Java-go heroes

Grub Spy by Alan Kelly
Groundstate on James Street in Dublin. Photos: Mark Condren

Groundstate on James Street in Dublin. Photos: Mark Condren

At long last the most brutal of lockdowns is coming to an end. We can start to enjoy the simple things in life again - things we scarcely noticed in the old normal days.

Groundstate Coffee

48-50 James St, Ushers, Dublin 8

Food €18.50; coffee €5.80

Rating: 4.5 stars

For example, last week I spent a night in Dublin with friends for the first time in over a year. Summer in Dublin never felt better, even the old Liffey never looked better. Next morning, heading back to Heuston station with my veggie pal, we stopped at Groundstate for brekkie and coffee. Situated on the corner of James Street and Echlin Street, directly opposite the Guinness brewery gates, I've passed the cafe maybe a dozen times.

A brioche brekkie bun from Groundstate.

A brioche brekkie bun from Groundstate.

Always meant to drop in, but as it usually seemed to be packed, I never quite made it.

Hand on heart, I think I was also unconsciously put off by their hip vegan- yoga vibe.

Groundstate is actually a cafe and yoga studio at night, plus I doubted it would succeed on that particular strip of James Street - for so long a foodie no man's land. On each of those points I was totally wrong. Talk about a fantastically brave and forward-thinking concept.

Groundstate is one of those places that hit the ground running and just kept on running.

Even through one the toughest years in world history, they are still going strong.

Part of the reason for their success, I am told, is the hordes of staff from nearby St James's Hospital who use it as a regular pitstop. Another part of the reason is the superb food and coffee.

Try this: a brioche brekkie bun stuffed with gorgeous fall-apart smoky bacon (from Pigs on the Green in Tullamore) creamy mozzarella, crispy lettuce and homemade aïoli & sriracha - just enough to bring some heat, but not to take over completely - all deliciously brought together with a fried egg. Out-of-this-world tasty.

What makes this a piece of breakfast artistry is a side of homemade kimchi. Who'd have thought a splodge of fermented cabbage, carrot and daikon could so transform a brekkie bun?

The exterior of Groundstate on James Street in Dublin.

The exterior of Groundstate on James Street in Dublin.

Similar delight arrived with the smoky tofu sambo. Baked tofu splashed in a smoked paprika and soy sauce, some fantastic caraway flavoured kraut, a dab of tomato and fennel sauce, crispy lettuce and vegan aïoli.

Between slices of sourdough (from Firehouse bakery in Delgany) the flavour combinations of tang, crunch and pickle are absolutely spot-on. Not so much a veggie brekkie sambo as an any-time-you-want-to-stuff-your-face-with-deliciousness-sambo, this little number is made by people who know and understand what a sandwich should be.

We are also lucky to enjoy some of the best coffee we've had in months.

Regardless of how miffed I might have been feeling, functioning as a restaurant reviewer in 2021 meant being empathic and understanding about the operating difficulties restaurants had to endure during lockdown.

After my visit here it is heartening to see things are getting back on track. With just four tables outside (there's not much room for more) we are lucky to nab one.

Check it out. Groundstate is where nice things are already happening with food.

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