It’s a mystery to me how they get it so unbelievably wrong when small, independent operators get it so wonderfully right.
Take Brother Hubbard café on Capel Street in Dublin for instance. This amazing enterprise is as close to café nirvana as it’s possible to get. And the fact that they’re located on one of the less salubrious streets in Dublin only proves that true quality will always win out.
As soon as you enter the place you just know it’s different – the care and attention to detail around the counter area – so packed you can barely raise an elbow, but at no stage does it prove to be a problem.
It’s the kind of café where you can sip alone or be part of a throng, the atmosphere will still be the same easy-going vibe.
At first glance the grub looks much the same as anywhere else – and then you notice the short but meticulously-thought-out menu with includes sandwiches including globe artichoke with pepper and lemon and roast tomato paste.
Or smoked salmon with lemon, dill and crème fraiche dressing. There’s also a bunch of incredible salads including fresh and herby cous cous or sliced cucumber with chili, sesame seeds and sweet vinegar dressing.
I thought I knew coleslaw – but after tasting Brother Hubbard’s exotic fusion of red and white cabbage, red onion, carrot, za’atar spice, lemon/tahini dressing and fresh dill, I was practically drooling for more.
The star for me though was the intensely flavoured pulled pork sandwich with celeriac remoulade and crunchy baby spinach leaves crammed between freshly toasted slabs of sourdough.
We’re talking a serious heap of a sambo here with a porky filling so glorious you’d lick it off the table in a heartbeat. I’m not joking – I was picking escapee scraps from the plate and my trousers for ten minutes.
And then came the coffee with its deep toffee-coloured crema, mellow notes of roasted bitter chocolate and a barista on top of his game. One sip and I was totally hooked. If there were such a thing as a Richter scale for caffeine flavours this would smash all records.
Waiting staff was of the “I’m-smiling-because-I-love-the-job” variety, always a godsend for diners and a welcome gift for HR. In terms of food, service and style, there is a level of sophistication going on here that will take some beating. Actually, I’d say excellent, nudging perfect.
And if by any chance you haven’t already noticed how much I enjoyed my Brother Hubbard experience, I’ve only one thing to say – if they ever consider coming down to colonize Cork, I know a great location – its about a hundred yards away from my house. An absolute snip at €11.80.