Sunday, 3 January 2021

The food & drink businesses that brightened my 2020

Happy New Year! I hope you had a good Christmas and are doing ok given the context. I should have posted this article before the end of 2020 but I was hiding in a Christmas bubble away from the Internet for six consecutive days and never got to finish it until now.

Each year I usually compile some kind of "best of" lists of my favourite places based on the previous twelve months but I'm doing something a little different this time around. I've always liked keeping positive vibes here so I did a round-up of the businesses that brightened my 2020 rather than trying to see which businesses seemed better than others. Buying food and drinks from independent Irish businesses has been very important for me way before the pandemic but it seems to resonate with more people now, which is another good outcome from 2020. During the first lockdown and especially when Mr FFID and I were isolating back in March some of the deliveries were the highlights of our days. We ordered a lot over the past nine months but these are the food and drink businesses that definitely saved my 2020 the most, in no particular order.

Craft Central

I had lived in the city centre for years and always complained about the lack of decent craft beer offerings in the shops until the late @beoirfinder (RIP Andy) told me about Craft Central a few years ago. It's a craft beer off-licence hidden at the back of Stephen Street News with one of the best ranges of Irish and international craft beers. I lost count of our online orders since the first lockdown but all I can say is that they have new stuff and limited editions all the time, they process orders super quickly and they have great customer service. In fact, it's dangerous to follow them on Instagram because if you're a craft beer fanatic you always end up ordering stuff. 

Craft Central, 38 Stephen Street Lower, Dublin 2;

Fallon & Byrne

Fallon and Byrne was one of the first businesses I ordered from when I was isolating back in March. They had just started taking online orders by email and were delivering in Dublin. I ordered some of my favourite products twice and getting them delivered felt like pure luxury. I missed going to the shop for a few months but thankfully Mr FFID and I have been back quite a few times to buy some of the essentials: mainly French products that allow me to virtually travel back to my French home. They've recently changed their website and set up an online shop with nationwide delivery available.

Fallon and Byrne, 11-17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2;

Kells Wholemeal

I wasn't worried too much about food supply chains but I really didn't fancy doing multiple trips to the shops so when anxiety baking struck, I ordered a 16kg bag of flour and chocolate chips from Kells Wholemeal. I've ordered the exact same items again when I ran out because we bake enough to justify the bulk buying. Definitely one to keep in mind if you're a serious home baker.

Kells Wholemeal, Bennettsbridge, Co. Kilkenny;

Sprout & Co

I've always admired the business built by the Kirwan brothers and have enjoyed many lunches on the go from their salads bars on both Dawson and Exchequer Streets. During the first lockdown, they were selling organic Irish vegetable boxes which I ordered for a few weeks. They didn't keep it up when lockdown ended as they were able to reopen but I have to mention them because they really were some of my first lockdown heroes. For a few weeks, I got beautiful Irish produce delivered with a smile and I cooked according to the content of their boxes.  

Sprout & Co, various locations,;

Hussey's Farm

When Sprout & Co stopped selling boxes I was already hooked on the concept and had to find an alternative. I was already following Hussey's Farm on Twitter (@jtattshotmailc1), a fourth-generation fruit and vegetable wholesaler based in North County Dublin and started buying from them. Due to the pandemic, they pivoted their business to an online shop selling fruit and vegetable boxes as well as products from small Irish producers to the public. I've been a regular customer for months now, always ordering their fruit and vegetable box. It's very good value (€40) for what you get as it contains an abundant amount of Irish and imported produce, always in excellent condition. There's so much in the box that it lasts us about two weeks as we're just two people. They always deliver promptly and there's no packaging. You can also buy other good products such as cheeses, preserves and condiments.

Hussey's Farm, Laurestown, St Margaret's, Co. Dublin;

Bujo Burger

I've ordered a fair few meal boxes from restaurants in order to take a break from cooking but the one Mr. FFID and I kept returning to was: the Bujo Burger meal kit. Being able to recreate our favourite burgers at home has been awesome and we never got bored of them. They were particularly appreciated after attending online craft beer tastings and festivals. I sadly never made it to Bujo in Sandymount this year but I'm so happy Bujo made it to my house. Highly recommended!

Bujo, 6a Sandymount Green, Dublin 4;

Le Patissier

If you follow me on Instagram (@frenchfoodieindublin) you're likely to have spotted pretty pastries on my feed on various occasions. I can clearly say that Le Patissier has brought a lot of deliciousness to my 2020. Each time Robert Bullock (the owner) tweeted about a new collection of pastries I rushed to his website to order. Not only do they look great but they're also excellent every single time. I even dedicated a full article to Le Patissier that can be found here.

Le Patissier, unit B9-B11, BASE enterprise centre, Damastown Road, Mulhuddart, Co. Dublin;

Roasted Brown

I guess one of the things I've missed the most this year was the ability to sit down in a café and enjoy a flat white while working away on my laptop. During the first lockdown, Roasted Brown, a single-origin coffee roaster based in Delgany Co. Wicklow, lost their wholesale sales and came up with a brilliant idea to support their customers. With their "Our Shop is Their Shop" people are able to buy coffee on their online shop and decide which café gets the sale. I ordered from them a couple of times when my local coffee shops weren't open, to support some places I wasn't able to get to at the time.

Roasted Brown;

The Wine Pair

My 2020 was fueled by wine, a lot of wine, more than usual. Just because a nice meal with wine was a way to make the days better or different. The Wine Pair is a wine bar and wine shop which was opened at the end of 2019 by a lovely couple, Canice and Mags McKee. I had never made it there before the pandemic but having met Canice and Mags in real life many years ago and crossed foodie paths over the years, Mr FFID and I made a point of trying to buy from them whenever we could. We ordered bottles of wine for delivery during the first lockdown and went to the shop a few times to buy some supplies when restrictions where eased. They have a very good selection of wine and sell charcuterie, cheese and other food products.

The Wine Pair, 79 Clanbrassil Street Lower, Dublin 8;

Lilliput Stores

It's impossible not to mention the wonderful shop that I'm lucky to have in my neighbourhood. When Mr FFID tells me he's "going for a walk" he's basically implying that he's heading off to Lilliput Stores and brings back some wonderful goodies such as Gubbeen bacon, Harry's Nut Butter, White Mausu, bread, olives, olive oils and more... They have top-notch products that everyone should have in their pantry.

Lilliput Stores, Arbour Hill, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7;

L. Mulligan. Grocer

Another Stoneybatter favourite, we made sure to support L. Mulligan. Grocer as much as we could this year. Well, it's what we say but in reality "supporting our local' is an excuse to eat the most delicious things. We ordered quite a few charcuterie boards, black pudding bonbons, scotch eggs and more from their "click and collect" menu. We also attended a few of their online beer tastings and ate there three times whenever restrictions allowed as we knew they were very compliant with guidelines and provide a safe environment to their customers. We love L. Mulligan Grocer, that is all.

L. Mulligan. Grocer., 18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7;

Mr Fox

Ever since they opened, Mr Fox has been the place for a celebratory meal, a special occasion or just when I had a shit day and decided to f*ck it. I was planning to treat Mr FFID to dinner at Mr Fox for his birthday at the end of March but of course, the world shut down just before. We went to their outdoor burger pop up back in October and while it was a different kind of dining experience from their usual offering, we appreciated being back in one of our favourite places. We also treated ourselves to one of their dinner boxes, definitely one of the most enjoyable we had. Mr Fox never disappoints!

Mr Fox, 38 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1;

Craft Cocktails

When I lived in Dublin 1 I loved combining a pre-dinner drink in Bar 1661 before going to Mr Fox for a meal. The bar is beautifully designed, the cocktails are always spot on and they celebrate poitín and other Irish spirits beautifully. When Bar 1661 launched their pre-batched cocktails they kindly sent me a PR sample at the end of April, on a day I really felt down and this delivery cheered me up big time. I was sold on the concept and have ordered cocktails from them several times. It's a great present to send to someone you aren't able to party with at the moment. 

Craft Cocktails;

No Messin' Bakery

I was delighted to see Proper Order Coffee Co offering freshly baked pastries through their No Messin' Bakery venture which was launched over the summer. It's a guilty pleasure of mine to kick Mr FFID out of bed at the weekend and tell him to bring me back a Cardi B (cardamom bun) or a Frankie Bun for breakfast. They also sell excellent donuts (usually on Fridays). I may have bought second breakfasts from No Messin' more than once this year...

No Messin' Bakery at Proper Order Coffee Co, 7 Haymarket, Smithfield, Dublin 7;


I'm not a big fan of the delivery service that ends with "oo" but I ended up using it to get some deliciousness from Shouk, a brilliant Middle Eastern restaurant in Drumcondra. While writing this I've realised that I never reviewed here despite having loved it since my first visit back in November 2019. The mezze platter is a must-try and every single pita on their menu is scrumptious. Many deliveries of Shouk's colourful food that bursts with flavour were had in 2020.

Shouk, 40 Drumcondra Road Lower, Dublin 9;


While I'm on the subject of Middle Eastern food, I have to mention my former local café which is without a doubt one of the places I missed the most: Tang on Lower Abbey Street. I purchased a dinner box from them and highly recommend it. It's €45 for two people and contains lots of nibbly bits and flavoursome dishes.

Tang, 9A Abbey Street Lower, Dublin 1;  

Vice Coffee Inc

Vice Coffee Inc is also a favourite from my old neighbourhood and I was sad not being able to go there for several months. When Mr FFID brought home one of their espresso martini kits one day he scored some serious brownie points. We also brought a kit to friends over the summer which kept me going until 5am, like in my old party days, except we were only four people! I love going to Vice on Middle Abbey Street whenever I'm (rarely anymore) in the city centre, best flat whites in Dublin!

Vice Coffee Inc, 54 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1; Portobello;

Kerala Kitchen

I truly admire individuals who manage to open a new business during or between lockdowns and Kerala Kitchen in Stoneybatter is one example. I never visited the Baggot Street branch despite hearing lots of good things over the years. Now I'm fortunate enough to live very close to their Stoneybatter location and had a fantastic Indian meal al fresco there back in September. Not to forget the occasional takeaways we had at home when we felt too lazy to cook over the last couple of months. 

Kerala Kitchen, 73 Manor Street, Dublin 7;


I was lured to move to Stoneybatter because I knew Walsh's was a proper Irish pub AND hosted 'Cheesy Tuesdays'. Well, I never got to experience the cheese evenings because of the pandemic but all I can say is that Walsh's has to be one of the most innovative pubs in the country. You can't really call it a 'traditional' pub anymore and I'm saying that in the best way.  Between being one of the first pubs to offer pint deliveries, opening a cracking coffee hatch, selling their branded Christmas cards and serving Mexican street food after lockdown 2. What can't they do? I'll always remember the fuzzy feeling of being able to drink a Guinness while eating Órale Street Food tacos one Sunday afternoon of December 2020 and (almost) forgetting what was going on in the world.

Walsh's, 6 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7;

Dermot Staunton's Stoneybatter window shop

Last but not least, a special mention to chef Dermot Staunton who lives in Stoneybatter and opened a window shop from his house on Sitric Road. He started selling his Guinness bread and smoked salmon in order to raise money for local charities that help the elderly and vulnerable people in our community. Dermot was head chef in Delahunt restaurant where Mr FFID and I had our wedding meal over four years ago so buying some of his food brought back lovely memories. We also tried one of his beef, Guinness and bone marrow pie meal one Friday evening and let me tell you that it was next level pie goodness. Unreal. Follow him on Instagram for updates.

Derry Beau Downs; @derry_beau_downs on Instagram.

Thanks to each of these businesses for bringing some delicious happiness to my 2020 and to every single one of you who read my posts here on or on social. May 2021 be a bright and happy year!