What should we know about Fairmental?
It's a brand new café and 'lab' based around fermented food and drinks, where Barrow Market used to be near Grand Canal Dock. It's owned and run by chef and fermentation obsessive Valentin Ivancenco, and Mihaela Ivancenco - the two are married.
Valentin has been a chef for 20 years and has worked in Dublin, the UK, Copenhagen and Japan, everywhere from burger joints to fine dining restaurants. Fairmental started during the first lockdown in 2020, with the couple creating products like slaw, kimchi and garlic hot sauce, and soon they started appearing in cafés and delis across the city, including Tír and 147 Deli.
You can buy some of their ferments in Fairmental including pickled Irish cabbage and garlic hot sauce, and we imagine the selection will grow over time.
What's the menu like?
It's a simple menu with three main choices - rice bowls, broths or wraps, and everything contains ferments and other gut-friendly ingredients.
The rice bowl comes with Jasmine rice, house fermented vegetables, rayu and avocado, with a choice of chilli chicken, sesame salmon or marinated tofu. We ordered salmon and were a few spoons in before we realised we were eating chicken, so got to try a bit of both. The sticky, salty salmon won out for us on the flavour front, but the chicken is from Ring Farm in Kilkenny, so they're both good options. We loved all the tangy veg, creamy avocado and fresh leaves, but you do need the garlic hot sauce to drizzle all over so don't skip it.
Broths (bone or mushroom, €11) come with tamago egg, noodles, seaweed and rayu, and you can add chicken or tofu for €3. We went for bone broth and it's a deep, savoury bowl of health, the eggs perfectly jammy, the noodles springy. We didn't love the seaweed, but it's the kind of bowl that will make you feel good for the day. It will also thank you for some hot sauce.
Wraps come with the same elements as the rice bowl, and a choice of chilli chicken or tofu and mushroom - we went for chicken. We wouldn't be the type to get excited about a wrap, but this one could give wraps a good name. The crispy outside housed soft, creamy avo and rice, against crunchy pickled veg, tender chicken and rayu, and again, that garlic hot sauce does not go amiss.
What is there to drink?
They serve their own house-fermented drinks like kombucha and kefir alongside freshly pressed juices from The Punnet on Mount Street around the corner. We tried a raspberry & hibiscus kombucha and an orange juice and both were incredible, the kombucha nicely vinegary, and the juice with an almost melony hint to it.
There are gut-friendly drinks from other companies too, like SynerChi and King of Kefir, and you won't find any commercial soft drinks here so don't ask.
Is there seating?
There's seating inside and outside, and we predict those sunny outdoor tables will be in high demand this summer, so get there early or risk extreme disappointment.
Why should I go?
Who doesn't want to do something nice for their gut? Fairmental is the perfect stop when you want to eat out but don't want to feel sluggish for the rest of the day. Don't forget some ferments for home to keep the good gut feelings going up all week.
10 Grand Canal Street Upper, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4