Friday, 2 December 2011

Where's the juice?

I learned recently that Juice vegetarian restaurant on Georges Street has closed down. Having been there not long ago, I was surprised at how quickly the signs were whipped away and replaced with the new flash neon sign of "San Lorenzos". Like a middle aged man replacing his older, yoga loving, health food consuming wife with a young flashy Italian mistress.

When I was there a couple of months ago, I wasn't too impressed with the menu selection (but am I ever in Dublin?) I can understand as a vegetarian restaurant, they are catering to a niche market. According to the European vegetarian union approximately 4-6% of the Irish population is vegetarian. That still leaves numbers in the thousands, but apparently this number is to be placated by Dublin chefs with the usual tedious fare.

In Juice, the menu consisted of pasta, falafel, a bit of tofu. Dining there last, I had the Asian noodles - fried noodles, a few veg, with about five rather mean cubes of tofu. My companion had the falafel accompanied by hummus and pita bread. While the service was friendly without being intrusive, the food was certainly nothing to get excited about. The staff kept the meal moving along at a nice pace, but what we were served just had us heading for the door with only the word "fine" burning in my brain.

In most Dublin restaurants, the typical vegetarian option always seems to be tacked onto the bottom of the menu with a "that'll do" kind of attitude; nearly always lacking variation or inspiration. A quick perusal over the bill of fare in many restaurants and you're sure to find pastas, stir-frys, risottos and the ubiquitous goats cheese. What is it with bloody goats cheese?! Sure its nice one in a while if you can find a soft creamy cheese with a hint of tang, but enough is enough. You would think these chefs had invested in goat farms up and down the country, that or a serious lack of imagination. I have a sneaking suspicion it's more likely the latter. Some establishments are so arrogantly enamoured with with their meaty mouthfuls, that reading over the menu is like wading through a veritable farmyard, with the vegetarians left only to nibble on the grass verges surrounding the yard with predictable salads. 

When I go out to dine I want to be excited, inspired, tempted by what's on offer. Instead I'm often left bored, going with the only option available that I've had a million times before. I am quite capable of cooking risottos, pastas and stirfrys at home. Please, where is the muse of plant based meals?

The only saviour we seem to have on this island is in the form of Dennis Cotter who runs Cafe Paradiso in Cork. Now, at last, my salivary glands have a chance to kick into action. We have dishes like "anise-braised salsify, poached quince, quail eggs & beetroot crisps with almond, pomegranate and zhoug", "feta, pistachio & couscous cake with sweet & hot pepper jam, wilted greens, spiced chickpeas and coriander yoghurt" or "panfried oyster mushrooms in cider butter with a timbale of roast celeriac, fennel, red onion & pecans, and parsnip chips". The descriptions may certainly be a mouthful but they have the taste to back them up. This is a place for Irish meat abstainers certainly to make a pilgrimage to from all over the island.

Surely there must be somewhere, someone, in Dublin interested enough to have an equally inspiring menu on the city's streets?


  1. Hello! I found your blog from the Irish Food Bloggers Association. :) I visited Ireland this summer (I'm from South Dakota), and it may surprise (and sadden) you that Ireland was bounds ahead of Midwestern United States when it comes to vegetarian options! South Dakota is apparently one of the least vegetarian-friendly states in the US. :(

  2. Hi Lauren, thanks for your comment:) I know in the grand scheme of things it's a little self indulgent to complain about restaurant food. I mean there's so many things wrong with the world, it's not exactly high up on the list of worthiness. If less people took meat consumption for granted though and reduced the quantity they were eating, it might go a little way towards helping a tiny portion of those problems.

    It doesn't surprise me that the midwest is not too veggie friendly, but it is unfortunate. I never have any preconceptions that somewhere will be except maybe India! Then it's nice to get a pleasant surprise :)I find the best option is usually to cook for yourself at home.

    Hope you had a nice time here! :)


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