A sunny Sunday morning in Dublin and the pubs on Dorset Street are already thronged with punters heading for the game.
We had every intention of rising early and being the first in the queue for brunch at Two Boys Brew when it opened at 10, but the best laid plans and all that, and by the time we pitch up the place is thronged and there are already a dozen hungry folk lining up outside. The chap on the door takes a name but not a number, and tells us to return in 45 minutes. (It's long enough to head down to the Dublin Flea and pick up a few jars of Katie Sanderson's killer Peanut Ragu, which is the condiment of choice in my house these days. An addictive combination of peanuts, garlic and chilli - the time is not wasted.)
This new addition to the city's café scene opened its doors over the summer, and word has not taken long to filter - ahem - out. The exterior is painted a modish charcoal grey - Downpipe? Railings? - and inside it's all high ceilings and a vaguely industrial aesthetic with a refreshing absence of filament light bulbs. It's a look that's at once familiar from the new generation of secular churches to coffee shops around the world, yet very different for this part of the city. (The former occupant of these premises was a fried chicken place.)
I'm not a huge fan of brunch. It's not that I don't like the idea of sitting down with family or friends and catching up over a leisurely late breakfast, more that the offering in most of the city's restaurants is so cynical. It's nigh on impossible to produce good egg dishes when a kitchen is under pressure to generate plate after plate in rapid succession. One restaurateur I spoke to recently said that most places poach all the eggs in advance, which explains a lot. At Two Boys, though, I'd wager that each dish is cooked to order.
A Brew Bircher Bowl is sweet but not too sweet, the oats infused with plenty of cinnamon and topped with passion fruit, sliced Granny Smith, labneh and honey. It's the kind of wholesome breakfast dish that we should all be making at home - there's no rocket science involved - but don't. In one of those rushes of blood to the head that comes over us all at this time of year, we make a family decision to up our breakfast game.
The Brew Brekkie is Two Boys' take on the full Irish, but instead of sausages, the bacon, scrambled eggs, grilled mushrooms and roast tomato come with a mound of avocado mash. The kitchen's attention to detail is evident on the plate, each element carefully prepared and plated. Roasted mushrooms come topped with whipped feta, poached eggs, and red onion jam on Arun Bakery sourdough; a side of black pudding is a nice addition to what's already a well considered, simple plate that's elevated by chopped toasted hazelnuts. Brew Baked Eggs is a riff on shakshuka, made with goat's cheese and pepperonata. It is under-seasoned but still good, and we like the sprinkle of dukkah on top. The least interesting of the dishes is Sweet Corn Fritters, served with roast tomato, avocado salsa and a tomato and chilli relish - it's verging on bland, although the mix of rocket and micro coriander leaves is terrific. It benefits from a side order of chorizo - doesn't everything?
Coffee, as you would expect, is a highlight. The house blend is from 3fe, always a good sign. A flat white and an Americano both made with the guest roast - from St Ali in Melbourne - are impeccable, as is a half-litre Chemex flask that offers a more subtle experience.
We nab a few of the bakes from the counter to bring home, and be sure to do the same if you visit. The peanut butter cookie sandwich is sensational - and it costs only €3.65 - and the wheat-free brownie, topped with squidgy icing, and white chocolate and pretzel blondie are pretty good too.
If I have a gripe, it is that there's no provenance information on the menu - other than in relation to the coffee and tea, which is from Wall & Keogh. I hope that the eggs and chicken are at least free-range and, if they are, then Two Boys should be telling its customers. If not, then why not? Who makes the bacon, the black pudding and the chorizo? Is the salmon organic? The people want to know.
Brunch for four, including the bakes that we took home with us, came to €81.45 before service - the staff are universally lovely, so give them a big tip. During the week, the lunchtime offering is a selection of salads that are Insta lovely to behold - well worth a visit, I reckon.
ON A BUDGET
The least expensive brunch option is the house-made coconut granola — served with yoghurt, roast peach and mint — priced at €6.50. It would be a shame not to have a coffee though.
ON A BLOW OUT
Blueberry and ricotta hot cakes, with berries, maple syrup, mixed crushed nuts and mascarpone, accompanied by a bottle of prosecco and a one litre Chemex, would result in a bill for two of €67.50 excluding service.
THE HIGH POINT
A great new café in a neighbourhood that needed one.
THE LOW POINT
Feeling inadequate when it comes to coffee-speak.
8/10 value for money
Fans of The Dough Bros’ Wood-Fired Pizza, which started life as a street stall at Moycullen market, and grew into a long-running pop-up on Abbeygate Street, will be delighted to hear that it has a permanent home, at the old Pro-Cathedral Building on Middle Street in Galway. The Dough Bros’ pizzas have gained the attention of the great and the good, with the legendary Neven Maguire saying that theirs are the best pizzas he’s ever eaten. One of their classics is the Prawn Po’Boy made with fresh prawns from Gannet Fishmongers.