What’s the story?
There are approximately 50 places to eat in the small, seaside town of Malahide, but approximately 40 of them have more or less the same menu - if you want burgers, fish and chips or seafood tagliatelle you've come to the right place. On the other hand, if that makes your eyes glaze over, you need to know about A Dó, which opened from a hatch on New Street in April, serving potato curry boxes, filled rotis and chicken salad with mustard slaw, and immediately stood out, because it was like nowhere else around.
This is a proper family affair, with brother Krishna out front, sister Anna Maria in the kitchen cooking their father's Indian recipes, and another sister Róisín helping out too. They were busy from day one, with coffee, porridge and pastries in the morning, and the Indian influence kicking in from lunchtime, and the smells alone will draw you to their window if you're close by.
Where should we sit?
As the world (and Fingal County Council) got on board with outdoor dining, A Dó went from being a hole in the wall takeaway to having six or seven tables for outdoor dining throughout the summer. New Street in general is a really atmospheric place to soak up some sun over breakfast, lunch or dinner, but with the pedestrianisation of the town's main thoroughfare due to be reversed in Autumn, they may be back to takeaway only until 2022. If that's the case when you visit, grab your food and head for the newly redeveloped green at the Marina, one of the benches overlooking the sea along the coast or estuary, or head into Malahide Castle for acre after acre of green space.
What's the food like?
It's one of those small but perfect menus. No fillers, no crowd-pleasers, just the food they want to serve. It's so real and unapologetic, even before you get your food you know it's going to be good.
Their 'Pop's potato curry' box is a mainstay, and come with a freshly made roti, Asian slaw, green chilli chutney and yoghurt sauce. You know those perfect plates/boxes/dishes where every single element is a knockout, nothing is an afterthought, and everything works so beautifully together you could almost weep with joy? That. Pop knew what he was doing in the kitchen.
There are no shop bought pastes or powders here, you can see and taste the freshly ground and whole spices in everything. On weekends you might find specials like a beef curry box or a butter chicken one (just as good), but the potato is there all week.
You can also get one of those freshly made rotis stuffed with potato curry and yoghurt, topped with carrot and green chutney, and eating it as a whole bread between two hands shows off its buttery, flaky magic to maximum effect. It's also got to be one of the best fivers you could spend on food in the entire capital. At the weekend you might find other curries stuffed in rotis also, like their beef version, and we've yet to be disappointed with anything.
But we're not done with Dad's potato curry yet. In one of the most impressive showings of carb on carb action we've seen in years, they also stuff it into lavash bread from Tartine to make a potato curry sandwich. Admittedly this did initially cause us to raise eyebrows, but like everything else that comes out of this kitchen, it just works (and is an incredible hangover helper).
The other pillar of A Dó's menu is their chicken salad, which comes either in a box or in a sandwich. It looks and sounds so simple but the additions of mustard mayonnaise, apple and pomegranate make it pop, and even makes the celery palatable (sorry celery lovers).
Cakes and cookies are predominantly vegan from Oh Happy Treats, and we loved the chocolate banana bread which was so dense with banana and didn't suffer in the slightest from non-dairy chocolate. A brownie was a bit too thin and fudgy for our liking, but that's being picky. They have other more mainstream treats like those mini doughnuts you see all over the place, vegan power balls and muffins, but we're sending you here more for the savoury than the sweet.
What about the drinks?
Standard café fare - coffee, tea, soft drinks and sometimes slushies. Coffee is from Ariosa and often we've found it quite bitter, but that might be a matter of staff training rather than the beans being used. It's definitely on the stronger side of coffee blends.
And the service?
Staff are always very pleasant, but you'll get the best interactions from the owners. Customers love to tell Anna-Maria how much they loved her food, ask if they can buy her chutneys by the jar, tell her never to change a thing, while her brother jokes about not giving her a big head. This is the antithesis of a chain café or restaurant, and eating here will make you feel so much better than if you went to the Starbucks down the road, on a lot of levels.
And the damage? We've eaten here a few times but the last visit comprising of two mains, two cakes and an iced coffee came to €23. We almost felt we were ripping them off.
The verdict? A Dó café is the most interesting thing to happen to Malahide's main thoroughfare in years (and we're include the 'Save Malahide Village' protests in that). Go for the homemade rotis, stay for the potato curry, beg for some chutneys to take home. You'll feel revived.
A Dó Café 2 New Street, Malahide, Co. Dublin www.instagram.com/ado_coffeetogo