Leaving the capital early to meet my friend in The Green Onion Cafè in Limerick, I'm excited at the prospect of having lunch in the popular spot, the literal light at the end of the port tunnel.
I get to Lady Limerick and park up with ease (I like this place already). The Green Onion Cafè is just across from the bridge where the Abbey River splits from the mighty Shannon. It has a relatively small, unassuming front with sleek signwriting and a delightful wooden window bench outside surrounded by welcoming green plants. The cafè is next to a really cool and eclectic Celtic bookshop where I spend ten minutes reading all the various book titles displayed with a fairly patriotic theme, from ‘Limerick Soviet’ to children’s books on Brian Boru.
I’m meeting my pal and fellow comedian Karl Spain for lunch - I normally don’t mention my friend’s names in these reviews but Karl insisted I use his as he likes the attention, or possibly needed an alibi. I notice an array of amazing looking donuts immediately at the service counter on the right hand side as I walk in the door, with a chalkboard sign above advertising ‘Artisan Sourdough Doughnuts here today’, and thought to myself that this will not be the last interaction I have with them today.
I meet the Spainer and we sit down on a long, brightly skylit industrial style wooden bench down the back on a higher tier with a wall of green bamboo wallpaper covering the back wall. The interior of The Green Onion is sleek and has an almost modern, French Bistro feel; smooth brown leather couch benches run along the walls and framed Cannes Film Festival poster and a random, but well in-keeping, black and white photo of Richard Harris in the corner.
We quickly look through the menu as the ‘hanger’ is getting real; my breakfast was the last few slightly car-melted ‘Reese's Pieces’ that I found in my centre console on the way down (score). I order the ‘Moro Blood Orange’ to drink because it sounded dangerous and I felt like I was getting scurvy after my vitamin-devoid breakfast. The lunch menu is pretty extensive yet contained to one A4 page. There is a distinct use of local and Irish ingredients in the menu which I really like, from Burren Smoked Salmon to Munster cheeses such as Toonsbridge Halloumi and Smoked Gubbeen.
I order the ‘Thai Spiced Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup’ followed by the ‘O’ Connor’s Spiced Beef, Mossfield Gouda, Sauerkraut, Russian Dressing on Toasted Sourdough’. I was going to get one of the seriously tasty looking salads but decided that the health gods were already against me today after that breakfast and I’d best stick to my guns.
Karl ordered the ‘Leek, Potato and Rosemary Soup’ to start followed by the ‘Chicken, Bacon, Avocado, Heirloom Tomato, Baby Gem Lettuce with Garlic Mayonnaise on a Toasted Brioche Bun’
The fresh-pressed juice is great and wakes me up. Our soups arrive, both looking simple and without any notions in the garnish department. My soup is slightly sweet with just the right amount of heat, and Karl’s has that beautiful buttery onion leek flavour with a slight hint of rosemary. What both of these homemade soups lack in garnish is more than made up for with the bread that comes alongside them. Rich and thick slices of homemade stout bread with a hint of molasses. It’s fresh and moist and the perfect receptacle for lashings of real Irish butter. Either would have been a decent meal in themselves but we’re not here to mess around.
Swiftly after our soups come our sandwiches (on regular white plates. might I add, not the usual roof slate option that many places are opting for of late). My sourdough Limerick version the classic ‘Reuben’ looks great – cheese melted to perfection a couple of thick but not too thick slices of the spiced beef which is nicely warmed through with just the right amount of fat. This is quite simply a delicious sandwich.
The doughnuts arrive while Dave is telling us about their unique 48-hour fermentation. Mine’s a ‘Salted Caramel and Pistachio’ and Karl is gifted a ‘Chocolate Ganache’. We agree to do a half of each to avoid a row. I don’t really have a sweet tooth but these doughnuts are what I imagine crack must be like. Fresh and light, they may be, but just thinking about the filling now is making me salivate while typing this. It is the longest I have ever seen myself or Karl stay quiet and not talk for a very long time.
Karl’s, meanwhile, looks equally impressive – proper slices of real roast chicken and actual bacon, not those weird bacon strips that you see creepily all the exact same size and length and nearly break your teeth. The brioche bun is fresh and both come with small seasonal side salad. Both the garlic mayo and the Russian dressing come on the side which I really like. We should all be masters of our own condiments – my sandwich, my choice.
We are both full but I can’t get those sourdough doughnuts I saw on the way in out of my mind. We order a couple of freshly ground ‘Anam’ coffee’s which are a small-batch coffee roasters from The Burren, and get chatting to Dave the owner as he drops them down. I purposely ask him about the doughnuts so he can twist the rubber arm. Dave is sound and doesn’t do the hard sell. He tells us they come from a one-person operation called ‘Crafted Crust Bakery’ run by a woman called Sarah who normally just sells them through local farmers markets. What’s more, Green Onion are the only place in Limerick City that sell them. We’re sold. It’s three for €10, and mama didn’t raise no fool so we ask Dave to pick us three different ones.
In addition to the above, one of the things worth mentioning is the background music. For the duration, we heard a playlist of classic 80s indie, from Echo and The Bunnymen to Squeeze to Leonard Cohen and New Order. It was a welcome audio break from your usual generic ‘Coffee Break’ Spotify playlists you often hear and was a really nice touch.
The Green Onion Café has real, homemade and utterly delicious no-frills food. It supports local producers and has excellent tunes. It serves breakfast and lunch, has all-day brunch at the weekends, and is BYOB should you be so inclined.
For me, it’s a reason alone to come back to Limerick again, a highly underrated city in my humble opinion that has produced some incredible musicians like The Cranberries, iconic entertainers like Terry Wogan, and some great places for food. I gave the third sourdough doughnut to Karl as a gift for his partner.
Whether it ever made it to her shall remain a mystery.
Green Onion Cafè
3 Rutland Street,
Sourdough Doughnuts 3 for €10