The Secret of 61 – Dublin’s Stop on the Subway

Foodswings Reviews

Platform 61 – South William Street

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Barely a subway stop away from St. Stephen’s Green, your ticket to Platform 61 is finally here as the newly-opened underground kitchen cooks up some of the tastiest grub South of the city, providing a service worthy of the VIPs catered for at the elusive ‘Platform 61’ on the New York subway for which it is named. They don’t take Leap Cards, but you’re sure to be warmly welcomed on arrival!

Reserved for presidents and art-enthusiasts lucky enough to be on the guestlist for one of Andy Warhol’s famous ‘underground parties’, the story of the secret platform beneath New York’s  Waldorf Astoria Hotel is a treat in itself to listen to, the various Warhol quotes around the walls and abstract banana signposts in the bathroom reminding you at regular intervals that there is more to this restaurant than meets the eye.

 As you enter through golden doors reminiscent of 1960s New York elevators and decor Don Draper (Mad Men) would be proud of, you can’t help but feel slightly disorientated as the black marble walls mirror one another, making great use of a small space yet still succeeding in coming across extremely classy.

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Only in it’s third week of business here in Dublin, there was no sign of any maintenance work or staff ‘only learning’ the ropes, and the service ran smooth and punctual from one course to the next. A mixture of options on the menu caught my eye as we debated over what direction to take, eventually settling on the ‘Italian Mozzarella and Tomato’ dish and the ‘Shrimp Gambas’ to start. I’m a fan of small menus as it minimalises decisions, but to be fair everything looked very good and we weren’t disappointed, each dish being served promptly and proving realistic portion-sizes, unlike many of the new food-stops that have sprung up recently around Dublin.

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 The steak was sampled, as was the Superfood Salad with added chicken, and although prices slightly outreached that of the average commuter dinner it was made up for in taste and quality, the sweet potato fries on the side adding a delicious kick and nice reminder that eating out doesn’t always have to mean greasy, unhealthy & unnecessary indulgence.

 Our munching on the shrimp and subsequent pomegranate seeds in my Superfood Salad was accompanied by an absolutely killer playlist in the background, the likes of Alt-J and Foals providing the icing on top of the dessert that we were too full to order, though in hindsight I would have liked to try the Flourless Nut Brownie.

The lunch and brunch menus also looked incredible, the ‘Stun Bun’ in particular catching my eye, a ‘grilled chicken fillet on a brioche bun with guacamole, tomato, onion, baby gem and homemade tomato relish served with spicy potato wedges’. Due to it being still in the early stages of the restaurant opening, however, the waiter informed me that they had yet to start serving this menu, instead focusing for now on the dinner options. I will definitely be back to sample a Stun Bun when they do!!

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A glass or two of Chilean White wine and a house speciality beer cocktail later (a delicious concoction of Luxembourg-brewed beer, lime and apple juice) the whole experience was over too soon as we had to leave to catch the next train home.

Navigating our way out to the world back above ground it was easy to see how Platform 61 would go unnotticed, a haven glowing golden down below one of the busiest streets for bars and restaurants in the city.

Overall we were extremely pleased with the experience, and will definitely be recommending the service for anyone wishing to be transported back in time as they chow down on great food, the journey from starters right through to a final farewell complimentary glass of wine proving comfortable and enjoyable, in a stimulating and artistic environment.

 ‘Mind the Gap’ and be wary of the steep steps on the way out of the platform – especially if you’ve sampled some of the beer cocktails!!

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Useful links:

Platform 61 on Facebook
Platform 61 on Twitter (@Platform61)
Platform 61 website

Seaweed and Martinis

Foodswings Reviews – The Meeting House

Burmese Cuisine in the heart of Temple Bar!

This place has been on my ‘must-try-sometime’ list of restaurants and bars in Dublin that I walk past regularly for a while now, although for no particular reason– it just looks very cool from the outside. Graffitied exterior and prime location off Meeting House Square in Temple Bar (hence the name) aside, as soon as you walk into The Meeting House it’s clear the place means business with it’s colourfully decorated and well-lit walls scattered with Marilyn Monroe-meets-The Joker quotes and pictures that are guaranteed to get even the most awkward of Tinder-dates talking.
That’s not all there would be to discuss, as every single option on the menu contained something we found very difficult to pronounce, and we mused for a good fifteen minutes over all the exotic looking choices. As there were 3 of us, we decided eventually to go with the menu option of 6 dishes for €36 (it was a Monday), as opposed to the 3 for €21 that would have suited just two. We were chuffed to discover that all prices were €3 cheaper on Sundays and Mondays, a fact which greatly influenced our decisions and indulgent sides!
I must point out here that all the portions themselves were quite small – think 3 tapas between 2 people, 6 between three – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, it was dinnertime!
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My choice, which was also to share (when it comes to tapas, I find things generally don’t get too heated so long as everyone is on mutual terms about the whole ‘sharing’ thing!) was a Fillet of Sea Bass with Stem Broccoli in a fish broth infused with Lemongrass, and the Crab Salad with strips of Mango and Peanuts. This was extremely tasty, however slightly small, and definitely would not have served as a full dinner.

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As we had all agreed we would try each others’ dishes, I also succeeded in tasting the Tuna Sashimi on a bed of seaweed, Prawn Tempura, and the Organic Chicken Coconut Curry, all of which were delicious – the chicken curry was probably the only dish big enough to be considered a satisfying full meal in itself, but we enjoyed picking and tasting, also ordering a side of Sweet Potato Fries because let’s be honest, who doesn’t order Sweet Potato Fries when they’re on the menu?!
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Although initially being refused entry as we had arrived ten minutes prior to opening at 5.30pm (talk about eager eaters!!), the service proved itself both speedy and cheerful, with our drinks order arriving promptly before the food, and being checked back consistently every 10-15 minutes to ensure our continued satisfaction.
A good selection of craft beers such as Brew Dog and Five Lamps Lager kept us chirpy throughout the meal, and instead of asking for a dessert menu we decided to indulge in some of the extremely attractive-looking cocktails following the 6 empty plates’ hasty departure from the table in the arms of the attractive waiter. The ‘Pornstar Martini’ came complete with half a passion fruit floating on the top, while the decision to sample a classic ‘Old-Fashioned’ really allowed us to channel our inner Don Draper from Mad Men, with a curled orange-rind and crystallized glass only partially masking the strength of the whiskey.
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Overall, our group thoroughly enjoyed the visit to The Meeting House, and our decision to move elsewhere for a final drink was only made because we felt another ‘Old-Fashioned’ would have sent us too far over the edge! The fact that it was a Monday and everything was a whole 3 euro cheaper (€6.66 for all dishes and drinks on Sundays and Mondays!!) really added to our cheerfulness as we bid farewell to the establishment, accidentally spilling some candlewax on the counter as we tried to read some of the other quotes written on the walls inside.

While we were lucky that our choice of day was in accordance to the cheaper menu prices, Tuesday-Saturday prices would still warrant a visit, with all dishes and drinks standing at €9.99. If you’re seeking a bigger feed however, you’d be better off ordering the 3 or 6 dishes deal, depending on the size of your company – Burmese Tapas would be a better description of the single menu options, but for light and exotic bites The Meeting House succeeds in every way. Overall atmosphere was extremely pleasant and welcoming, despite the rain outside, and the playlist was great. Will surely be returning soon – if only for the generous cocktail sizes!

Useful Links:
The Meeting House on Facebook 
The Meeting House Website

Enjoy, don’t Endure.

“I want to create a life I don’t need to take a vacation from” I don’t know who is originally quoted as having coined this phrase, and it’s been reused and rephrased so many times across the recycled and plagarised side of the internet that it’s almost vintage at this stage – yet in essence, it’s message remains the same. There are many things that many of us could say, and many an hour to be spent talking in circles about the need to enjoy life. Many things that many people would relate to, derive solace from, and ultimately aim to engage with in their day-to-day life. A ‘vacation’, or holiday, in it’s more European form, is defined as a ‘specific trip or journey, usually for the purpose of recreation or tourism’. This being said, it is only within the last two centuries that ‘vacation’ time has become a common form of recreation, the luxury of which was previously reserved only for the very wealthy artisocracy. The concept of taking a vacation has only crept into our own society in direct correlation to the expansion of the business class high-flying and bustling lifestyle. I automatically think of HBO’s Mad Men when I say this, Don Draper jetting off to L.A. every few episodes and spending every other segment half-cut drinking ‘old fashioned’s’ in his office . The development of the need for ‘vacation’ calls into question the very benefits of this so-called upper class lifestyle, a 6-figure paycheck often being pumped back into the system through crushing medical bills later on as the life of excess finally catches up on the protagonists and leads them to ruin. Mad Men obsession aside, it remains that in the way we live today, we can still observe work and responsibilities too often taking precedence over fun and self-realisation, downtime and enjoyment too often being interlinked exclusively with one another. They are something on which everybody thrives, when given the chance – who in their right mind is going to choose to spend the day in the office over a day being carefree and having the ability to be spontaneous? Yet is it necessary for them to be so closely related? Is it possible to enjoy the things we don’t necessarily have much choice in, those things we speak of and so often complain about having to ‘endure’? Not only work-related commutes and draining meetings, but also rites of passage such as family gatherings, school reunions, disappointing meal-choices, or movies that we don’t particularly want to see yet find ourselves in the cinema before, purely to satisfy the majority of the group? We enjoy our weekends. We enjoy the sunshine. We enjoy certain foods, and our own little respites and hobbies. We enjoy that long sought-after glass of wine and takeaway after a long weeks’ endurance. The two always seem to come together. It’s almost as if they co-exist side-by-side in some sort of twisted symbiosis that leaves us numb to the misery of endurance while it’s actually happening, in the knowledge that some little tiny piece of enjoyment is on the way. Ok, sure, enjoy your downtime, but is there some written rule of thumb or hidden guideline that says you can’t or shouldn’t enjoy your worktime too? In my working life I have too often wished days away and switched to auto-pilot in an attempt to persist through hours without thinking about the lack of fulfillment and authenticity of my actions for myself. In doing so, not only was I merely existing, zombie-like and emotionless, but I was failing to enjoy and appreciate the moment as it happened, numbing my creative and constructive urges by the necessity of tasks that no matter how hard I tried to make them, simply did not stimulate me enough. It’s upsetting that in today’s society people are forced to settle in jobs and positions that stunt the expansion of their minds and talents, purely in order to put food on the table. I am in no way trying to condemn those of us who work the 9-5, and who have done for years- hell, I wouldn’t be here today if my own parents hadn’t done the same. But for the sake of our mental health and wellbeing, for the sake of those few minutes’ respite of a tea or coffee break, there is a lot to be said for shifting our mindset from mere ‘endurance’ to passive ‘enjoyment’. You don’t have to be having the time of your life to ‘enjoy’ something. The essence of mindfulness is the acceptance of things as they are at any given moment, and so why waste any mindful second being preoccupied with the dread of enduring the rest of the day, instead of just aiming to make the best of what you are presented with in that moment? It may not be a particularly enjoyable or fruitful task, but I think I speak for most of us when I say that how we perceive and respond to things generally has a massive affect on our mood and overall wellbeing. Why put yourself through the misery if it’s not necessary? A simple shift in your mindset could mean the difference between a day spent flatlining on any sort of emotional activity, or a day spent relatively content with your lot, in the knowledge that you are where you are in that moment, and cannot immediately do anything to alter it. Even the word ‘endure’ evokes a sense of dread, a withdrawn and lethargic effort of will that in it’s naming becomes a negative experience . And negative experiences are things we seek to avoid, aren’t they? I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I am ultimately the only person with the ability to drag myself and my own mind out of the gutter, and I have grudgingly begun to make myself enjoy things that before I would have merely endured, and found a kind of twisted solace in complaining about. It’s not to say I don’t appreciate the caring friends and family who have been there from the beginning, and who remain there to this day, stable and cautious in their presence. Yet there is a relief and independence that comes with being able to get rid of the stabilizers after years of enduring the embarassment of their necessity, and finally enjoying the sense of freewheeling adventure and potential that comes from being able to balance on my own. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them, and it’s not to say I’ll never fall over or wobble again, but for now, my pink flowery bike with the white wicker basket is being tested for the first time, and successfully has made it’s way out of the front gate. The cherry blossoms falling down along the road don’t hinder my sight or pose any danger – rather they celebrate, falling confetti-like as endurance and frustration have finally paved the way and been substituted for enjoyment, taking a chance and balancing alone for once, as I ride off in search of the next adventure. Just enjoying the scenery as I go.