Wednesday 22 January 2020

True bread of heaven at quirky café

Edel Coffey

The Fumbally

Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8

Tel: 01 5298732


True bread of heaven at quirky café

All sorrows are less with bread'. So said Don Quixote and it's a strong enough argument for me to discard last week's brief anti-carb mission. The Cervantes quote is emblazoned in large white writing across a giant blackboard in The Fumbally, a recently opened restaurant in Dublin 8.

I like the place already for its assault on the anti-bread movement. I do a quick calculation. If bread is bad and The Fumbally is super-cool, does that make eating bread about the coolest, post-hipster thing a person can do right now? I text my lunch partner. That's what I do when I'm a few minutes early and not entirely sure I'm in the right place.

Today my dining companion is a long-time friend, one of the first people I met in the grown-up world.

These days he is a celebrated writer who hasn't touched a carb in years and is in consequently great shape, but I remember him when he ate carbs.

My love of carbs, meanwhile, has continued apace and given me a similar look to a larva in skinny jeans but these are the sacrifices we make for a morning bagel.

He texts back: "I am horribly going to be 20 min late! I will explain."

I grab a table and ponder the Don Quixote quote some more. I start to doubt he means bread in a literal sense. Perhaps he just intended it as a word for sustenance in general.

Or maybe he meant bread, as in money . . . now that would lessen a few sorrows.

The Fumbally is huge, bright and airy with an edgy, industrial feel that gives it a relaxed attitude. It is run by Luca D'Alfonso and Aisling Rogerson, who sold their food at the Dublin Food Co-Op and festivals for three-and-a-half years before opening The Fumbally.

The wooden tables are all mismatched and different sizes and cans and boxes of provisions are stored wherever there is shelving.

They have not tried to make the space fit their purposes, but have adapted to fit it. In the far corner of the room is a large counter where the food is prepared and displayed, with fresh salads piled high on platters. It looks like something straight out of a Yotam Ottolenghi book.

There is a welcoming atmosphere and people sit around with laptops or reading novels. You can picture this as the kind of place somebody will write their novel, the kind of place someone will fall in love with someone else over a cappuccino, and the kind of place these loved-up hipsters might then have their civil ceremony.

The Fumbally could even provide the music as they regularly put on early-morning gigs. It certainly beats a 6am spinning class.

While I'm waiting for my friend to arrive, I go to the counter and order a cappuccino from a happy person. There's a very happy vibe here.

Wariness and cynicism, two of the founding pillars of my personality, are unnecessary. When I return to my table, it has been repopulated by two wily men. Blackguards.

It's that kind of place -- your table is my table, comrade. There's even a sign up on the wall suggesting you share your table.

I grumble and relocate to a less enchanting table, keeping potential sharers away with a wolf-like look.

Soon after, my friend arrives with apologies and the explanation. I had all sorts of potential reasons worked out in advance. He might have locked himself in the house.

But no. He went out on the lash the night before and slept in. Well, at least he is hungry.

I order a cup of soup (€2.50) and the plate of daily salads (€8.50), which includes chickpeas, hummus, beetroot and couscous and he has the porchetta (€6) but doesn't want the bread (I know, I know).

The man on the till kindly suggests substituting some salads, as otherwise it will be just a pile of shredded pork on a plate.

The food is simple but superb, the flavours are distinct and excellent and everything tastes extraordinarily fresh.

The Fumbally is careful about where it sources its supplies, they use organic where possible, free-range meat, artisanal coffee suppliers. This really is all you could ask for from a local cafe and The Fumbally feels like an important element in the burgeoning Fumbally Lane area (where among other new businesses, is located).

The food goes down well and my friend and I discuss all sorts of things -- his recent engagement (very romantic), my work (less romantic), our ambitions (very quixotic).

We discuss the carb issue and his continuing discipline in that area.

The conversation moves from body type to personality type. "What are you on Meyers-Briggs," he says, referring to a Jungian personality test to be found on the internet.

I can't remember but I usually test disturbingly close to sociopath on those internet tests, by which I mean, lacking in sympathy, empathy or displaying a vaguely 'male' brain (this is the internet's term, not mine).

I text a friend who is obsessed with the Meyers-Briggs personality test and has forced me to do the test in the past.

"What am I?" I ask her.

Unsurprisingly, she only knows her own reading, which is the same as my lunch companion's, even though they both tell me this is a very rare personality type.

When I get home, I do the test again. I scroll down to famous people who share my personality type, and there in black and white, it says, Hannibal Lecter. Sociopath. He didn't eat bread either, as far as I recall.

Another good reason to stick to the carbs.

THE DAMAGE: €19.50, lunch for two and a cappuccino. The main point is I get change from a €20 note


AT THE TABLE: Office escapees and solo hipsters with their MacBooks

ON THE STEREO: Not discernible amid the burble of lunchtime chat and cutlery, but I imagine it to be the soundtrack to a whimsical indie film.

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