Friday, 16 August 2013

Welcome to the casbah,
this boy is back in town

Evening lights ... Dada restaurant in South William Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

Thursday evening is traditionally one for late-evening shopping in Dublin city centre. But we were “back in town” last night not for shopping in the city centre but for dinner.

We parked in Drury Street car park, and I was surprised to realise that the area between South Great George’s Street and Grafton Street is a far a-buzz and much more attractive at this time of the day than, say, the Temple Bar area.

Like the Temple Bar area, there are narrow streets and cobbled lanes with caf├ęs, tapas bars, pubs and restaurants. Yes, of course, there are probably as many seedy places in this quarter as you find in the Temple Bar. But it just felt less brash and more comfortable, more authentic and inviting, safer and more like the areas you find in any European city where city workers like to relax after a hard working day over a drik and meal.

The streets between Grafton Street and South Great George’s Street include Fade Street, Drury Street, Castle Market, George’s Street Arcade or South City Market, South William Street, Coppinger Row, Johnson’s Court, Clarendon Street, Harry Street and Chatham Row.

There was no shortage of places to eat in these streets, but we had a voucher for Dada, the Moroccan restaurant in South William Street.

Welcome to the casbah ... Dada restaurant in South William Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Moroccan cooking has more rich spices than the Eastern Mediterranean restaurant I tend to favour in Dublin, and so it was interesting to anticipate the North African fare, with its blends and tastes that include cumin, coriander, saffron, chillies, dried ginger, cinnamon and paprika.

The first impression is of “faux casbah” decor, if such a style exists. But it was as intriguing and as inviting as it was amusing, and there was a warm welcome at the door.

Dada is the imaginative creation of husband-and-wife team Aziz and Eva, who offer a fusion of authentic Moorish-inspired dishes with their chef Jalal Belmaati, who worked in Casablanca and in Spain before coming to Ireland.

It was only 6.30, but the place was busy, from one large table with at least a dozen people in their late 20s or 30s, to small, intimate corners with couples engaged in quiet one-to-one conversations.

A taste of Morocco ... Dada restaurant in South William Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

For starters, we shared fried spinach with preserved lemon, green olives and spices, and hommus with tahine, cumin and olive oil; for our main courses we shared a “seven vegetables and preserved lemon tagine” and a pumpkin and carrot tagine with lentils.

We had a bottle of Pinot Grigio, and finished with a selection of homemade Moroccan pastries and traditional Moroccan coffee – this was not at all like Lebanese or Turkish coffee, but was an espresso-style coffee with a spice blend.

A church gateway in the rain in Johnson’s Court off Grafton Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

As we left, South William Street was still alive, despite the rain. We strolled down to South Andrew Street and Suffolk Street, and as we were walking back up Grafton Street, the rain came down again with even greater intensity.

We took refuge for a few moments in shop porch on the corner of Grafton Street and John’s Court... but the buskers had abandoned their pitches, and darkness was closing it. We gave up on our plan to go on to see the restored Phil Lynott statue in Harry Street. Yes, the Boy is Back in Town. But we’ll have to wait for another day to see him.

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