My friend is a lawyer who works in the Dublin Docklands and I've often heard her moan about the sameness of the offering in the restaurants in that part of town. Chicken wings, burgers... beetroot and goat's cheese salad if you're lucky. She says it goes with the demographics of the customer base - and if you've ever had lunch in the area, you'll understand what she means.
Whatever about the gender breakdown of the workforce, it's still clear - based on empirical observation - that in D2 more men than women go out for mid-morning coffees and sit-down lunches. And I don't mean boozy lunches, I'm talking about the get-out-of-the-office-and-away-from-your-desk lunches that are good for head-clearing and perspective. (There's a theory that women don't do this, choosing to eat at their desks, working through lunch, because there's an expectation that they are the ones who will leave the office early so that they can get to the crèche for pick-up, or home to make dinner and supervise baths, and that men prefer to work late so that they can avoid... the rush hour. But I couldn't possibly comment.)
When I hear about As One, I think it may be the answer to my friend's lunchtime prayers. I've looked at the menu online and there isn't a burger or chicken wing to be seen. Instead, there's what reads like healthy, tasty food made with good-quality ingredients - the kind of food that many of us would prefer to eat, particularly at lunchtime when food serves a more practical purpose that it may in restaurants in the evening, when caution can get thrown to the wind. The kind of food that we'd make at home if we had access to top-notch produce and the time to cook from scratch every day. Amongst the suppliers is Kylie Magner in Fethard, Co Tipperary, whose pasture-reared eggs are something else - I visited the Magner family's farm last year and can confirm that their girls are the happiest layers in Ireland. The organic smoked salmon is from Niall Sabongi's Sustainable Seafood Ireland and all the chicken is organic. Given the prices - which are no higher than any number of restaurants in Ireland serving cheap eggs, conventionally farmed salmon and chicken from the cutting houses of Holland - this is seriously impressive.
As One is a purpose-built unit on the ground floor of an office building. It's a large modern space with a bare, industrial aesthetic flooded with natural light. At the moment, it's a daytime-only operation, opening Monday to Friday breakfast from 7.30am, and seguing through brunch and lunch until mid-afternoon. It's also open for brunch on Saturday.
A vegan miso broth of wild mushrooms and greens with silken tofu and soba noodles is pleasantly soothing, while a dish of slow-cooked lamb shoulder mixed with 'smoky' aubergine, chickpeas and tomato, with minted Irish yoghurt served on naan bread reads well but underwhelms on the flavour front. There's not enough smokiness or depth, but it would be a simple dish to elevate with some tweaking. It's a similar issue with a pasta dish of (sustainable) prawns and pappardelle, with a good cashew and Parmesan pesto but a fermented harissa and garlic tomato sauce that verges on the bland.
Owner Mark Cashen describes the offering at As One as 'food with purpose' and his commitment to healthy food cooked from scratch on the premises is both evident and laudable.
Our bill for lunch for three, with a side of spinach (yum!), one of King of Kefir's delicious (and low-calorie) water kefirs, an organic kombucha from Irish company Hola, a couple of sparkling waters and a coffee, comes to €58.48 including a 15pc tip.
As One is a fine addition to the docklands, a place that's already getting very many things right. It will be even better when the kitchen ramps up the flavours.
ON A BUDGET
At breakfast, porridge (organic, Irish, gluten-free oats soaked overnight, finished with oat milk and topped with teff grain, caramelised banana and seasonal fruit) - costs a fiver.
ON A BLOWOUT
Steak and eggs - with potatoes, sauerkraut and spinach - will cost €29 for two.
THE HIGH POINT
THE LOW POINT
The kitchen needs to turn up the flavour dial.