There are some people without whom Dublin simply wouldn’t be as good. For those of us who love cake, baked beans and illustrated food packaging, Michelle Darmody is one of those people. The driving force behind The Cake Café behind Camden Street, her and her team branched out this year to open a second space in the shape of Slice in Dublin 7.
They’ve set up shop in Darmody’s neighbourhood of Stoneybatter where she has lived for the last ten years. “I really liked the idea of contributing something to the neighbourhood and running a business that would work within the community,” she explains.
She saw that local favourite and cozy Italian restaurant Plan B had closed down before Christmas and looked into acquiring the lease. “I love having street frontage and we really tried to make the most of it with the large bay window which has a built in bench inside and out.” They’ve certainly made use of that frontage to make their presence known with a flashing neon sign that lures us onto Manor Place to check out Slice’s evening offering.
The signature Cake Café identity, which one might describe as London cool with an intrinsically Dublin sense of self, has lent itself well to Slice’s interior. Irish photography and art are given pride of place on half of the walls while the other half hold shelves stuffed with quality ingredients. The commitment to Irish food and drink is there with a board above the till inviting customers to ask about any of the Irish producers listed on their menu.
They started opening in the evenings towards the end of April, offering a night time version of their café fare and a bit of well-chosen plonk to go along with it. A glass of red from their short but considered wine list (€6.50) goes down well while a large bottle of Arnold Palmer (€3.90), a heavily lemon influenced iced tea, is endlessly refreshing.
We start with a smooth fish pâté (€6) on crunchy toast that banishes any lingering memories of horrid fish pâtés that have come before it – I’m thinking the airline snack pack variety. Bluergh. Rather, this pâté tastes of real fish in the most delicious of ways. The starter on special is a soft Ryefield goat cheese rolled in honeyed pesto and slathered on toast (€5.50) – we devour it.
For my main, I go for the rhubarb and goat cheese salad (€10.40 with optional chorizo). I go for the suggested chorizo purely because it’s Gubeen but I think this salad would have been better off without its tendency to overpower. A butternut squash stew has a sweet, summery flavour but lacks personality and leaves us feeling momentarily disenchanted.
But then it’s time for cake (€4.25 a slice). We’ve been eyeing up the coffee and walnut cake all night and it doesn’t disappoint. We’re surprised, then, when it’s the divine courgette and lemon cake that has us fighting over its crumbs. An After Dinner Mint Chocolate Tea by the fantastic Nik’s Teas (€2.70) is more than just a talking point, it’s a treat. I finish my meal with an excellent macchiato (€2.20) brewed perfectly with 3FE beans and am reminded how rare it is to get a good cup of coffee after 6pm in Dublin. Our bill for three courses for two people comes to €56.10.
Slice is the product of Darmody’s shared vision with her Cake Café contributor and key team player Ray O’Neill. It’s Ray who’s behind the counter making sure that vision of highlighting great produce in a humble, unfussy way. Slice is casual and cool. It looks like it has found a really good home in Stoneybatter.
56 Manor Place, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7
Words: Aoife McElwain