Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Soulful Bistro, Manor Street

The sign announcing Stoneybatter

Where exactly does the Stoneybatter district of Dublin begin and end?

About a month ago a bilingual sign appeared overnight near the top of Blackhall Place announcing "Fáilte go Bóthar na gCloch" / "Welcome to Stoneybatter". But surely that dangerous piece of street furniture isn't the actual, official start of Stoneybatter, is it?

If there's no consensus today about Stoneybatter's precise borders, at least most locals would be in broad agreement about its epicentre: on Manor Street. Or possibly, and more specifically, at the cobbled triangle near the top of Manor Street where it meets Aughrim Street on the left and eventually dissolves into Prussia Street on the right.

Numerous scenes in the 'Moss Reid' mystery series take place around these restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops. One such location on the triangle itself is Soulful Bistro, to the right of Kavanagh's pub and the Manor Take-away chipper.

Soulful is a fairly recent addition to Stoneybatter's culinary landscape. It opened two years ago, in February 2013, and its fare is the complete opposite of its chips-and-kebabs neighbour (though damn fine kebabs they are). Soulful has quickly made a name for itself with tasty but very healthy food, including plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian options.

To me it comes into its own at breakfast and brunch time: the rich smell of coffee, the weekend papers, tasteful jazz or rock music in the background, a perfect view down Manor Street, and eggs done just so...

The bistro in the book

Soulful made its first appearance in book #3 of the 'Moss Reid' series, Ghost Flight (see chapter 4, around page 34 in the paperback version).  The novel, in passing, also mentions Soulful's predecessors - Basilico and the Green Chilli - and this is quite deliberate. One of the book's running themes is the lingering "ghost signs" of previous lives in a city or village.

The action inside Soulful revolves around a long lunch, a sort of planning meeting that also involves a couple of glasses of what is described as "a cheap but good red wine".  In the end it's not something I lingered on in the novel, but the wine itself could almost have been an in-joke.

You see, much of the action in Ghost Flight hops back and forth between Ireland and the Languedoc in the south of France. And by happenstance that very same wine - that "cheap but good red" that you can order by the glass in Soulful in Stoneybatter - comes from the very same corner of France.

Where else in Dublin can you can get a rather cheeky but splendid Languedoc red called Le Petit Pont Reserve - an intriguing let's-bend-the-rules blend of grenache, cinsault, merlot and cabernet sauvignon - for a mere €4.90 a glass?

I later discovered that the wine comes from Domaine Preignes le Vieux - Jerome and Bruno Vic's estate, close to the Mediterranean coast and about half way between Béziers and Agde - two towns that feature heavily in the book.

Above: Soulful Bistro and two of its predecessors. Those last two pics are from a Soulful brunch a while back of Fried Mackerel Sandwich (on multigrain bread with a potato and dill salad and spinach) and Eggs Benedict (poached eggs and cider-steamed ham hock on a toasted muffin with hollandaise sauce and pea shoots)

Soulful Bistro
46 Manor Street,
Dublin 7

Twitter: @SoulfulBistro
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