Think of Dublin, and you’re likely to come up with a vision of beer and drunken revelry–particularly if you’re an American. Hell, anything Irish reminds your average American of St. Patrick’s Day, which is pretty funny given the current xenophobic panic in which 40 percent of my country currently finds itself. You might also think of potatoes, both the actual vegetable and those things known as Irish potatoes (also funny, because those are not in any way Irish–it’s a Philly thing). Now, I’ve had my share of beer and potatoes in Dublin, but when I think of the city, my brain goes directly to Victorian Sponge Cake.
I know: random.
But it’s more than just Victorian Sponge Cake in general–it’s cake from one particular place–the Queen of Tarts. Just typing the words gives me juicy mouth. Look, you can find this cake all over Ireland and the UK. It’s nothing more than sponge cake, jam, and whipped cream. Served in any place, it can range from mouth-suckingly dry to fairly decent. The Queen of Tarts Victorian Sponge Cake is a whole ‘nother animal. The sponge cake is gorgeously moist and airy. The raspberry jam tastes homemade and has whole raspberries (although there are various kinds of jam used) crammed into it. The whipped cream is . . . I don’t know what they do to it, but it’s amazing.
Mr. Pretty thinks I’m insane for being so devoted to QoT’s Victorian Sponge Cake, but I’ll thank you to notice what he’s eating in this photo. If it’s not obvious, that’s a lemon meringue tart.
By way of background, and why Mr. Pretty’s lemon meringue tart makes him in a giant hypocrite, we visited Dublin for the first time back in 2014–which is when I fell madly in love with QoT and their cake. To say that I had a slice every single day of our vacation would not be unfair. And Mr. Pretty had one of their lemon meringue tarts just as often. So.
Anyway, as you know from my last missive, Mr. Pretty and I flew to Dublin en route to Edinburgh. We had about a day and a half in Dublin, so of course I insisted on a slice of Victorian Sponge Cake from QoT.
Dublin, in general, is a very good food town, which often surprises people when I give that opinion. It goes far beyond QoT’s cake. During our first trip in 2014, we ate from one end of town to the other–and I discovered my love of oyster stouts.
This time around we were pressed for time, but we still managed to get in two very good meals (not counting QoT since technically, that was just a cream tea, of sorts):
- PHX Bistro. A cute little place on the Liffey that we chose because it’s very close to the Open Gate Brewery (Guinness’ experimental brewery). We managed to get in without a reservation, but only because we ate early (to allow us a stop off at the aforementioned brewery afterward). If you plan to eat at a more respectable time, I recommend making a res. Another very good thing about the restaurant is that it’s very affordable–2 courses for €22.95. I can personally vouch for their smoked mackerel pate and beef cheeks with lovage mash. Great range of wines, as well, and very good service.
- Klaw. There is no way in hell I would typically eat anywhere near Temple Bar. You know, because I have taste buds. But I made an exception for Klaw, which is one of Chef Niall Sabongi’s places. Klaw bills itself as a crabshack, emphasis on shack in this case. It’s a tiny little place that does indeed remind you of the shore. The day we went it was pretty cold, and it wasn’t much warmer inside. It didn’t matter even a little, because the seafood was excellent. Do yourself a favor–start with a Snapper Gin Bloody Mary. Look, there’s nothing all that special about the Bloody Mary. Yeah, it was good, but what was perfect was that it came with a single perfectly plump, perfectly cooked shrimp. I will have dreams about that shrimp for as long as I live. I also had four raw Irish oysters and a sea urchin that had been fresh-caught that very morning. A bowl of their wonderful seafood chowder finished things off. The service was incredibly friendly . . . and hilarious. Our server, while telling us about the oysters, said, “The Waterford oysters have a cucumber undertone because the farm they come is next to a cucumber farm. I don’t know if that’s really true–I’m convinced our distributors lie to me all the time.” Spoiler alert: they really did have a cucumber undertone!
All of this to say: don’t ever believe someone who tells you that Irish food isn’t amazing. It is. Dublin continues to produce wonderful food and great chefs and restaurants. Oh, and try an oyster stout next time you’re in town.