IT was after the homemade soup and shortly before the pork chops that Taoiseach Enda Kenny sat down for a Christmas chinwag.
Patrons of the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin's north inner city did a double-take as they arrived for their dinner and found a VIP in their midst.
While the Taoiseach's public engagements can often be whistle-stop events due to his hectic schedule, yesterday was not one of those days.
For more than an hour he went around the packed dining hall, stopping to talk to the young and old who visit the centre each day.
He asked about their lives, listened intently -- even when there was Budget criticism to be heard -- and spent five minutes cutting up one little boy's sausages before feeding him himself.
"He was very nice," said the boy's father afterwards.
The man had brought three of his six children to the centre for their dinner.
"I had an important question to ask him -- I asked him, if the economic climate improves, would he consider bringing back the Christmas bonus for social welfare. He said he would definitely consider it.
"To a lot of other people it's not a lot of money, but it goes a long way towards getting presents for the kids and things like that," he added.
It is no longer only homeless people who attend the centre for a free meal. Many are Ireland's "new poor" who have lost their jobs and fallen on hard times during the recession.
The kitchen starts serving at 1pm and by the time it closes two hours later, can have catered for up to 550 people.
William Burke (15), a pupil at Belvedere College, has been volunteering at the centre all week.
"It's been great. It's very busy but we manage," he said.
Brother Kevin Crowley, who opened the centre in 1969, said in their first year they saw around 50 people a day. This week they handed out 2,150 food hampers to the needy.
"It's grown to a huge amount and, since the recession, it's got even worse."