Wednesday 22 November 2017

A Hipster-free zone that has great salads

Edel Coffey

Hatch & Sons

15 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2

Tel: 01 6610075


A Hipster-free zone that has great salads

I'm waiting for the Hipster Hater. She's called the Hipster Hater because she hates hipsters and all the repositories where they hang out. She hates their scarves and their facial hair. She hates their self-awareness and their motif jumpers.

The last time we went for lunch in a trendy burger joint that she described as the 'hipster mothership', she very nearly self-immolated due to the cool attitudes of the achingly beautiful waiters. She will simply not entertain the idea of a 'fixie' bike and will only make an exception for a moustache if it is attached to a man over 40 and if he looks like Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood.

I don't think there's any risk of us encountering hipsters today as we're off to a new café, Hatch & Sons, which is just underneath the Little Museum on St Stephen's Green.

When I arrive, the only people there are men with floppy hair and pastel-coloured V-necked jumpers and not a knitting-machine pattern or ironic pair of glasses frames in sight.

Those men not wearing fine-knit jumpers are wearing suits, whose intricate tooling suggests great expense. I speculate where the women are . . . is it the case that the women who frequent this type of place are actually all in their local cafés in Monkstown or at Pilates class?

I wonder, is this city-centre café a sort of pied-a-terre for the displaced of Dublin's south suburbs? I'm relieved when a group of office workers arrive and redress the balance (female to male ratio 2:6) and later still, a couple of girls come in with fancy shopping bags and the world feels nearly familiar again.

Hatch & Sons is keeping a low profile at the moment (something hipsters never do). It's only been open a few weeks and is not open evenings yet. It's run by Itsa Bagel's Kemp sisters – Domini and Peaches – Dublin's answer to Darina and Rachel Allen.

The café is in the basement of a large Georgian house, which may sound dingy but is actually the opposite. The huge windows let the bright winter light stream in, so much so that the waitress has to pull the blinds halfway down to protect people's eyes. The walls are painted an impossibly bright white and that, matched with the natural materials – stone, wooden tables and chairs, chopped firewood piled high in the fireplace, Bunbury Boards to serve the sandwiches on – makes it feel like a wonderfully authentic and welcoming space.

There is a garden area in the front and the back, both of which look very pretty with their lime green furniture, but it's simply too cold for dining al fresco.

In the front room (there is a second dining area further back) is a large island unit on which are laid out a number of freshly baked goods, packages of Barry's tea and conserves and preserves. This corner of the room is very much like an old-fashioned kitchen, with crockery and cakes and women in aprons.

The Hipster Hater arrives and does her usual cursory scan of the room to identify any hipster threat, like The Predator looking for heat spots. She looks mildy disappointed to find the coast clear.

Hatch & Sons reminds me most of Avoca. The food is entirely Irish (with the exception of the tomatoes) and if you've ever owned an Aga, this place will make you feel right at home.

The menu is wholesome, offering soup and sandwiches (on blaas, which are white bread rolls from Waterford) and a selection of hot-pots and salads. It also has an all-day menu which is almost infantilising in its ability to offer succour. I get the impression it is trying to create a relaxed home-away-from-home vibe, a place to come and pass an hour or two, in the downtime of the afternoon or mid-morning, with your laptop and a couple of slices of toasted soda bread (€2.40) or a scone with butter and jam (€1.90).

For all its casually wealthy clientele, however, Hatch & Sons does offer very affordable food.

Today, I go for the Fivemiletown goat's cheese salad with roast pear, candied walnuts and vinaigrette (€10.60) and the Hipster Hater has the smoked mackerel salad with roasted root vegetables and mustard dressing (€10.90).

Our salads are Parisienne – heavy on the leaves, which are lightly dressed, with a careful crumbling of goat's cheese and walnuts or mackerel and vegetable cubes. The salads are surprisingly satisfying, but anyone used to Irish portion sizes might want to go for the stew or baked pie of the day.

We're in festive form – already – so we both have dessert. I have a lemon-raspberry coconut slice (€2.80), which is sweet and comforting, and the Hipster Hater has a slice of carrot cake (€4.50), which is fresh and very good.

We sip our drinks contentedly. I'm working on a glass of Spanish white wine (€6.75) and the Hipster Hater is drinking a large glass of cider from an even larger bottle of Orpens Cider (€6.50), a brand new Irish company that makes pressed-apple cider. I'm a little confused to say the least. I've never seen the Hipster Hater diverge from her trademark gin & tonic and here she is today sipping a glass of cider. What next? Give a hipster a hug?

As we're discussing the clientele in the café (that's what we do), we remark on the lack of hipsters again and then the Hipster Hater says 'it's a shame really', out loud, straight faced, as if she might miss them.

Maybe she just means it in the way that Batman misses the Joker, but I'm starting to feel like my friend has been abducted and replaced with this hippy changeling. Or maybe it's just the cider talking.

Or perhaps it has something to do with the café itself, which cleverly conjures all sorts of comforting feelings, from the aspirational to the nostalgic.

If they can make the Hipster Hater temporarily mellow her stance towards hipsters, they have to be doing something right.

THE DAMAGE: €28.80


AT TABLE: Men on pre-Christmas bromance lunches; women with Avoca bags

ON THE STEREO: Nothing. You may not want to have a private telephone conversation while this place is half empty

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