Monday 23 October 2017

Review: The Maritime Museum - nautical and nice

The Maritime Museum, 1 Haigh Terrace, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Facebook: The Maritime Café

Maritime Museum Cafe, Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Douglas O'Connor.
Maritime Museum Cafe, Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Douglas O'Connor.
Richmond on South Richmond Street.

Katy McGuinness

Passengers aboard RMS Caronia for its Five Continents World Cruise in 1966 had plenty of choice when it came to luncheon, as evidenced by the menus from that voyage on display in The Maritime Café. There was a selection of a dozen or more hors d'oeuvres on offer, plus a range of soups, fish and egg dishes, entrées, and specialities including Tête de Veau Financiere.

For those who preferred someone else to choose, the kitchen proposed smoked salmon with capers, Philadelphia pepper pot (no, me neither), fillets of codling Meuniere, entrecôte steak with crisp onions, French fried potatoes, hearts of lettuce and sliced tomato, and continental gateau, followed by cheese and coffee (and, presumably, a nice lie-down.)

Located in the National Maritime Museum in the Old Mariners' Church in Dún Laoghaire (heaven for maritime anoraks and some small boys), The Maritime Café opened last November and, although I walk past regularly, it had not occurred to me that the offering would be anything more interesting than the usual muffins-in-cellophane type selection that we are used to finding in our cultural buildings.

As it turns out, the menu is vegetarian and largely vegan, with a strong raw food component, so don't go expecting Tête de Veau Financiere. You could have knocked me down with a feather.

For all that Dún Laoghaire is regularly referred to, particularly at election time, as the most middle-class constituency in the country, the town itself does not have the range of cafés and restaurants that you would expect. Sandwiched (sorry) between buzzing Monkstown with the magnet that is Avoca at its beating heart, and the good food destination that is Glasthule, the eating options in Dún Laoghaire, with one or two commendable exceptions, are desultory.

So let's start with a thumbs up for the ambition of the people behind The Maritime Café in setting up their operation in this most unlikely of destinations. Open from noon until mid-afternoon each day, the café caters mainly for a lunchtime trade. After some excitable on-line coverage, business has been brisk, and because there is only seating for 22, the proprietors decided to introduce a take-out service, which is good news for local office workers on a tight lunch break, and will be of even more interest as the weather starts to pick up.

The menu is short (soup, two sandwiches, two salads and a few cakes) and, as luck would have it, on the day of our visit the delivery van from the suppliers had not arrived so one of the salads was not available and we heard mutterings that stocks of the other options were running low. So we ordered one of everything.

Tomato soup served in a blue enamel mug was hearty and substantial, with a flavour that might have been orange lurking in the background. It came with a slice of bread.

Our two sandwiches came on the same bread, but without any butter or alternative, and untoasted. We ended up eating the fillings and ignoring the bread. It was a notch up from sliced pan, but not enough.

The tasty smoky bean sandwich filling came with beetroot relish and avocado, while the falafel was accompanied by salad and muhammara, a spicy hot pepper dip originating in Aleppo, Syria, and found most often in Levantine and Turkish cuisine.

The falafel would have been better served warm, and the sauce could have done with more of a kick. The bread really let the sandwiches down, and they would have been so much better served on flat-breads or in good pitas.

With the super-food salad of spinach, kale, hijiki and wakame seaweed, edamame, avocado, chili and sprouts with a lemon miso dressing being unavailable (a pity, because the combination sounds great), we shared the alternative rainbow salad of curried cauliflower, beets, Bramley apple, cucumber, organic black quinoa, celery and chopped cabbage with a toasted nut and sticky sesame five-spice sauce.

The Asian-style dressing was a success and the vegetables all super-fresh and crunchy.

We finished with a couple of slices of cake that I think were vegan: tangerine, vanilla and rose, and a striking green-coloured matcha cake decorated with blueberries.

We agreed that one of our most hated words is 'moist', and that it brings a shiver to our spines whenever we hear it used on Bake-Off. But it's appropriate here, and the cakes were surprisingly good if in fact they were vegan.

Our bill for two, with a substantial green smoothie (pineapple, banana, spirulina, kale and apple) and a flat white that was deemed too milky, came in at €35.

This is an interesting spot, give it a go. (Unless you're after a cellophane-wrapped industrial muffin.)

On a budget

Soup of the day with bread is just €4.

On a blowout

Soup, a salad, and a slice of matcha cake, with a smoothie and a white bulletproof coffee would set you back €22.70.

The high point

Dún Laoghaire badly needed something like The Maritime Café, serving health-conscious food at reasonable prices. This is a welcome addition to the range of eating options in the town, and it should go from strength to strength.

The low point

On a freezing cold day, it's chilly inside and it would be good if the menu offered at least one hot food option in addition to the soup.

The rating

6/10 food

7/10 ambience

7/10 value for money


Whispers from the gastronomicon

Richmond, the new restaurant on South Richmond Street, that I reviewed last month, has introduced a set menu that's available all evening. I'm not going to claim credit for this, although I did suggest it in the review, but it's definitely a welcome development. Priced at a two-course for €21.50 and three for €25, it's exactly what's needed at a neighbourhood restaurant. Options include oxtail croquette with kohlrabi slaw, parsley sauce and horseradish mayonnaise to start, followed by fillet of cod with crisp chicken wing, charred fennel, lentil and vegetable jus, and cheese to finish. 

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