Dublin 9 gets the buzzy brunch spot it's been waiting for
What should we know about Milo's?
Milo's is the second café from Taurean Coughlan and Kevin Roche, who own Two Boys Brew down the road in Phibsborough. The premises on Drumcondra Road Upper (opposite the Skylon Hotel) was a dancewear shop called Dimensions for decades, and this is a much needed upgrade. Any inhabitants of the hood will tell you that the area was in desperate need of a somewhere to stop for excellent coffee, cake and brunch, so the arrival of Milo's has been a bit of a big deal.
Where should we sit?
Milo's is more petite than its big bro down the road with around 18 seats inside and another 8-12 outside. They also do everything for takeaway if you want to grab and go (when we visited there was a line of people waiting for their orders to be bagged up and brought out). The lovely Griffith Park is a 12 minute walk towards town, and the Botanic Gardens a 20 minute walk or a five minute drive if you feel like a picnic.
What should we have?
Milo's has all the beautiful brunch sensibility of Two Boys Brew, with so much made in house that it's hard not to raise an impressed eyebrow. Pastries, breads, jams, nut butter, compotes, granola, chutneys - seeing this amount of effort put into a menu definitely helps to alleviate any price pain you might be feeling when eating out.
Breakfast and brunch range from more simple options like granola, overnight oats and banana bread, to French toast, avo toast, and breakfast baps, with toasties served after 11am. There's also a cabinet full of cakes and pastries by the till that you'll need much willpower to swerve (we don't possess said willpower). We went twice so managed to try most of it (and more cakes than we'd care to admit).
First things first, we need to talk about the banana bread. Thought you OD-ed during lockdown? This will rekindle your love. They make it in house, toast a fluffy inside/chewy outside banana-filled slice, then serve it with homemade hazelnut butter (the absolute best) and honey. For €6 we think this is one of the best (and best value) breakfasts you could eat in Dublin right now.
Overnight oats (€8) came with plum compote, hazelnut butter and dark chocolate almond crumb (we'd expect the combinations to change regularly). and if you're someone who likes to dress dessert up as breakfast, this is for you. It was slightly heavy on mint throughout the oats (not listed on the menu), so if you happen to have an aversion you might want to avoid, or ask if it's in that day's batch.
The fan-club worthy TBB granola is also on the menu, with raspberry compote so bright and sharp you'd almost think they grew them here, thick Greek yoghurt, and cinnamon oatmeal crumble for extra oomph.
The Milo's brekkie bap comes with free-range scrambled egg, cheddar cheese, caramelised onion, streaky bacon, Milo's spicy tomato jam and rocket on brioche. Sandwiches like this can sometimes be sickly and OTT but we though this was pretty much perfect, the soft bun melding beautifully with the soft, folded eggs and cheese. some bite from the bacon, sweetness at the top and bottom from the jam and caramelised onion, and freshness from the rocket.
We also tried the avo toast with confit cherry tomato, free-range fried egg, feta, sesame seed and hazelnut crumb, Two Boys Brew hot sauce (one of the best), and lime on toasted Firehouse sourdough (€13.50). This is not a dish lacking in flavour and every bite brings a taste of something new, although we found the thick bread slightly hard to cut and eat and would have liked a second egg on the other half of the toast (you can add one for €1.50).
If you're more sweet than savoury, you'll probably find it difficult not to order the French toast, currently with rhubarb jam, vanilla mousse, roasted almond ginger crumb and maple syrup (€13.50 or add bacon for €17.00). With homemade brioche, and homemade everything else, this is an ordering choice we endorse, and the puffed up fluffy toast, tart jam and crunchy nuts somehow managed to once again make it feel balanced and not too much.
There's plenty of homemade cakes and pastries, and while choosing was torturous, we went for a cinnamon knot and a chocolate and hazelnut babka. They were both great, but we'd caution that the babka is very dense so fitting this in on your own after another dish may be tough going. On another visit we took home a chocolate covered marble cake and a chocolate chip cookie, and both were top rate.
What about drinks?
Coffee is always on the money in Two Boys Brew and it was the same at Milo's. They use Root & Branch which is roasted in Belfast, and if you're a decaf drinker (by choice or force) theirs is one of the best around. Teas, ice coffee and hot chocolate are also available, as well as soft drinks including San Pellegrino and ginger beer.
How was the service?
Lovely, welcoming, lots of smiles, and the food and coffee came out fast on both occasions. We also love that they've put a no smoking sign up for the outdoor tables (why don't more places do this!?), because who wants second hand smoke blown in their face while trying to enjoy brunch in the sun.
What's the verdict?
Dublin 9 has been a café desert for as long as we've been around, so the arrival of Milo's is big news for the parish. Everyone wants to live within walking distance of somewhere like this, with consistently great coffee, thoughtful food, and a kitchen putting in more effort than most of us could contemplate on a daily basis. Locals around here are very lucky, and from the constant stream of customers coming to eat in and takeaway, they know it.
124 Drumcondra Road Upper, Drumcondra, Dublin 9