“Made with generosity, love and Mediterranean passion for life and good food”; “incomprehensibly delicious”; “enormous portions”: that’s how my friend Roisin described Cafe Formenti in a previous review.
I went down to Carlow last week for work, and finally had a chance to check out the place that has become Roisin’s second home. And I feel compelled to add my praise to Roisin’s previous plaudits. This little cafe is a case study in how to create a warm, welcoming, neighbourhood spot.
We arrived late – around 11 – on a Friday night. We’d just come from a gig in the gorgeous new GB Shaw Theatre, and we were starving.
Straight away, I was struck by how happy all the patrons were. Formenti had an instantly welcoming vibe, with a good band playing recognisable tunes at just the right volume. The restaurant was jammed without being uncomfortable, and a few punters were standing near the bar.
As it happened I bumped into some old Dublin neighbours (hello Jean, Aidan and Stephen!) who were down in Carlow for the weekend. They were just as taken by Formenti as I was. After a few lovely glasses of wine, we sat down for a wonderful slap-up feed: a generous portion of hake served with a smooth pea puree, delicious chips, and a big portion of veg. Plenty for one, and even though €18.50 ain’t exactly cheap, it fell into the “worth every penny” category.
I’d love to see more places like this around Dublin: nice friendly neighbourhood restaurants who pay as much attention to creating a sense of community and atmosphere as they do to the food. A few months ago, our own Maria Crispy wrote about Harold’s Cross neighbourhood restaurant Riva:
This is designed to be a neighbourhood restaurant, one where local people can come in alone with a book, bring their kids and drop in of an afternoon or evening without planning ahead, where prices are set a level to encourage you to think of it as less of a treat than an expeditious and regular relief from cooking. Bring on places like this I say. No effort beforehand and a short walk home/to the local pub afterwards.
Do you know of any great local neighbourhood restaurants like Cafe Formenti or Riva? What do you look for when eating locally?