59A Leinster Street North
Phone: 086 857 6054
Irish Daily Mail
29 October 2016
When I rang Bang Bang, the café not the old Dublin character who has been long dead, to ask if people could bring along some wine to have with the larger than life sandwiches, there was a slight pause at the other end.
“Have you been to our place?,” I was asked. And I replied that I had indeed.
“So you know it’s pretty informal then?” I replied in the affirmative and was told that I’d be more than welcome and that they wouldn’t dream of charging corkage.
This exchange tells you a few important things about Bang Bang. It’s very honest, there are no frills and there’s a spirit of generosity that is rare enough in the so-called hospitality industries.
I have the impression that punters rarely turn up with a bottle of fermented grape juice under their oxters but a lingering lunch here with, say, a few tumblers of Cotes du Rhone from a convenient supermarket would be very pleasant. And I notice that they sell the glorious Mossfield organic cheese that Ralph Haslam makes down in County Offaly. I’m sure you could buy a packet of that and have some to round off the meal before cleansing the palate with a fine Silverskin Coffee espresso doppio.
Anyway, I’m getting rather ahead of myself. Bang Bang is in deepest Phibsborough, in the redbrick heart of that inner suburb, and it’s not much to look at from the outside. The interior, however, is like that of an old-fashioned corner shop, the sort that would sell you a single slice of ham or a solitary sausage and probably, back in the day, loose Woodbines. There’s even one of those monumental Avery weighing scales that adorned ever grocer’s counter when I was a small child.
The interior is also pleasantly eccentric. At different levels there’s a collection of vintage suitcases, a 70’s television and there’s a rail of vintage clothing for sale. The music, despite a sudden outbreak of The Dubliners, is properly cool and the food is... well, wholesome and honest and unpretentious.
Essentially they take the excellent bread from the Arun Bakery in nearby Stoneybatter, including the outstanding sourdough, and create sandwiches. They also do a daily soup – proper soup, not industrial, catering soup – and on the day I called it was pea and mint.
It came in a big waxed paper cup (so you can take it away if you like) and was simply perfect. Not too light, not too heavy, impeccably seasoned, just sweet enough with peaness and cut with just the right amount of mintiness. And there was a warming finish to it that suggested plenty of black pepper.
I will confess to being something of a soup enthusiast and, for me, the bar is high. Bang Bang’s mint and pea soared over it.
I had a brunch burger, something that, I gather, draws people from far and near; indeed, sometimes the only place to sit is on the benches outside on the pavement. This is a very small café that doubles as a specialist food shop (proper cheese, organic eggs, real bacon, the kind of dry goods you won’t get in the supermarket, that kind of thing) so seating is at a bit of a premium.
The brunch burger can be augmented with sausages, pudding, cheese, all sorts of things but I stuck with a classic combination of smoked bacon, salad, cheese, relish and – joyfully – a runny fried egg. All of this crammed into an Arun bun.
I know this may sound odd, but all of the ingredients seemed to be more real than usual. And this is because they are sourced so carefully. I can’t see a food services truck dropping off here.
The clientele is wonderfully varied. There were men in suits, a bloke with exceedingly long hair whom I’m sure I know from a previous life, an Eir engineer, a hipster with a Macbook, a restaurant critic from south of the river... And there’s a sense of it being a bit of a club, or, at least, a community hub.
I concluded my modest repast with an excellent cappucino and a kind of paleo brownie which was pleasingly intense and refreshingly unsweet. And I strolled out into the October sunshine feeling considerably better having been in contact with people who (a) do an exceptionally good job very simply and (b) clearly strive to increase the sum of human happiness.
All of this left plenty of change out of €20.