When I moved to Dublin from Buenos Aires last year, I made no secret of the fact that I missed the endless sunshine, wine, steak and sushi.
Nevertheless, occasionally I still crave a juicy Brazilian feijoada or some tangy ceviche, so I set out to find a few local alternatives. If I can’t get back to Latin America, I’ll just have to bring Latin America to me…
For real Argentine street food: Bondiola
In search of some authentic Argentine fare, I went to Bondiola, a discreet little café-restaurant with limited opening hours, tucked away on Haddington Road. (Close to Ballsbridge and also within walking distance of Google-ville.)
I was given a wonderfully warm welcome by one of the friendly staff at the counter, who quickly took my order. I found a little table in the outdoor seating area to make the most of the too-good-to-be-true Dublin sunshine and was served my freshly squeezed orange juice soon after.
The namesake dish at Bondiola is a sandwich of grilled pork fillet, tomato, lettuce and chimichurri sauce (€6.90), a snack food typically found on Buenos Aires’s Costanera avenue. (Dublin’s Bondiola are so confident, they claim theirs is better than the original.) You can also go for the Bondioleta (€7.90), as above but with juicy, grilled Provoleta cheese.
Still, I chose the Choripan Completo (€6.50), a sandwich of grilled Argentine-style sausage, chimichurri sauce, lettuce and tomato. It was exactly what I’d hoped for – so succulent and juicy that I could easily have managed two.
I finished off with coffee and a typical Argentine alfajor – a biscuit sandwich filled with sticky-sweet dulce de leche sauce and coated with dessicated coconut. The coffee looked a bit of a funny colour but was surprisingly nice, and the alfajor was divine.
My only disappointment was when a member of staff admitted the meat doesn’t actually come from Argentina. Sadly, they can’t import to Ireland, but they manage to find decent alternatives from places like France, where the sausage meat is similar. It all tasted damn delicious to me anyway.
The absence of real Argie meat doesn’t seem to be doing this place any harm though, and with the current weather situation*, I definitely felt like I’d been transported back to Buenos Aires.
* Sunshine not guaranteed.
Bondiola, 53 Haddington Road, Dublin 4
For Mexican with a twist: 777
Ok, 777 isn’t your typical Mexican bar/restaurant. For starters, you won’t find a Tex-Mex meal in sight. However, if it’s sophisticated tacos, specialist tequilas and spicy cocktails after, you’ve come to the right place.
Hidden behind a virtually unmarked door on South Great George’s Street, 777 is like a speakeasy cocktail bar, small and discreet with its long central bar, cosy booths and tiled walls decorated with sexy artwork. Small groups will usually be given a bar seat, which just happens to be the perfect spot if you like watching skilled barmen work on an endless production line of mouthwatering Margaritas.
The dinner menu offers a unique selection of small dishes like tacos and tostadas (ideal for sharing) and huge mains like the guava-glazed pork ribs or oak-grilled flank. Everything on the menu is tremendous, but my current favourites are the yellowfin tuna sashimi tostadas with pickled cucumber, chipotle mayo and habanero (€11). If you like ceviche, you’ll want to try one of the delicious options such as the cod ceviche with orange segments, red onion, cucumber, cilantro and crispy yucca (€10).
Apart from the huge selection of Tequila and Mezcal on offer, 777 also serves up an incredible range of cocktails. I actively crave the Violencia Rojo (Gin, lemon juice, jalapeño and rosemary syrup and creole bitters, €10.50) on a regular basis, and they also do a mean version of the Pisco Sour, called Pisco Frisco (€9).
There’s no denying the menu is pricey, but everything on it is made to an excellent standard and you won’t find it anywhere else in Dublin. They do some great deals, including Margarita Mondays and Taco Tuesdays. Their Facebook page is the best way to keep on top of the latest promos.
My only complaint is it’s nigh-on impossible to get a table here on a weekend (or even during the week, for that matter). They only take bookings for six and you have to arrive shockingly early (circa 6pm) to get a table on a Friday or Saturday. That said, the staff are really friendly and always do their best to accommodate you.
If you’re especially lucky, you may get to meet 777’s dog, Blanca, named by the good people of Facebook! (That’s me enjoying a warm Blanca-style welcome earlier this year.)
777, 7 Castle House, South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2
For authentic Brazilian?
I’m still searching for a good Brazilian restaurant in Dublin – any recommendations? I would like to give Sabor Brazil a try, but I don’t really fancy forking out €100 euros for a 7-course tasting menu of Brazilian staples. Still, its ridiculously good rating on Trip Advisor means I’m pretty tempted.
All that’s missing in Dublin is a decent Peruvian restaurant, something London has in abundance. With the success of the likes of Martin Morales’s Ceviche UK in London, I’m hoping it’s only a matter of time before the Irish capital gets it’s first proper Peruvian restaurant. (Nudge nudge, wink wink…)