Soulful Bistro is on Manor Street in Stoneybatter in Dublin 7. This is one of the oldest parts of Dublin, and there are period buildings everywhere, from granite fronted pubs to red brick houses; Stoneybatter oozes history.
It was into this backdrop that Moira Grey opened her Soulful Bistro, a play on words and a food philosophy all rolled into one. This is soul food; and by that we mean food to comfort and please, and well, make you happy and healthy.
The bistro itself is painted a warm yellow colour outside - think turmeric or sunflower - while inside the old exposed brick wall complements the traditional doorway and the pleasingly painted grey green walls in their heritage shades. Mirrors are liberally dotted about, and wall panels provide frames for strips of feature wallpaper. There are life and food quotations hand painted on the walls, while blackboards display the specials. The dining room is on two levels and an eclectic mixture of tables and comfy leather chairs complete the scene, except for a little snug at the back.
On a cold December evening the welcome is a warm hug, and a cosy seat in the corner with a furry blanket has me well set up, sipping rhubarb and ginger lemonade and reading the dinner menu. It is short but perfectly formed, and features carefully sourced products from local suppliers when possible, and all meat, poultry and fish are 100% Irish.
The menu list half a dozen starters and slightly more main dishes. Chicken noodle soup, ham hock terrine and deep fried Brie make an appearance in the starters, and prices here are more than reasonable, mostly clustered around €7. Main courses include fresh fish and chips, a super food salad, roast chicken or sirloin steak, and again the prices are low, running from €12 to €19.
An Amuse Bouche, of crabmeat with lemon infused yoghurt and filo wrapped prawn with got the taste buds going, and then we were into the shared tasting plate, which featured a selection of the starters. What we got was a picture perfect tableau on a board, with greens and purples and warm oranges, this was a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.
Deep friend Brie from the Little Milk Co. was grille, while Portobello mushrooms, had some melted over them, butternut squash hummus and little crunchy falafels were a pulsing treat, and watercress pesto was a delicious dip for the crispy toasts. A little Feta, beetroot and walnut cup was pretty as a picture, and tasted just as good, and lastly a homemade hog roast, sage and apple pate was meaty and firm, and the sage and hog complemented each other perfectly.
Main courses were the Soulful earth and turf; venison with falafel balls, roasted winter vegetables, gratin potatoes and parsnip crisps. This was a wonderful dish, packed with flavour from the venison, while the gratin was really well done and the parsnip crisps were exactly that.
The Soulful fish and chips might sound like it’s battered, but not so, this fish is pan fried and finished in the oven, with Maris Piper chips, pea purée and beetroot tartar and samphire. Healthy fish and chips; the Holy Grail of the chip fan, but this is a fine example.
Desserts are all homemade and the choices of Pavlova, brownie with white chocolate and fresh raspberry, bread and butter pudding made way for a shared plate of coconut pancakes with raspberries and orange sauce, before an Americano with warm milk finishes the evening.
Soulful has been garnering great reviews, and I can only add to the chorus; this is damn fine cooking using the best of ingredients and run by an owner who is passionate and picky about what she serves. This was a wonderful evening, and a return trip is imminent.
**Soulful are doggie friendly, provided the pooch isn’t barking their heads off, so this will be a trip for Rafa and me.