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Review: Hang Dai Chinese – Dublin

10 May


By Rhea H. Boyden

Over the past few months I have been going to a spectacular new spot on Camden Street in the heart of Dublin city: Hang Dai Chinese Restaurant run by Dubliners Karl Whelan and Will Dempsey. A few weeks ago, I was there on a busy Saturday night and I had the pleasure of being introduced to them both. Karl, who is the executive chef, had just pulled a beautiful duck out of the oven when I met him and he looked very happy with it. And so he should be. Hang Dai, which opened its doors last November is doing a roaring trade. ‘We are delighted with ourselves,’ Karl told me when we finally had a chance to have a longer chat about Hang Dai’s decor, food and importantly, its sound system which was custom built to the highest standards. Karl told me that they had played around with different ideas when trying to get the desired feel and ambience for the venue.

On one side of the wall there is a subway car with plush dining booths. I asked Karl how this idea came about. ‘Our original idea was to have a glass and rubber handrail going down to a subway in an open stairwell so it would feel like an escalator, but then the idea morphed and we started looking at train images and train parts. We were aiming for a sci fi-esque look.’ The result is spectacular. They commissioned talented graphic designer Donal Thornton to create the graphic art that fills the spaces where one would find subway ads. One of the graphics is a subway map of various nightclubs. ‘We wanted to do a bit of music lineage from Jazz clubs to modern day clubs,’ he told me. ‘We are also planning to update those graphics and keep them fresh,’ he said. On the opposite wall there are impressive dragon murals which are the work of artist Johnny Fitzsimons. ‘He is our resident artist and is currently working on more murals in the bathroom,’ Karl said.

Karl, who was formerly executive chef of Luna Restaurant and sous chef of Michelin star restaurant Chapter One among many other fine dining places, told me that they have recently revamped their menu. I have sampled their asparagus spring rolls with spicy bean curd hollandaise, as well as the steamed eggplant in fermented chilli sauce and their super special fried rice, but the star of the menu appears to be the apple wood-fired duck. Karl and Will have been to China several times visiting Beijing, Hong Kong and Chendu to research the food and culture of China. One big aim of these trips was to learn how to prepare Beijing duck in a wood-fired oven. Another menu item that caught my eye was whole brown crab in the shell ‘typhoon shelter’ style. I asked Karl about it. ‘We are just coming into summer and it is crab season,’ he said. ‘One dish we ate in Hong Kong were these massive crabs at a restaurant under a bridge where the fishermen come and shelter with their boats from the typhoon so that is where the inspiration came for that dish,’ he said.


And while the menu is superb, Hang Dai is by no means only about food. Co-owner Will Dempsey is a record collector and DJ and a lot of time and effort was put into having the highest quality sound system installed. They both want quality late night music with the priority being talented vinyl DJs playing using the handmade rotary mixer that was sourced in Japan by Will. The rest of the system was built by the talented Toby Hatchett, who is a boat builder by trade but also constructs custom-built sound systems in his West Cork workshop. I also spoke to him about his work at Hang Dai and he said: ‘The brief was that it needed to be a very clean, undistorted sound, so that the listening experience is very pleasant while people are dining and it is not too loud. I built the DJ console around the rotary mixer which is really the heart of the whole sound system,’ he said. Toby worked with sound designer and engineer Abe Scheele on the sound design of the room. ‘We measured the whole room with microphones and we did it in a very detailed fashion in order to get that clean, clear sound wherever you are in the room,’ he said. Toby also told me that he loves Hang Dai and that it is a joy for him to continue tweaking the system.


Dragon mural by Johnny Fitzsimons

Toby also did the decor and sound system for the recently opened upstairs section of Hang Dai – The Gold Bar, which is also stunning with a fabulous balcony looking over the bustling Camden Street below. As I stood on the balcony with some friends speaking to co-owner Will Dempsey, he proudly pointed out to me that they get sun all day long which makes it the perfect spot to enjoy the smaller upstairs menu of 8 cocktails and 8 dishes. ‘8 is a lucky number in China,’ Karl told me, ‘So we thought that was significant.’ Downstairs there is an extensive menu of expertly crafted and delicious cocktails including a house favourite, the Hang Dai sour.

The roster of talented DJs includes Sally Cinnamon, Nialler 9, Aoife Nic Canna, Eddie Kay, Donal Dineen and many others. ‘We recently had Brian Cross in to play,’ Karl said. Cross who is originally from Limerick is a successful photographer and DJ in Los Angeles and he was home giving an exhibition of his work. ‘He is a success story, so we were delighted he joined us for the night.’


DJ Aoife Nic Canna and DJ Eddie Kay at Hang Dai

DJ Aoife Nic Canna who shares a monthly Saturday evening slot with DJ Eddie Kay told me: ‘Eddie and I get on well and I love the ambience. Our job is to keep the diners there after they eat and to keep it a Saturday night party set. I really look forward to playing there more during the summer.’ I have been at Hang Dai a few nights when Aoife and Eddie were on the decks and their music certainly kept me dancing a little longer than I had anticipated. I was about to call it a night the last time I was there when Aoife played the thrilling new release from Irish producer Glenn Davis entitled ‘Body and Soul’. Hang Dai’s menu and cocktails enjoyed while listening to quality music surely are a treat for the body and the soul and I am very happy to have found such a great new local in the heart of Dublin.

Hang Dai is at 20 Camden Street in Dublin City

Photo of Duck by Terry Mc Donagh

Featured image of dragon mural by Johnny Fitzsimons

Thanks to Karl Whelan, Will Dempsey, Toby Hatchett and Aoife Nic Canna for their stories.

Review: Rich Lane at Ukiyo

13 Nov


by Rhea H. Boyden

Last weekend Dublin music promoter Julie-Ann Smith hosted music maker and record-label owner Rich Lane from Stoke-on-Trent for a gig at Ukiyo. In the weeks leading up to the gig, the anticipation and excitement among my circle of friends and acquaintances was very apparent and so I felt it was an event that should not be missed.

Ukiyo, which opened in 2004, is a lovely Japanese restaurant in Dublin city centre run by Duncan Maguire. In addition to offering a varying Bento box and excellent sushi, they serve delicacies such as slow-roasted pork served with scented squash and the most delicious pan-fried hake and prawn gyoza served with a mouth-watering garlic and chilli dip. The restaurant has huge plate-glass windows allowing for perfect people-watching as you feast on the food or sip their cocktails that are expertly mixed by the friendliest of bar staff. As well as providing Karaoke booths downstairs, once the tables are cleared upstairs, a host of DJs hit the decks to provide further entertainment several evenings a week.


Rich Lane 

One thing that especially excited me about attending Rich Lane’s gig at Ukiyo was that a lot of the people I have collaborated with or been introduced to in the world of Dublin dance music over the past year were also planning to be there. Ukiyo has become, and will likely remain, my local haunt because it certainly is a joy to have a place to go where I can meet my peers: others in their late 30’s and early 40’s and the bar was packed for Rich Lane’s set. Before playing Ukiyo last week, Rich was also a guest at PHEVER:TV-Radio on Hugo Mc Cann’s ‘Best Sets’ show. I spoke with Hugo and also with DJ/Producer and PHEVER boss Dean Sherry about their impression of Rich’s music: ‘Rich takes techno and house and slows it down and makes it more interesting,’ Hugo said. ‘Yes, and I really think he makes the transitions between the beats more interesting,’ Dean added.

Rich told me he really had a great night and was very pleased with the warm welcome he got in Dublin. He was Julie-Ann Smith’s guest last year for a gig at Pacino’s in Dublin and was delighted to return. He has been producing music for over a quarter of a century and has had a hand in producing hundreds of tracks. He is the owner of the record label Cotton Bud and also has a sideline in mastering. He does mastering for Sub:Sonic records, an Irish record label specialising in releasing a wide range of electronic music. The lovely guys from Sub:Sonic were at the gig too and Rich also played a few tracks released by them.


On the night, Rich played many of his own tracks released by him on his label, as well as his lovingly recrafted and re-edited version of Sinead O’ Connor’s hit ‘Jackie’ from her 1987 album ‘The Lion and the Cobra’  which he made especially for the Ukiyo gig. ‘I love the relentless, driving tone of this track,’ he told me. ‘Its beautifully tragic, spooky and evocative lyrics and her uniquely passioned performance have always been spine-tingling.’ Rich also does the mastering for Logical Records from Spain who Julie-Ann Smith also hosted at Ukiyo back in September and he played a few tracks released by them too. It was at that gig that I first met Julie-Ann who has hosted various DJs including Craig Bratley, Duncan Gray, Chris Massey, Los Bikini and Javier Busto (of Logical Records). She told me she is really passionate about the music that Rich and all these guys make. ‘I love slow techno and chug’, she said. ‘A lot of it has a nod to acid house and I also love these dirty slow beats.’

I have been listening to Rich’s dirty slow beats whilst chatting to him and it has been a complete joy for me to get to know him better and also to discover that we have collaborated with some of the same people. He has enlightened me some more too on the process of mastering dance music. We also spoke of the the creative process in writing music lyrics and writing in general and the beauty of returning to unfinished work after it has been left alone for awhile. ‘My last track ‘Wolf in Shell Toes’ was on the shelf for about 8 years,’ he told me. ‘It was just sitting there waiting for me to add some lyrics to and then suddenly one day I was sitting in the pub with my kids with a notebook in hand and they came!’ he said. I love this too when suddenly you are filled with the creative energy to complete a project to satisfaction. You never know when it is going to happen, just as you never know who you are going to be collaborating with or who you will meet next. It certainly is an exciting journey. I will surely be keeping a close eye on Rich Lane’s work in the future, and of course, the work of the host of other amazing DJs whose work he does the mastering for.

Ukiyo Bar, Restaurant and Karaoke is at 9, Exchequer Street in Dublin city centre

Cotton Bud Logo courtesy of Rich Lane

Review: Pacino’s at Night and The Blind Pig Cocktail Bar

25 Oct

Pacino's outside-image

by Rhea H.Boyden

Hidden inside a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’ I find the recipe for a mouth-watering cocktail. I am standing at the bar of ‘The Blind Pig’ in Pacino’s cellar venue on Suffolk street in Dublin city centre. I am speaking to the night manager, Daniel. He hands me a copy of the Bible. ‘You can find cocktail recipes in here too,’ he tells me. ‘Our drinks menu is hidden in books which is how it was done during Prohibition too. We are proud of our little Speakeasy bar down here,’ he says with a smile. I glance around me at the inviting decor: vintage style furniture in an original arched wine cellar.

This is my second time back to the lovely Pacino’s Restaurant and Bar in a week. Unlike the cocktail recipes, it is hardly in a hidden location, a minute’s walk from Trinity College, so how had I not noticed it before? I can only say that I have likely been too busy getting settled as many returning emigrants would be too, in their first year back in Ireland after many years abroad. It is only recently that the anxiety of moving home and finding a job and a place to live has subsided and I am happy and ready to really start exploring the city more. It makes me excited about discovering other gems of Dublin as I slowly begin to call this city my home.

NSA and Graham

NSA-Steve Cass and Justin Wilson, Audio Filth-Graham Keely

And truly, Dublin is becoming my home now and in the past month or so I have finally started going out more and meeting people and having a good time. Some of my new acquaintances here invited me to Pacino’s last Saturday night to a floating event called ‘Audio Filth’ that took place in the same cellar bar. At weekends, The Blind Pig turns into a dancefloor after 11pm. Graham Keely from Dublin who is the co-founder of Dublin’s first dance music radio station PowerFM, started Audio Filth last February with his friend Hugo McCann. They invite artists over from the U.K. who are making waves in the house/acid scene. Their guests last weekend were Justin Wilson and Steve Cass who have run a club in Edinburgh for the past 20 years. They call themselves NSA– No Strings Attached- and we had a great night dancing to their eclectic mix of house, disco and as they call it ‘Chug’. I had never heard this word used in a musical context before. ‘I would call it spaced out disco.’ Steve said, describing their set. There were only about 20 of us in the intimate private party in the cellar and we had a laugh dancing to Daft Punk, DJ Koze, Beato Cozzi, Duncan Gray and more. One thing that made the night especially interesting to me is that I found myself surrounded by my peers- people in their late thirties in early forties. I even met two women my age who I had been introduced to a few weeks before at The Sugar Club. I love this about Dublin; It’s not too big and not too small. I have a feeling it will be easy enough to continue making new friends here.


I was also introduced to Eoghan Farrell who has been djing on the underground scene in Dublin for the last decade and who is a resident dj at Pacino’s. He runs a bi-monthly event there called Press Play and hosts various djs. And all the while our party was running in the basement there was a dub and reggae party- ‘Rub a Dub’ with Cian Finn upstairs on the main Pacino’s floor. It was Eoghan’s friend Marcus Lester who approached the owner of Pacino’s two years ago and proposed hosting late night music events at weekends. Lester, who is the curator of Pacino’s at Night said: ‘Pacino’s is more a vibe than a venue. We aim to put on quality music nights and find the best djs and promoters.’ It certainly seems like they are having a lot of success with it. Not only do they host events both up and downstairs, but they also host lane way parties outside Pacino’s on summer nights.

Eoghan Farrell

Resident Dj at Pacino’s – Eoghan Farrell

And while the wonderful djs and promoters are responsible for quality music at Pacino’s, it is their award-winning Italian chef Luca Mazza from Tuscany who is responsible for quality food upstairs in the main restaurant (The Blind Pig has its own separate menu). Luca Mazza was hailed as the best Italian chef in Ireland in 2012. In a recent article in the Independent- The King of Italian Cuisine, Mazza says that the most important ingredient in his dishes is love. I have yet to try Mazza’s delicacies, but I have a feeling Pacino’s and The Blind Pig will be places I will be returning to often in the future.

Pacino’s is at 18 Suffolk Street in Dublin City Centre

Images courtesy of Marcus Lester, Eoghan Farrell and Graham Keely

Breakfast at The Windmill Cafe-Santa Cruz

14 Jun

The Windmill, Santa Cruz

by Rhea H.Boyden

Last month I was in California visiting family for a few weeks. I spent some of the time in the Santa Cruz Mountains going for long walks down the canyon with my sister and the family dog, a lovely white German Shepherd. We also went swimming at the UC Santa Cruz pool. I have never been one to see much merit in a lazy or laid back holiday. I like keeping active especially because I like eating good food. I always eat a lot when I am in California in the springtime and it is hard not to when one is surrounded by so much good food. We enjoyed delicious burritos, chips and salsa at a roadside taqueria and bowls of San Francisco clam chowder. We ate blueberries and strawberries each morning with our cereal. We also enjoyed delicious homemade spaghetti carbonara made with fresh eggs from the chickens at my stepdad’s house.

One morning, when a friend was down visiting us from San Francisco, my sister suggested we go into Santa Cruz to her favourite breakfast place: The Windmill Cafe. She told us they had the most delicious sauteed veggie croissant. We drove down the mountain and then along East Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz to the delightful cafe which is an old windmill that was built in 1927 to house a family flower bulb distribution. The area surrounding the windmill was once flower fields.


We went in and a friendly waiter greeted us and brought us to our table. ‘Let me just move this table a little so it doesn’t wobble’, he said to us with a smile. ‘This whole side of the room is a little sunken since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989’. We looked at the floor in amazement and indeed there was a crack running right through the restaurant. Santa Cruz was struck particularly hard by the earthquake. ‘Would you like to start with a cup of coffee?’ he asked us. My friend and I ordered the freshly brewed French roast coffee while my sister, who has never been a real caffeine junkie, ordered a green tea that was brought to her in a lovely green tea pot that matched her outfit perfectly.

cordelia at windmill

The Windmill Cafe was founded in 2009 by Mary Apra who grew up in a large Italian family who loved cooking and eating good food. She has a background in permaculture gardening, design, theatre and fashion. The menu includes a range of delicious gluten free and organic delicacies such as waffles, pancakes, bagels and a Tofurito which is a tortilla filled with scrambled tofu, cabbage, potatoes, cheese and salsa. I personally would have been sceptical as to how good scrambled tofu would have tasted but I am sure it must be pretty delicious after tasting how good their sauteed veggie croissant was. All three of, us upon the recommendation of my sister, ordered it and it was yummy: A fresh croissant filled with sauteed red cabbage, cauliflower and green beans as well as feta cheese, egg and avocado topped with a delectable honey mustard dressing. We washed it down with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and more tea and coffee. We then said goodbye to the friendly waitstaff and went for a walk along the beach to Santa Cruz harbour. I am very much a homebody and I love to cook. I don’t eat out in restaurants that much, but when I do I try and get new ideas for my own cooking. I would like to try and recreate this sauteed veggie croissant, but I somehow doubt I will be able to make it quite as delicious as how Mary Apra and her team of creative chefs managed to make it.

The Windmill Cafe is at 2-1231 East Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz and is open daily from 7am to 3pm.

A Weekend in Barcelona

21 Nov

a view from the hill

by Rhea H. Boyden

Last weekend I braved the strong winds and pouring rain and walked out onto Dorset Street in Dublin to jump into a taxi at 4.30am to go the airport to get an early morning flight to Barcelona. ‘Do you think the flights are even going in this horrendous weather?’ I asked the friendly taxi driver. ‘Oh yes, they are. I have already been out to the airport this morning. It’s the lovely Irish fog that causes flight cancellations, not a bit of rain and wind!’ he said, laughing.

A friend of mine is currently studying in Barcelona so I thought I would take this opportunity to visit him and finally see the city that I have been wanting to visit for so long. And what a delight it was to finally escape the Irish wind and rain and arrive in Spain on a bright and sunny November morning. The skies were azure blue, the temperature a perfectly lovely 20 degrees celsius.

clothes hanging barcelona  Gaudy

 Right image: Gaudi’s Casa Batllo

My friend met me and took me to his favourite lunch place- a delightful Mediterranean restaurant called Balthazar in L’Eixample where we dined on delicious asparagus salad, turkey, sauces and rice, fruit and creamy desserts all for the bargain price of 10 euros a piece including drinks. After lunch we strolled down the Avenue Diagonal where my friend pointed out some of Antoni Gaudi’s impressive architectural works including the delightful Casa Batllo.

Place Reial

Placa Reial

In the late evening we ventured out again to the Restaurant 7 Portes and enjoyed a delicious salad of the freshest greens followed by a Paella with everything in it- sausage, chicken and fish. We were so stuffed that we continued our evening ramblings though the narrow streets and passageways, strolling through the beautiful and impressive Placa Reial. Without my friend to guide me I would surely have got lost very fast in the alleys and streets he was leading me through and I generally pride myself in having a good sense of direction.

wall paintingSaint Maria church barcelonaStreet art

The next afternoon when my friend went to his intensive Spanish course I decided that I would go to the top of the hill. If there is one thing I missed very much while living in Berlin, it was hills. I love cities that are built on hills and I so enjoy, when in a new city, to meander to the top to enjoy the view. In the past couple years I have very much enjoyed my solitary hikes up to Twin Peaks in San Francisco and Sacre Coeur in Paris. I love climbing steps and steep streets and the invigorating exercise that comes from it. One of Barcelona’s main attractions is the Park Guell where there is a lot of Gaudi’s work. I skipped it on this trip. I can always go back. I chose instead to climb to a quiet place on the hill and sit in silence on a rock under a tree and gaze out at the stunning city and sea stretched out before me. I find it wonderfully restorative and meditative. From my rock seat I saw the Sagrada Famila Cathedral in the distance and decided I would try and walk back to it without a map. I managed very well to wend my way right down the streets and arrive right in front of Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece that is still under constuction. It is hoped that the Sagrada Familia will be completed by 2026 which is the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Sagrada Familiabarcelona fish

Sagrada Familia and Frank Gehry’s ‘El Peix’

On Sunday afternoon I wandered again through narrow streets discovering graffiti, street art and fabulous courtyard cafes. I also took a stroll through the Santa Maria del Pi Gothic church which has a most spectacular rose window. My friend then took me on a tour of the Barceloneta neighbourhood and we dined on delicious spicy chicken tacos, octopus and hummus at the sweetest Slow Food cafe. As the sun was starting to set we walked to the end of the Barcelona waterfront boardwalk to see another impressive sculpture: ‘El Peix’ the Barcelona fish, which is a huge stone, steel and glass sculpture commissioned by renowned architect Frank Gehry for the Barcelona 1992 summer olympic games. The fish sparkles gold in the sunlight and draws you in from quite a distance, beckoning you to walk the length of the boardwalk to view it up close. We then walked back along the waterfront and up La Rambla where I met my ride to the airport. I feel that I barely scratched the surface of the wonders of Barcelona and very much hope to return again soon to continue feasting upon its splendid culinary and architectural treasures.

Dublin- First Impressions

28 Sep


by Rhea H. Boyden

Wow! It has been nearly 2 months since my last blog post which is a little scary. I hate taking a break and being away from it for so long. When I mentioned this to a friend the other day she simply said: ‘Take it easy on yourself. You have just moved countries and started a new job. A break will be good for your creativity.’ Now that I have found a day job in an office in Dublin city centre and have my first week of work successfully behind me, I finally feel at leisure to write. And where to start? There is so much to write about! I have been in Dublin for a month now and it has been an interesting month, to say the least. This city is pulsing with energy, the weather has been fantastic and every day confirms to me that my decision to move home after 20 years abroad is a good one and the timing is right too. I do not miss Berlin yet. And what about the phenomenon of ‘reverse culture shock?’ Well, I am not feeling it at all. I feel very happy to be home. I feel I belong here. The worst reverse culture shock I have experienced was in the first few days when I looked the wrong direction crossing the street and nearly got run over by a bus. But I have got used to that now too.



I love my new room, and while I have a much reduced library, I feel I have kept the books that meant the most to me and I am happy that all the others found good homes with my friends in Berlin. One book I held onto was a poetry book that is simply titled ‘Great Poems’ compiled by Kate Miles. It is illustrated and I guess is geared more towards young adults, but I find it adorable. It contains a whole section on poetry that is about food. One poem, whose author remains anonymous, is a recipe for a chowder. It starts like this:

To make a good chowder and have it quite nice

Dispense with sweet marjoram parsley and spice;

Mace, pepper and salt are now wanted alone.

To make the stew eat well and stick to the bone,

Some pork is sliced thin and put into the pot;

Some say you must turn it, some say you must not.

The poem continues to delightfully instruct you on what fish to add and to let it simmer. I remember reading it in Berlin and looking forward to coming back to Ireland and eating chowder. There is a lot of great chowder to be had in Ireland and it is one thing I really missed when away. Within a few days of being here I met a friend of mine in Sheehan’s pub in Dublin city centre and ordered a bowl of delicious chowder served with soda bread and Irish butter. After eating it I went home and fell into a deep and satisfied sleep. The fresh sea air makes me sleepy and even the seagulls with all their squawking don’t manage to keep me awake for long. The sound of seagulls makes me happy. It reminds me that I grew up near the sea and now I have returned to the sea. This is another reason I haven’t been writing: I have been tired, so I have been getting plenty of sleep. Aswell as sleep, I am getting plenty of exercise. The biggest joy is that I have only been on two buses since I got here and as I live so centrally I can walk everywhere. And this is a good thing that I will keep up, as given the whole range of delicious food on offer in this city I will need to walk a lot to burn it all off.


After work last week, I walked across the Ha’penny Bridge which is right near my office and walked over to the Temple Bar area to explore around there. I immediately stumbled upon a pie cafe. I walked in with a big smile on my face and said with delight: ‘You have pies!’ A delightful woman behind the counter said ‘We do indeed!’ So I sat down and sampled one of the many delicious pies they have on offer at ‘The Pieman Cafe’: chili and chorizo, beef and Guinness, ham and leek, chicken and mushroom plus many more. They even had an apple caramel pie served with fresh cream. Lunch prices are great too as there is a lot of competition in the booming Dublin restaurant scene.

Pies   Pieman cafe

In my first few weeks here, I was unemployed and job searching, so naturally I was not wasting money on restaurants, but shopping at my nearest Aldi and cooking and eating at home in between sending out my CV to many companies, but now that I have a job I feel I can splurge a little and treat myself. On Friday night I met an old friend at the wonderful Cornucopia Vegetarian cafe on Wicklow street in Dublin city centre. Cornucopia, which is housed in a gorgeous old Georgian house, has been in business since 1986 and they serve a fabulous range of vegetarian and vegan foods. We ordered potato salad, hot pastry pockets, green salad, aubergine bake followed by hot fudge brownie and white chocolate and lime tart. The staff are super friendly and it really is hard to decide what to order from their mouth-watering range of foods.


Dingle ice cream

Across the street from Cornucopia is Murphy’s of Dingle (Co. Kerry) Ice Cream shop. They proudly make all their ice-cream from the cream from Kerry Cows, a breed of cow that is rarer than the panda. The ice-cream flavour that has been all the rage the past few years internationally has been salted caramel which I love. Murphy’s do a Dingle sea salt ice-cream. I also tried the butterscotch. It was heaven. And again: served with a smile. There are so many new sensations, sights, smells and sounds. I will get back into cultural writing and reviews soon enough, but right now I think I need a meal, a walk, and another long nap, for I may not be suffering from reverse culture shock but it is an adjustment and a big life change. So far, my move home is working out better than I could have imagined. And the delicious food and long naps are sweetened even more by one big thing: the fact that I am surrounded by old friends and family, for that is the primary reason for moving home.

Review of Lutter und Wegner Restaurant

25 May

by Rhea H. Boyden


                       Lutter und Wegner Restaurant at Gendarmenmarkt

Berlin has a whole range of eateries ranging from the simple curry sausage stand to an elegant brunch served at the fancy Adlon Hotel with a view of the Brandenburg Gate. There is something to suit everybody’s budget, lifestyle and taste. If you are looking for something special with a serious dose of Berlin history, then you could do very well to treat yourself to an evening meal at Lutter und Wegner at Gendarmenmarkt in the historic centre of Berlin.

The modern restaurant is located behind the fabulous Konzerthaus that was designed by the renowned Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and was opened 1821. On either side of the Konzerthaus lie the German Cathedral and the French Cathedral, each of which have a long history of destruction and renewal throughout Berlin’s turbulent history. The restaurant is decorated and furnished with a combination of contemporary art, as well as traditional furnishings. The Jugendstil lamps are from Vienna and there is a bronze sculpture of a monkey sitting on the bar to greet guests that was crafted by the German artist Joerg Immendorf. There are three beautifully painted columns that are named ‘wine, woman and song’, that are the work of the German artists who belong to the group known as the ‘Neuen Wilden’ (new wild ones) whose aim was to break free of stiff conventions in art in the 1970’s and create a newer, freer form of expression.


                              Konzerthaus with statue of Schiller

While dining on a traditional veal cutlet, or a delicious slow-cooked goulash served with exquisite Swabian noodles, your eyes may also fall upon a painting of the eccentric genius E.T.A. Hoffmann, the famous German fantasy and horror writer who penned the novella ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ upon which Tchaikovsky based his famous ballet. There is also a room in the restaurant named after Ludwig Devrient, who was one of the best and beloved actors in Germany in the early 1800’s when the restaurant first opened its doors in 1811 at its original location a few doors down from the present day location. Devrient made a name for himself playing Mephisto in Goethe’s Faust, and also for his interpretation of the works of Shakespeare and Schiller. The restaurant is indeed indebted to both of these talented men for its early success. They would wine and dine the night away after an evening at the theatre, and people would pack the restaurant in the hopes of eavesdropping on or partaking in their conversations. It was E.T.A. Hoffmann and Ludwig Devrient who came up with the name ‘sekt’ for sparkling wine, a name that is still used throughout Germany as a generic name for different brands. Lutter and Wegner has its own house sekt, as well as a wide range of exquisite wines to satisfy every palette. The young Romantic poet Heinrich Heine was another of the restaurant’s famous patrons in the early 1800’s.


                         E.T.A. Hoffmann Plaque

In the 1920’s, as Berlin was flourishing culturally, it was home to 3 opera houses, 49 theatres, 70 cabarets and 363 cinemas. More and more cafes and restaurants opened during this time to accommodate the many actors, artists, performers, theatre and movie goers, and Lutter und Wegner did a roaring trade in this time too. During the Second World War, however, Gendarmenmarkt was nearly completely destroyed by allied bombing in 1944/45 but this did not stop the restaurant from operating for long. A previous employee of the restaurant named Hermann Neumann continued serving wine from the bombed-out ruins of the wine cellar on Gendarmenmarkt in June 1946.

During GDR times, however, the restaurant was forced to close its doors, but swiftly opened them again at a new location in West Berlin. Finally, after the Berlin Wall fell it then returned to Gendarmenmarkt in 1997, but not to its original location, but by a wonderful twist of fate, a few doors down, in none other than the former home of one of its first and most famous patrons, E.T.A. Hoffmann.


 Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral) at Gendarmenmarkt


Französischer Dom  (French Cathedral) at Gendarmenmarkt

The restaurant has now expanded and has many different locations, both in Berlin and Hamburg and the Austrian Spa resort of Bad Gastein, and each has its own delicious offering of German and international cuisine, along with extensive wine lists. Some delicacies on the menu of the diffferent Berlin restarants include Pot au Feu, aubergine lasagne, shrimp with chantarelle risotto served with grapes, estragon, spring onions and corn salad, a fantastic chicory salad with goat’s cheese, pomegranate seeds, mandarine and crunchy homemade bread, caesar salad, as well as classic meat dishes such as roast duck with dumplings and red cabbage. Lamb chops and steaks are available for the carnivores. For those with a sweet tooth a seasonal mulled wine ice-cream, crème brulee, chocolate mousse and of course the traditional apple strudel with vanilla ice-cream is served. An evening at Lutter und Wegner is a sweet and heady mix of wine, food and history that is bound to leave you happy, sated and inspired.


Breakfast at Breakers Restaurant

23 May

By Rhea H. Boyden


When I am in Berlin I generally have a light breakfast of fruit, yogurt and muesli, or perhaps I will have one egg on a small piece of toast. It is only on special occasions when I am with family in Ireland or the U.S. that I will go mad and have pancakes, waffles, omelettes and bacon. Several of my siblings love making pancakes and french toast so it is always nice on holidays to indulge a bit and eat the delicacies that are placed before me.


My aunt and uncle live in Pacifica which is a town on the Californian coast just south of San Francisco and north of Half Moon Bay. My dad grew up there before he moved to Ireland and he and my uncle were keen surfers. Pacifica has a popular surfing beach- Linda Mar Beach-which attracts surfers from all around the Bay Area.


View of Linda Mar Beach, Pacifica

A new breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant named Breakers opened in Pacifica last year, and while I was visiting my aunt and uncle this May we went there for breakfast twice. Just over the hill from Linda Mar Beach is the Pacifica neighbourhood of Rockaway Beach which has a few other nice restaurants too such as The Moonraker that my grandparents used to take me to in the 90’s and Nick’s which has cocktails and crab cakes.


Eggs Benedict with Hash Browns

Breakers is run by father and son Steve and Robbie Bancroft from Pacifica and it is their dream come true to finally open this restaurant. The first time I went there I couldn’t resist the Eggs Benedict with crab cake and hash browns. The second time, when my sister came along we ordered the plain Eggs Benedict and a large blueberry waffle which we then split. The hardest decision at a breakfast place like this is deciding whether you are in the mood for a sweet or savoury dish so it is great to be able to order both and share. Some of the neighbours joined us for breakfast and one of them ordered the chocolate chip pancake which looked like a giant chocolate chip cookie. The fun bit of course, is then covering it in whipped butter and heated maple syrup. The Breakers wait staff always make sure you have a full pot of fresh coffee and a jug of iced water on your table too. 


View of Rockaway Beach from Breakers Restaurant

Other specialities include a Lox and Bagel, Eggs Florentine with sliced avocado and spinach, cranberry pecan pancakes, raisin walnut pancakes, as well as every conceivable type of omelette. Breakers, which is located at 135 Rockaway Beach Avenue, is also open for lunch serving lunch crepes, tuna melt on rye bread, burgers, Reuben sandwiches, clam chowder and a great variety of salads.

I felt no guilt in indulging because after breakfast when staying with my aunt and uncle we always go for a long walk on the beach and then climb the extremely steep hill back up to their house which certainly burns the calories off again. Breakers is a delightful place to breakfast while on holiday and I look forward to going back sometime and trying their enticing lunch menu.


Discover Ireland- Culinary Tour of West Cork

19 Apr

This is a delightful video made by two good friends of mine from school- Mattie and Mary. They take us on a culinary tour of West Cork. I smile so much when I watch this video. They are both charming, as is my lovely home of West Cork. So much delicious and healthy food to be enjoyed there surrounded by stunning scenery. Makes me homesick (and hungry!)


Muse Restaurant Review

28 Feb

Muse Restaurant Pic

Muse Restaurant Review

Link to review in Slow Travel Berlin