely worth a visit. Great for a fancier lunch or perfect dinner.

http://www.foodworks.ie/

Dublin Round-Up

There is some really exciting things happening in Ireland and particularly Dublin at the moment. Every few weeks or months there are new, healthy, hipster and quirky cafés and coffee shops opening up. I have a number of favourites across the capital, some old regulars and some exciting newbies!

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Blazing Salads – I’ve lost count of how many loyalty cards I’ve clocked up in this place! Plus while you’re there you can grab a tub of Nobó (i.e.: the best ice-cream ever!!). Located on Drury St, opposite George’s St Arcade.

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Kaph – the best matcha lattes in town, plus the added bonus of an excellent people watching spot thanks to their location opposite Blazing Salads. Pull up a bench outside or a cushion in the window and have some banter with their fun and friendly staff. Plus they stock Paleo Man Foods paleo treats like Banana & Walnut cake, Chocolate Coconut Brownie & Carrot Cake!

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Staple Foods – with an original location in Temple Bar and a brand new ;ocation on Grattan St, Dublin 2, these guys do hands-down the best vegan Sweet potato soup I’ve ever tasted – scratch that, the best frikkin soup I’ve ever tasted! So many vegan/vegetarian options here and also stockists of Paleo Man Food treats.

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The Fumbally – a little off the beaten track on Fumbally Lane, is always whipping up interesting new dishes in one of the coolest, chilled out venues in the capital. I love their falafel and black sesame milk!

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Fallon & Byrne – located on Exchequer St is where I go when I am seriously hungry! Or don’t feel like cooking and get a dinner to take home. My favourite is the Fish Stew served with your choice of 2 sides.

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Pictures courtesy of @fallonandbyrne & lovindublin.com

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Rustic Stone – on George’s St, works with a leading nutritionist so the entire menu is coded – wheat, gluten, sugar, dairy free, contains nuts, superfoods, – you name it! and there are tons of healthy options. The smell when you walk into the restaurant is also amazing from many diners cooking their own meat or fish on the stone at their tables.

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Brother Hubbard – on Capel St was a regular of mine during my time working in nearby Arnotts department store. I’m delighted to see the guys doing so well and what started as a one-roomed café has now expanded into 2 buildings, 2 floors, an edible garden and a sister café which I’ve yet to visit!

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For some finer dining.. 

Forest Avenue – located on Sussex Terrace was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had. My visit was some time ago but it must be mentioned for the level of customer service and standard of food provided. Staff went above and beyond to cater for my dietary requirements. Sourcing wheat free bread specifically for me that night and ensuring no wheat or lactose was in any of the 6 courses of dishes prepared for me. As my companion and I opted to try one of every dish between us there was one fish dish which the chef felt it would be a shame for my friend not to have the dish as was designed with a dairy-containing sauce, so they thoughtfully added the sauce to only one half of the dish allowing me to sample the other half. I love how open yet relaxed the kitchen is and how the chef often brings dishes down to the table.

Forest Avenue Dublin 2014

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The newbies on the block..

These two new-comers to Baggot Street are much too conveniently located between my sister’s house and my agency, Morgan the Agency in Dublin making them the ideal breakfast, lunch – oh and snack stop! on my journeys in and out of town.

Cocu – Order and go style take-out counter with healthy warm and cold salad boxes – think brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, spinach, avocado and all other sorts of goodness. The concept is simple, you choose your base, choose your main then choose your ‘sprinkle’. They also have delicious healthy sweet offerings.

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Pictures courtesy of @cocokitchen

Eathos – 3 words – The Paleo Muffin. Oh gosh. Muffin aside, there are bountiful bowls of salads and plenty of naughty treats as well as a healthy vegan cake. Pricey but one for a treat!

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Pictures courtesy of @eathosdublin

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A little further astray.. 

OK so not technically Dublin but The Happy Pear in Greystones, Co.Wicklow, is only a short but extremely beautiful DART trip from the city centre. The trip alone is worth going to Greystones for! Or hop off at Bray and walk the coast from Bray-Greystones to build up an appetite (approx. 1hr walk). Don’t fancy that? Well you can always stroll on the beach conveniently located next to the station in Greystones.
Happy Pear Greystones

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