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Grub Spy: Bun of a kind

Grub Spy Alan Kelly dishes the goods on Ireland’s tastiest dining destinations.

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Epic burgers

Epic burgers

The funky exterior

The funky exterior

Loaded fries

Loaded fries

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Epic burgers

There was a time, back in the 80’s, when most people would run a furious mile from anything even resembling a vegetarian restaurant. Back then, if you wanted to be part of the cool collective, declaring yourself to be veggie (vegans hadn’t been invented yet) was almost as shocking as coming out.

V-FACE
30 Brunswick Street North, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7
4.5 Stars
Food: €20; Drinks: €2.50

I’m not kidding – it was more acceptable to be a member of the Monster Raving Looney Party or worse still a Bros fan. To be fair, because there wasn’t a lot of exciting foreign food to get excited about, the very idea of choice was never on the table. The amazing thing is though, and we hardly noticed it happening, but by now most of us have become ‘flexitarian’ on the sly. We’ll have a crack at anything if it tastes good, even vegan stuff.

Veganism – once a word synonymous with pain-in-the-arse pretentiousness and the avoidance of all things pleasurable, has pretty much blossomed into a by-word for gastronomic swagger and culinary creativity. I will always love my sausages and rashers, black pudding and steaks, and have no problem whatsoever eating things that once had a face.

But whenever I see menus bestrewn with terms like vegan and veggie, I see a kitchen bravely engaging with interesting new realities. Originally a pop-up in Stoneybatter V-Face in has taken that concept a step further.

Although the name forewarns – this is Dublin’s first-ever entirely plant-based burger bar.

Sounds a tad virtuous, I know. But if a kitchen isn’t up to scratch, virtue can taste as bad as anything else. I decide to have a go at The Smoke Show burger.

Assembled inside a fluffy bun with a couple of smashed ‘Beyond Meat’ patties, a shot of vegan pink garlic mayo, smoky slices of vegan cheddar (surprisingly good) spicy chipotle salsa, lettuce and beef tomato, and topped-off with a big fat deep-fried onion ring – it looks like everything a good burger should look like i.e., big and tempting. Taste-wise it is bursting with crunch and kick, lip-smacking smokiness, seasonings and spice, and not-at-all like a substitute for the real thing. I am also impressed by how it doesn’t immediately collapse into a great soggy mess like so many other veggie/vegan burgers.

The fries are something else. Loaded with a fusillade of kimchi, smoky cheddar, a lash of sriracha and lime, they could easily provide a filling lunch on their own. Maybe the kimchi could do with a little more heft and heat, either way this is an engaging and hearty stack of chips.

All-in-all I’ve enjoyed a belter of a burger lunch. I see they also do an eye-catching line in toasties, pastries, wine and larger. I try the Organic Karma Cola, and thus end my V-Face encounter with a contented smile and a healthy glow.

While I remain sceptical about the whole concept of faux meat, and why plant-based burgers are not confident enough yet to stand-up for themselves, I still can’t help enjoying them, especially when they are this good. And boy are they good. I think it’s called the flexitarian approach. And I’ll never have a beef with that.

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