Jamie Griffin first got a taste of speciality coffee’s potential in his hometown of Cork, thanks to his friend at Filter Coffee on George’s Quay in Cork City. When he moved to Dublin in 2013, Griffin worked with Colin Harmon in 3fe for three years before he took the leap into opening his own space.
Storyboard lives in Islandbridge on the bottom floor of a new-ish apartment building just across the road from one of the entrances to the War Memorial Park, surely one of Dublin’s most precious hidden gems. Griffin came across the premises in August 2016 and he opened its shutters to the public for the first time on the 11th of October 2017. They were open about three weeks when Catherine Cleary, the food writer for The Irish Times, declared their food “the best cafe food I’ve eaten in Ireland”. What was it like to read those words, I wonder? “I cried,” Laura Caulwell tells me. “The Sunday after that review was crazy busy,” says Griffin.
Caulwell refers to herself as a cook rather than a chef, though she has the credentials and praise to call herself whatever she wants. She studied design in NCAD before working in exhibition design for seven years. She packed it all in to go study at Ballymaloe Cookery School in three years ago. She went straight in to The Fumbally after Ballymaloe and worked there for two years. Griffin, meanwhile, was on the hunt for the right chef for his Storyboard project and was introduced to Caulwell through a mutual friend in March 2017.
The Fumbally influence is visible in Caulwell’s plates by way of the ferments and a strong focus on vegetables. I also see a similarity to the cheffing of Keith Coleman, formerly of Fia Café in Rathgar. Caulwell and Coleman worked together in The Fumbally. They took a trip out to The McNally’s Family Farm near Balbriggan in North County Dublin and another down to Gubbeen’s HQ in West Cork. They’re part of a movement of chefs and cooks around Ireland who are taking our own ingredients and highlighting their vibrance through careful cooking. They’re not just paying lip service to the ideas of local and seasonal; they’re embracing that ethos through their work.
Softly scrambled eggs are free-range from Wicklow Eggs served on Le Levain bread, baked by Rossa Crowe in Dublin (€8). Their sausage sambo is stuffed with giant free-range pork and fennel bangers from Higgins Butchers in Sutton and slices of smoked Gubbeen cheese, and there’s McNally’s red cabbage kraut and dill pickle in there, too (€10).
It’s not all exclusively local; Caulwell likes to cast her net wider beyond our green isle. A daily rice bowl is packed with black rice porridge and sweetened with date caramel, toasted coconut and crystallised ginger (€6). McNally’s squash will be roasted and served with tahini nut butter, preserved lemon, dukkah and harissa oil (€9).
The menu changes regularly, based on what the suppliers can offer Caulwell, but the same template remains; there are daily dishes including the rice bowl, eggs and toast, squash and toast, spuds and eggs, soup, and the now renowned sausage sambo.
Coffee is expertly brewed by Griffin and his team of baristas; it’s been thoroughly consistent since I started visiting in late 2017. Cakes are a delight, too. There are fresh scones, baked daily, and an assortment of clever sweet treats created by Caulwell’s right hand man James Gavin. It’s Gavin that is responsible for the Mikado cake slice, a nostalgia-tinged jam and coconut traybake.
Storyboard is still a work in progress; they’re quite a young business after all. Griffin is a movie buff and he liked the idea of how storyboards progress and evolve alongside the plot of a film. He sees the café as the same unfolding and ever-changing space. Why not write yourself into the plot of Storyboard by paying them a visit?
Words: Aoife McElwain
Islandbridge, Dublin 8
Tuesday – Friday 7.30am to 5pm, Saturday & Sunday 9am to 4.30pm