The review: Sprout & Co offers substantial and sustaining food
Sprout & Co Kitchen, 63 Dawson St, Dublin 2. (01) 257-1800
'Divorce Monday," says the man perched on the high stool next to me in Sprout on Dawson Street. "That's what today is called."
"Just as well," says his companion, "that neither of us is married."
Whatever about the impact of the Christmas break and all that time spent cooped up with the family on the stability of Irish marriages, there's no denying that the beginning of January is a sombre time, with little in the way of good cheer, particularly when it comes to food. The population is feeling liverish, racked with regret at how much of their precious time off they wasted slumped on the sofa, and remorse at their lack of willpower when it came to that Terry's Chocolate Orange (not usually a confection that would hold much appeal for me).
And then of course there's all the talk of getting back to the gym and diets and eating clean and the Whole 30 and - most dispiriting of all - dry January. It's all very well in theory, this business of eating healthily, but putting it into practice takes an amount of forward planning and preparation. Not to mention all the wretched chopping of herbs and vegetables. It's hard to summon up the energy or enthusiasm when the weather is cold and it's dark when you leave the house in the morning and it's dark when you get back home and all you really want to eat are rib-sticking stews washed down with a good bottle of red. So much easier to fall back into the old ways.
Sprout & Co Kitchen is the new food offering from Jack and Theo Kirwan, the 20-something brothers behind the successful Sprout juice business. The Kirwans are the cousins of the Pratt family who recently sold Avoca and they started their operation in an incubation unit in Avoca Rathcoole a couple of years ago. The juices are now stocked not just in Avoca stores but in Spars and other outlets across the country.
With juice detoxes less fashionable than in previous years - no one seems prepared to put up with being that 'hangry' any more - it's a smart move for the brothers to move into solid food, albeit supplemented by the juices, which are still a great and palatable way of ingesting a vast amount of greens without having to sit down and plough through a trough of kale.
As the name suggests, Sprout serves healthy food, the kind of which we should all be eating more. On the first Monday of the new year we arrive for lunch at noon, because we have a hunch that things are going to get busy. By the time we leave, just over an hour later, the queue is out the door and down the street. And that's before the Trinity students have started back.
There's seating for about 20 people - it's all high stools and communal tables - but most people are taking their food out and back to their desks. If I worked in the neighbourhood that's exactly what I'd be doing too.
The menu is up on the wall and will change seasonally. Currently, on the winter selection, there's a choice of half a dozen salads priced at €7.50/€7.95, with the option of adding more protein (chicken, salmon, turkey, boiled organic egg) for an additional charge. Ingredients are contemporary without being extreme, so nothing that will scare the plain-eating horses. So think beetroot and Five Mile Town goat's cheese, turkey with satay sauce, Gubbeen chorizo with peppers, that kind of thing. As an alternative there are wraps made with either tortilla or Savoy cabbage (for the carb-phobes) that you can fill with falafel, chicken or turkey, or you can build your own protein grain bowl on a base of quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat or rice noodles. It takes a little while to get your head around the various permutations on offer. Each salad or wrap is assembled individually and to order. To the Kirwans' credit, Sprout is using free-range Irish chicken and sourcing locally as far as possible, although they say they have yet to find an Irish avocado farmer.
We tried a couple of soups - butternut with a good kick of chilli that was perfect for a chilly day, and miso topped with spring onions, edamame and chilli. Then a couple of salads: a Super Guacabowle (whoever writes the punning recipe titles clearly enjoyed the task), featuring seasonal greens, roasted squash, avocado, feta, quinoa, toasted seeds and apple with added chicken in a French dressing, and a Rad Thai with a raw Vietnamese prawn roll, rice noodles, carrots, red cabbage, spring onion, red chilli and edamame with Nam Jim dressing. With lists of ingredients as long as that, these are the kind of salads that it makes sense to be making in volume - with the best will in the world you are never going to get your act together at home to rustle that up for your lunchbox. The portions are substantial and sustaining. We thought that the food could have done with more seasoning, and the dressings with more oomph, but we would return happily.
With a couple of juices - one Supergreen, featuring kale, spinach, parsley, cucumber, celery, apple, pear, lemon and ginger, and one Beet It (beetroot, carrot, lemon, ginger) - and good 3FE coffee, our bill for two came to €41.80. Most customers were spending around a tenner on a lunch to take out.
I understand that the Kirwans hope to roll the Sprout & Co Kitchen concept out to other locations, so watch out for a Sataysfied Turkey Bowl coming your way.
On a budget
Chia seed porridge soaked in coconut milk with seasonal toppings is €3.50. There's a student discount too.
On a blow out
Sprout is not blow-out territory, but if you had a large soup, kale chicken Caesar salad, juice, and a flat white, your bill would come to €22.65. Add a shot of organic wheatgrass to your juice for €3.
The hight point
The feeling of smugness that you get after consuming your bodyweight in greens and thinking: "I could eat like this all the time."
The low point
With the doors open on to Dawson Street, it can get a bit chilly inside.
9/10 value for money