Argentinian Flair in Portobello: Alma (Dublin 8)
When people happen to know that I've done a round the world trip they always ask me what my favourite country was. Without a blink, I always reply "Argentina". Barbecues with the locals in Buenos Aires, seeing penguins in their natural habitat in Puerto Madryn, cycling around the vineyards in Mendoza and sipping hot chocolate in snowy Ushuaia are some of my favourite memories of my six weeks there. Not only were some of the places we visited incredibly diverse and beautiful but the locals were some of the most laid back and friendly people I've met. I'd go back in a heartbeat.
I noticed Alma on Instagram a few weeks before it opened and their profile description as a café "with an Argentinian twist" certainly piqued my curiosity and I waited patiently for it to open. "Alma" means "soul" in Spanish but it also, according to their website, stands for the initial of the four daughters in the Argentinian family that runs this tiny café on South Circular Road in Portobello.
Mr. FFID and I headed there for Sunday brunch and joined the queue outside to get on their waiting list. Half an hour later we went back and were seated to the white communal table in the middle of the café. The place is tiny but superbly designed and filled with natural light. Shelves are loaded with bags of 250 Square coffee and Wall & Keogh tea bags and the counter has a display of enticing treats.
Alma has a breakfast, lunch and all-day menu with items that include some Argentinian ingredients such as dulce de leche (an addictive sweetened condensed milk sauce), chimichurri (a herb sauce usually served with steak), salsa criolla (an onion and pepper salsa) and Argentinian chorizo. The food is plated so prettily that it looked like every single customer in the café took a picture of their dish.
I went for what is fast becoming the most Instagrammed plate of pancakes in Dublin. Super fluffy buttermilk pancakes (€10) bathing in homemade dulce de leche served with a brandy and orange mascarpone, poached vanilla pears, orange zest and candied almond nuts. A dish as delectable as it looked, certainly put a smile on my face. Not overly sweet, with really great flavours.
The bill came to €24 with Mr. FFID's Americano. While it is easier to find good food in Dublin these days I find it a challenge to find matching service in busy cafés. While Alma was packed to the brim, the staff came across as naturally warm and incredibly welcoming. The combination of great service, excellent food and a stunning interior made Alma one of my biggest café crushes ever. Go ASAP!
12 South Circular Road
Disclaimer: This is an independent review, I paid for my food and drinks.