Tuesday 27 September 2016

Dublin's dog cafe Pupp: 'If I was single, I'd be borrowing a cute dog and heading over there for brunch'

Pupp, 37 Clanbrassil Street Lower, Dublin 8. (01) 445-4542.

Katy McGuinness

Published 27/03/2016 | 02:30

Pupp cafe, 37 Clanbrassil Street Lower, Dublin 8. Photo: Frank McGrath.
Pupp cafe, 37 Clanbrassil Street Lower, Dublin 8. Photo: Frank McGrath.

I thought about asking Marley, who was my principal reviewing companion at Pupp, to write this piece but he was too busy relaxing.

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These days, I'm a committed dog-lover but it was not always the case. Five years ago I was terrified of dogs, even little ones, after a brush with a cross Pekingese when I was a child, and another more recent one with a pair of Kerry Blues who fancied a slice of my bottom. I'd managed to pass on my terror of dogs to some of my children, and it was becoming a problem for the youngest, who didn't want to visit friends' houses if there was a dog in residence.

And then one day I met a beautiful golden doodle - that's a cross between a golden retriever and a standard poodle - and I found myself talking to this handsome chap for half an hour, by the end of which time I had decided that our family would benefit from having a golden doodle too.

Marley came into our lives just over four years ago and has turned us all - even my dog-phobic daughter - into dog people. He's a fabulously good-looking black pooch (yes, I know, but only some golden doodles are blondes), even-tempered and sociable with other dogs, and friendly to people, but has issues around food… In that he likes food a lot and will go to any lengths to get it. Size-wise, he is just the right height to put his head on the table when we are eating, and making a sandwich in the kitchen without him swiping it is a Crufts-standard test of dexterity and intelligence for his owners.

During one dinner party he swiped a huge block of Crozier Blue that had cost me in the region of €30 at Cavistons straight off the table, which horrified some of our guests but drew sympathy from others - mainly Labrador owners.

Because of Marley's issues around food, we tend to avoid taking him to restaurants and cafés, even those that profess to be dog-friendly, for fear that he'll be unable to restrain himself in the presence of sausages and make a show of us. So when I heard about Pupp, a café that actually encourages dog-owners to bring their pooches along, it sounded too good to be true.

Located on a coming-up-in-the-world stretch of Clanbrassil Street, just down the road from super-trendy Bastible and across from Gaillot & Grey's new French pizza joint (take-out only at the time of writing but hopefully eat-in soon), Pupp occupies a simple little space that owners Ella and Paul have been working on since they took on the lease last year. Ella is in the kitchen, having left a job at Google, while Paul has a day job, also at Google.

The decor is, as you might expect, doggy-themed, with dog print oilcloth on the tables, and knitted doggy ornaments. Pupp also sells a range of dog accessories both in-store and online. On the day that we visited, there was only one other canine guest - a well-behaved cavalier King Charles. Marley took his lead from her and after a quick mutual sniff they pretty much ignored each other. The house rule is that if anyone - human or dog - gets too boisterous or noisy, they can be asked to take a walk around the block to calm down.

Not everyone who comes into Pupp has a dog with them. "That's it," said the woman at the table next to ours, after she'd spent a few minutes getting to know Marley, "I'm never going back to work now."

The owners say that they've been surprised by how sociable their little café has become, with plenty of interaction and chat between the people sitting at different tables. Certainly, if I was single, I'd be borrowing a cute dog and heading over there some weekend for brunch.

We dropped in for lunch mid-week, when there was only a limited menu on offer. We tried everything that was available, from a vegetarian sausage roll filled with feta, cheddar and tomato, to avocado smash with egg on rustic white, to a CLT - a cottage cheese and cheddar sandwich on granary bread - plus the homemade soup of the day which was red pepper and on the bland side. It came with a large poppyseed roll. The food was fine, although we'd have preferred to see some salads and less bready options. Nick's coffee was great and we liked the chocolate-topped Rice Krispies square. Marley thought his doggy biscuits, from the Cheeky Dog Bakery in Sandymount, were excellent.

Pupp serves breakfast until 10.30 each day and at weekends, there's a more comprehensive brunch offering that includes dishes such as almond pancakes with grilled banana and walnuts, and falafel burgers. The menu isn't wholly vegetarian - there is bacon on offer - but does also have vegan and paleo options. I imagine the food will get more interesting as the kitchen gains in confidence, but for the moment Pupp is more about the experience than about the food. We loved it, and so did Marley, although he suggested that sausages would be a good addition to the menu.

Our bill for three humans plus Marley, with coffees, came to €28.

On a budget

Pay-what-you-can-afford porridge at breakfast comes with homemade apple compote and blueberries.

On a blowout

Pupp is not a place for a blowout, but if you were very hungry and went for a brunch of falafel burger with homemade tomato relish and a superfood salad, plus a large coffee and a pastry, it would cost you €14.80. Plus a double pack of nutritious dog biscuits at €3.50 for your canine companion.

The high point

Friendly atmosphere, doggy heaven.

The low point

The lunchtime offering was all too carby.

The rating

5/10 food

9/10 ambience

7/10 value for money

21/30

Whispers from the gastronomicon

Over by the canal in Sallins, Co Kildare, the new Two Cooks restaurant is proving very popular with the locals. I haven't visited yet - Two Cooks has only been open for a few weeks and at Weekend we like to let restaurants bed in for a while before visiting - but with experienced chefs Josef Zammit and Nicola Curran behind the venture, it's a place that I'm very much looking forward to trying. There's a full tasting menu on offer, but you can drop in on a Wednesday and have two tapas and a glass of wine for €15, which sounds like a great way to check it out. 

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