The Vanilla Pod Eatery opened a little over a year ago in the retail park in Carrickmines. It's across the car park from TK Maxx and behind the BB’s coffee shop, but it’s a world away from its chain store neighbours. This is an authentic daytime restaurant serving freshly made food in style. The room is painted in lime green and aubergine, and there are two glass walls which let in loads of light, and three co-owners are always on hand; Derek Breen in the kitchen and Kate O'Sullivan and Veronica Muresan out front.
There are little homely, feminine touches, like little jars of pot pourri and lavender on the tables, and pots of herbs hang from the blinds. Staff are casually dressed in captioned t-shirts and jeans with waiters aprons, and I smile as I read one of the captions. ‘Vegetarian. The Indian name for bad hunter’. I imagine Paolo chuckling to himself about that one.
The menu in the VP is written in the window beside the door, so you can see the goodies before you enter. Open for breakfast each day you can choose from porridge or granola, pancakes with berries, a full Irish or a very good - I know I've had it more than once - eggs Benedict. Coffees are good and as the day progresses towards lunchtime specials appear on the blackboards and there is homemade lemonade as standard.
On a recent trip the room is packed out on a dreary Tuesday, but the buzz of conversation in the room is not too loud, I can still hear the background music. The food scientist, otherwise known as no 1 daughter is on a college mid term and so joins me, and we choose from about fifteen dishes including seafood chowder, a Cos or Caesar salad, leek and pork sausages with mash, a goats cheese and red onion tartlet or a selection of fresh sandwiches and Panini.
After some deliberation we choose to share the antipasti board and a pasta special for Abigail, while I go for the homemade burger. Two homemade lemonades complete the order.
The antipasti is quite a spread, five pieces of crispy ciabatta with hummus, pesto and tapenade, along with grilled aubergine, courgette and tomato and a selection of Italian cured meats; Parma, and a couple of salami. It's very good and in fairness would make a nice light lunch on its own. One of the better antipasti I have had.
The burger is huge and topped with a pile of fried onions, bacon and Dubliner cheese. The toasted roll is crispy and the combination is great. Roasted cherry tomatoes are a garnish and shoe string fries support the main event. Abigail has a bowl of penne with a well made tomato sauce with chicken, sundried tomatoes and rocket. It's better than we expected in this non Italian, and better than some we have had in 'authentic' Italians.
We have to have one of the desserts, and end up with two; a chocolate and raspberry brownie and a homemade French macaroon. Both are very good, and the brownie expert is suitably impressed. Coffee and a tea finish us off.
The young staff are very good, and service is brisk and friendly throughout. Vanilla Pod is great, and the city centre is crying out for one, to save us from the formulaic rubbish that dominates at present. It's not difficult to do simple food well, and yet it's rare enough. Vanilla Pod is a winner.