Not your average brunch
What’s the story?
Storyboard opened in Islandbridge, Dublin 8 (near Heuston Station) in 2017 with chef Laura Caulwell (ex-Fumbally) at the helm, and within months Catherine Cleary in the Irish Times had written that it was the best café food she'd eaten in Ireland. It was already busy, being in a good-food-starved part of the city, but it got busier. Caulwell quietly slipped out the following year, going back to help The Fumbally in their mission of changing school dinners in the The Warrenmount Canteen, but Storyboard continued their trajectory as one of the city's best brunch spots. We love a brunch with a difference and the images on their Instagram feed were causing serious cravings for kimchi pancakes, so we went to see how things were faring two years in.
Where should we sit?
It feels like a tight squeeze inside when it's busy so if it's in any way sunny we'd be trying to nab an outside table. Otherwise edge your way onto a table of two of four, and there may be a wait at the weekend. There didn't seem to be a queuing system when we got there, and while we got a table quickly we hope they have some way of telling who's first in line. There was a queue but we couldn't tell who was waiting to pay, who was just there for takeaway coffee and who wanted a table.
What's good to eat?
From the brunch menu we tried two of the Storyboard classics - the kimchi pancakes and the "spuds", and a new kid on the block - 'Beet & Figs' - which turned out to be our favourite. The beetroot and figs come served on a thick slice of Le Levain sourdough toast topped with sumac mascarpone with hibiscus, and lemon tea reduction (almost like a curd), with McNally's mixed leaves. A great and unusual combination of flavours and textures, although we would liked the pieces of beetroot to be a bit less enormous. You also only get one slice of toast for €10.50 so if you're very hungry this might not fill you.
The kale kimchi pancakes are a nice savoury rework of a breakfast classic, and we rarely pass up an opportunity to eat the pungent, fermented cabbage in any form. These had a slightly chewy, slightly crumbly texture, and came with perfectly soft scrambled Wicklow free-range eggs on top, as well as sunflower shoots, scallions, house teriyaki sauce and homemade spicy mayo.
Maybe we didn't read the menu properly as we were disappointed that the "spuds" was literally just a plate of spuds. They were well cooked with rosemary and salt, but neither the accompanying buffalo sauce, pea purée or minted frisee leaves leaves did much to amplify it much beyond a plate of potatoes. We wishes we'd added two free-range fried eggs or some Gubbeen chorizo from the sides, which probably would have made all the difference, but by itself it felt like an incomplete dish. The price tag of €10.50 added insult to injury.
They'd run out of quite a few cakes/treats when we got there (but they'd been restocked by the time we were leaving), so we settled on a chocolate covered peanut butter ball (rugby not soccer), which was dense and extremely peanutty, dipped in excellent dark chocolate - what a snickers wishes it was. Perfect if you have a sweet tooth to satisfy but don't want a full on cake fest.
What about the drinks?
Coffee is excellent, as you would expect, and they had both Imbibe and Bonanza Coffee Roasters in stock when we were there. Other drinks are very limited, and if you were hoping for something other than kombucha, ginger fizz or sparkling water you'll be disappointed.
And the service?
Chaotic. They really seemed as if they needed more staff. We were passed several times while trying to figure out if there was a queue for seats without being acknowledged, and had to almost walk out in front of someone to get their attention to ask. They were very nice, but some seemed addled, others too relaxed. Once we did sit down we waited 25 minutes for a flat white to arrive, having asked after it three times, and watch customer after customer leave with takeaway cups in their hands. They took it off the bill but it's hard to recover from a start like that.
Storyboard is still one of Dublin's most interesting places for brunch, with an ever evolving menu and a thoughtful use of Irish produce. If you favour peaceful weekends you might want to get in early and hopefully beat the rush, but if you're not in a hurry and like a bit of buzz it's probably right up your street. A walk in the Phoneix park afterwards should help you work up an appetite for lunch.
Clancy Quay, Islandbridge, Dublin 8