I wasn't on a 'first date' with my dining companion, Paul, in the new Glas vegetarian and vegan restaurant on Chatham Street, but we found we'd somewhat unwittingly attracted the attention of Mateo Saina, the handsome Croatian maitre d' of the Irish version of the TV show First Dates.
To be honest, we hadn't a clue who he was, but seeing a tall man striding through the empty restaurant, we'd glanced in his direction. Perching on the back of our banquette seating, he said that he was coming over to say hello, as we'd looked at him. Maybe he thought we were fans!
"So who are you?" I asked, bemused. "Mateo," he replied. "One of the owners of the restaurant." Light bulbs were going on in my head, as he then said, somewhat smartly, "What's your name - or have you forgotten it?"
It's never a good idea, no matter how famous you think you are, to assume people know you. I was always taught, to save mutual embarrassment, to introduce oneself when approaching someone you don't know or don't see regularly.
The website for Glas said, "from small bites to sharing plates", so we'd made the quick call, while in town, to try two or three small plates, only to find, on arrival, that its lunch offering was a set menu with two/three courses at €19/24. The a la carte menu didn't start until 5pm.
We found it a bit of a pain, and a tad puzzling, as most people working and shopping in the city centre just want to have a quick lunch plate, and be gone. However, after a bit of discussion and checking behind the scenes by the very pleasant waitress, we were told we could just have one course.
I asked Mateo about this policy, which he defended strongly, saying they didn't want people maybe just ordering a side of chips. I still don't get it, because people could still try the same thing after 5pm - and maybe it was why there were only two others dining. Agreeing to differ, the handsome Mateo strode off into the sunset, as I enlightened my lunch 'date' Paul as to whose presence he'd been in!
The head chef is Sam Moore, whose food I'd loved when he was sous chef to Matt Fuller in Jay Bourke's former Bart's on South William Street. He was missing in action on our visit, but the kitchen turned out two little 'starter' plates of white truffle and forest mushroom pate; and sweetcorn and jalapeno fritters, pictured below, with a side of roast Padron peppers. The pate, which was served with crispy pan de cristal bread (a bit like ciabatta, but lighter) was delicious, and came with a quince and tomato chutney; while the trio of sweetcorn fritters with blobs of avocado puree were also very nice.
I am all too aware that vegetarians have long suffered in restaurants with very poor offerings, while their friends tucked in all around them. But, even though their time has come, I'm wondering if the meaty fella, being hauled along for a vegan/ vegetarian dinner by the girlfriend, mightn't dig in his heels.
Would it not be wise, economically, to have one meaty or fishy option on the menu? It all felt a bit too pure, but then I suppose diners will check the menu beforehand. We were charged a very reasonable €16 for our food, which, with a glass of Quinta white wine (€7) for Paul, and bottled water (€5.50), brought our bill with service to €33. Under-12s are not catered for after 5pm.
Our second vegan experience was in the more casual Flip, a new vegan/vegetarian burger eatery in the George's Street Arcade. It's the latest venture by the folks behind Blazing Salads, which has beenon Drury Street for 20 years, and in the business before that for many years.
They do four burgers here - The Flipper, The Lifter, The Improver and The Popper (all €9). They are all served in a vegan organic seeded bun, with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, vegan mayo and sugar-free ketchup. If I dare to say that they were 'whoppers', the vegans may freak out, but, in the true sense of the word, they were just that - big, tasty and delicious. Paul had The Popper, a sweetcorn and feta fritter; while I had The Flipper, a black bean and quinoa burger. We held back on hand-cut fries at €3.50, but used lashings of sriracha.
Vegans and meat-toothed alike will flip for this place.
15/16 Chatham Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: (01) 672-4534
32 George's Street Arcade, Dublin 2.
Tel: (01) 671-8288
Sunday Indo Living