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A taste for life... with the Cake Cafe's Ray O'Neill



Ray O'Neill. Photo: Celine Braga

Ray O'Neill. Photo: Celine Braga

Ray O'Neill. Photo: Celine Braga

The cafe owner reveals his amazing, sure-fire hangover cure and tells how a cookery course changed the way he looked at food

What was your favourite childhood meal?

I wasn't a great 'grubber' as a kid - my dear mother was only short of force-feeding me at times, but my go-to was a good old spag bol.

What is the meal you will always remember?

A five-course tasting menu with wine pairings in Bodegon Alejandro, San Sebastian in Spain. It was to die for. I have been back to San Sebastian a few times since, and it never disappoints.

What was your defining food experience?

I did the three-month Ballymaloe cookery course 10 years ago. It redefined the way I looked at food and the respect I had for produce and where it comes from.

What is your hangover cure?

In both of my cafes, we make our own home-made beans on toast, served with Hick's merguez sausage, a poached egg, feta and coriander. That, washed down with one of our apple and watermelon juices, sorts me out every time.

What is your comfort food?

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Mashed banana with peanut butter and toasted nuts. Delish.

What's the first dish you ever cooked?

I started getting into cooking in my early 20s. I'd have friends over for dinner and I'd make them Asian chicken with toasted nuts and mint served in a lettuce cup. I thought I was next-level fancy altogether.

You can go anywhere and have anything to eat with any one person. Where, what and who?

It would have to be with my ridey partner, Jack - a talented chef himself - eating tasty tacos and drinking margaritas somewhere under a sombrero in Mexico. As my gorgeous Mexican pal Magsita Bonita would say: 'Just to enjoy the life!'

What do you drink?

It depends on the occasion. If I'm out for a few, I like a nice lager. On a summer's day, give me a light rosé and a nice Pinot Noir with a meal.

If you could only eat three things for the rest of your life what would they be?

Great bread, Irish butter and an assortment of [organic farmer] Jenny McNally's spuds.

What is the most appetising smell in the world?

Fresh scones out of the oven. I still get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I walk through the courtyard of The Cake Cafe first thing in the morning and get the smell of scones and Guinness bread just out of the oven. It's a great way to start the day!

How important is food to you?

Being in the food industry, food plays a part in everything I do, from life decisions to where my next holiday will be. It's everything.

What's your favourite restaurant in Ireland?

Recently, we had a stunning meal in Bastible on the South Circular Road. Cuan Greene is one of the most talented chefs we have in the city at the moment.

Worst meal ever?

I went to Florida last year with my family to do the whole Disney experience with my nieces and nephew. I went out of my way to try and find some great independent cafes, as I always do when I'm abroad - for research purposes only, obviously! I thought I had found a great spot, but when we arrived it was yet another chain with mass-produced food. It was not a good day.

Ray owns and runs The Cake Cafe, Pleasants Place, D8, and Slice, Manor Place, D7

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