February – how is it the end of February?! I tend to hibernate for the first couple of months of the year. After the madness of Christmas (at work and at home), it’s nice to ease slowly back into things before finally coming alive with the first shoots of wild garlic in Spring. I was awoken a little early from my slumber this year however when good friends in London decided to take a weekend in Dublin to ease the Winter blues. We don’t often get to see Aoife and Ben so any opportunity is pounced upon excitedly. We figured a trip to the Stella Cinema would be a nice way to spend an evening so dinner at Hey Donna close by seemed the best option. Unfortunately the Stella was booked out for the Friday we intended but we went for dinner anyway and pushed our visit to the cinema back a couple of days.
I’m always wary of parking in Dublin. Although I’ve never been clamped I have witnessed it on many occasions, usually thinking that I could easily have left my car there too. After driving around the town a couple of times, I eventually abandon ship in a loading bay. Careful inspection of the sign tells me it’s only a loading bay until 17.00h but I’m still edgy. A local puts my mind at ease “you should be fine” – ‘should be?!’
All Day Canteen
Described as an all day canteen, Hey Donna is a casual and friendly eatery in the middle of Rathmines. The brainchild of Jo Macken (Jo’Burger, Crackbird and Skinflint), it takes several nods towards middle eastern style mezze with a couple of western and eastern flavours thrown in for good measure. I’m excited to see vegetables given the same reverence as meat on the menu, the single vegetarian option is dead and in it’s place comes a host of exciting meatless wonders. There is plenty of meat on the menu too and, having discussed it at length, we decide to order three vegetable dishes, three meat dishes and a few dips and sauces between the four of us. The others are sipping cocktails but as I’m the designated driver, I’m on the orange and lemon lemonade. It’s refreshing and neither too bitter nor sweet.
The meat arrives on one large plate: berber spiced lambs chops (€14), sumac chicken thigh fillets (€14) and hot beef ribs (€14) are soon joined by the garden choices: slow roasted carrots, hazelnut, carrot top pesto, tahini (€8.50), butter leaf, whipped avocado, NY nut & seed crumb (€6) and roast cauliflower, spiced cashew butter, rich roast pepper (€7 for small, €12 for large). There is hardly enough room for the bagna cauda with almonds (€3), chili & nut rayu (€3), red pepper & peppercorn aioli (€2) and the smokey fried potatoes, r.o.m.p (€5.50) but we make it work.
“having a moment”
I first cut into the glorious half head of cauliflower in front of me. Ali keeps telling me that cauliflower is “having a moment” but it is having several moments with me – I can’t stop eating it! This is wonderful. Tender and creamy with spiced cashew butter it is at it’s best with a drizzle of bagna cauda. It isn’t too long before I make a bee line for the meat however. The hot beef ribs are smokey with a not too overpowering heat. The lamb chops are beautifully cooked and, with a light spreading of aioli, are the star. The zingy sumac chicken is also delicious but I’m too distracted by the lamb chops to pay it the attention it deserves. Carrots dipped into bagna cauda is one of life’s simple pleasures and so it proves here, only enhanced with a hint of pesto and tahini. My meal comes to an end with a healthy dose of salad. Light and refreshing, the butter leaf and whipped avocado is the perfect end, especially after I’ve drizzled it with any remaining rayu.
The problem with sharing…..
Nursing full bellies we debate whether to go for dessert or not. The waiter informs us that they only have one dessert – chocolate mousse (€7.95). We order two between us (as it’s quite large) but I instantly regret this decision upon tasting. This is not a dessert to share. My spoon is put firmly on the table after receiving a telling off from Ali for eating most of it – I couldn’t help myself!
Despite being informed while booking that they would need the table back at 8.45, that time has come and passed without another mention. We stay until after 10 (having been there from 7pm) with a bottle of Prosecco and another lemonade. It’s a busy Friday night but nothing is rushed or pushy – casual and social dining at its best. We eventually do leave, with a far smaller hole in our pockets than we would’ve expected.
137 Rathmines Road Lower,