When I started writing about restaurants for these pages in 2011, it was Katie Gilroy’s shoes I filled. She had moved on from Totally Dublin to open Urbun, a café in Cabinteely, which has since proved to be a great success and a beacon for suburban food lovers. A few years into it, Gilroy began to get itchy feet again and started looking out for a new challenge to add to her culinary bow. She found it in Buckle Up, a café and restaurant looking out onto Sandymount Green.
“I’m really interested in what’s happening in Melbourne and Sydney,” Gilroy tells me. “I’ve always kept an eye on their coffee scene. I wanted to combine a light approach to flavourful food, with hints of worldly ingredients from Middle East and Asia, inspired by the fusion of Australia.” She designed her menu at Buckle Up with her kitchen team with this antipodean influence in mind, and they opened up for business in the early spring of this year.
The team has nailed Gilroy’s vision in our main courses. A Dukkah Chicken (€19) is a hefty breast of chook, sprinkled in a light dusting of the North African seed mix. It’s served with a tasty mung bean salad and a dollop of thick, smoked labneh on the side.
The best dish of the night is a plate of pan-fried hake (€21). Its crispy skin has been given a slightly spiced coating, and it’s served with wild rice and quinoa, juicy raisins and singed spring onions, and a sweet, smooth cauliflower purée. It feels healthy and graceful, but it’s flavoursome enough to remain interesting.
A crab and cucumber starter (€11) is a little more molecular than I was expecting from Buckle Up. The plate is coated in a layer of cucumber jelly, on top of which sits segments of pink grapefruits, pomegranate seeds and a sweet crab mix rolled up in marinated courgettes. It’s a light and fun starter.
I go for the bresaola, watercress, Parmesan and caper starter (€12), and it suffers from having too much bresaola and not enough balance. The bresaola is of a good quality but that meant it was powerful and salty, so a little more restraint (and perhaps more greens) in this dish would have been welcome.
Like the rest of the menu, desserts are a little more interesting than your average neighbourhood bistro. A simple yet satisfying cheesecake baklava with lemon sorbet (€8) arrives as a few layers of filo pastry with a yummy real cheese and vanilla cream piped into the layers. The chocolate Marquise is a rich mousse with a layer of light chocolate sponge served with vanilla ice cream (€8), and it’s as enjoyable as our lovely waitress had promised us it would be. Throughout, the service is excellent. Friendly and familiar, but not too in-your-face.
The cocktails too are excellent, and whipping up a delicious non-alcoholic treat is no bother to the team here. They were designed for Gilroy by Buckle Up’s head bartender Sony Koshy, previously of The Dean and Sophie’s. I get a delicious virgin version of the Sour Puss (€11 with booze), a whiskey, roasted rosemary, ginger and grapefruit concoction.
At the moment, Buckle Up is doing breakfast, lunch and brunch from Tuesday through to Saturday. They’re doing dinners on the weekends, but are hoping to roll out an all week dinner soon. “Everything is developing and changing every day,” says Gilroy. “It’s still a work in progress.” Visit them in the daytime or nighttime on your next jaunt to Sandymount Strand, and check in on that progress for yourself.
6A Sandymount Green, Dublin 4
Breakfast and lunch: Tuesday – Saturday
Dinner: Thursday – Saturday
Words: Aoife McElwain
Photos: Meg Killeen