We’re in a fresh new year, and although we spend precious little time thinking about the D-words (because pssst: detoxes and diets don’t work, pass it on.), we're generally in need of lighter eating post-Christmas thanks to tight clothes/tight budgets/the pressing need to undo the piggery of the holiday season.
A temporary move to more 'sensible' eating doesn't mean you're confined to your kitchen. There are plenty of places to go when you've had your fill of big portions and an abundance of meat, sugar, butter and booze - saying that we’re staunch believers of ‘everything in moderation’ (particularly in the middle of winter), so if you want it, go for it. If you don't want it, here's where to head for...
As One, City Quay
Open 6 days a week for breakfast and lunch, as well as Saturday brunch, As One is a great choice for organic, seasonal food in the city centre. ‘Food with purpose’ is how they describe themselves, and it’s obvious that they put the highest level of care into their relationships with farmers and producers, highlighting local growers throughout their menu. Breakfast includes porridge oats, yoghurt bowls and eggs, with lunch/brunch offerings like potato hash, omelettes, tacos and halloumi focaccia.
Tang, City Centre
With three locations across the city centre (Dawson Street, Abbey Street and Cumberland Place), Tang is always on our list for breakfast and lunch that tastes great and feels good. Their food is sustainably and seasonably sourced, including a selection of daily salads and homemade flatbreads with an option to add Middle Eastern Chicken, Moroccan Lamb and Lebanese Bean, as well as extras like pickled cabbage, creamy tzatziki and beetroot or classic hummus. They also serve great coffee from Upside, and freshly brewed tea.
Umi Falafel, Various Locations
Umi, meaning “my mother” in Arabic, celebrates 10 years in business this year, and it's become a favourite for not just the vegetarian and vegan community in Ireland, but anyone looking for some of the best falafel around. They’re open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, serving falafel flatbreads, mezze plates and salads, as well as a lunch and kids menu. Umi have six locations across Dublin. so plenty of places to find some Middle Eastern deliciousness.
3 Leaves, Blackrock Market
Tucked away in Blackrock market, 3 Leaves offers a compact, ultra high quality lunch menu of dahls, curries and breads. As with all Indian restaurants, it's a fantastic option for vegetarians and vegans, but an affordable and unforgettable option for everyone.
Staple Foods, Dublin 2
Based on Hanover Quay and Grattan Street, Staple Foods is open Monday to Friday for breakfast and lunch, serving up a nutrient-filled, seasonal menu of salads, sandwiches, hot pots, curries and soup. There's also vegan smoothies, if that's your thing.
Blazing Salads, Dublin 2
A Dublin institution, Blazing Salads is an independent family run business who've been trading for over 40 years, and opened the doors to their Drury Street location in 2000. The deli has been serving healthy, wholefood vegetarian and vegan options long before it became cool, and in January 2020, they opened FLIP Burger in George’s Street Arcade. It's a heavier option, but an excellent meat-free one.
Nutbutter, Grand Canal Dock and Smithfield
This Grand Canal Dock (and pet-friendly) restaurant opened its doors in 2018, and in Smithfield at the end of 2022, serving healthy and delicious food ‘with a Californian twist’. Nutbutter's menu features tacos including plant-based chorizo and jerk jackfruit, rice bowls, poke, broth and sides, and the menu includes calories (if you’re counting).
When Brother Hubbard opened in 2012 mid-recession, they addressed a major gap in the Dublin food scene. Anchored in the culture of Middle Eastern cuisine with lots of fresh, healthy and predominantly veggie dishes, times may have changed, but it remains a consistent choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the city. They’ve since expanded to four locations across Capel Street, Harrington Street (with a dog-friendly heated outdoor area), Ranelagh and Arnotts, with Capel Street the only spot open for dinner.
Tiller + Grain, Dublin 2
This yellow-fronted café on Frederick Street South serves up fresh, seasonal salads, tasty sandwiches and the best baked goods from Monday to Saturday. Opened in 2019 by Clair Dowling who formerly worked for Ottolenghi in London, Tiller + Grain’s ethos is sustainability and nutrition. Make sure you get there early for lunch (from 12pm), because when these sandwiches and salads are gone, they’re gone.
Dosa Dosa, Dublin 4
Located in Albert Court East on Grand Canal Street Lower, this award-winning food truck serves South Indian dosa - a thin, crispy pancake made from a fermented batter predominantly of black lentils, rice and fenugreek. Dosa Dosa is obviously famous for their namesake, but also serve uttapam (a softer and thicker version of dosa with fillings layered on top as opposed to filled inside), parotta (a layered flatbread), kathi rolls (fried paratha flatbreads), rice bowls and a selection of popular South Indian snacks including ‘65’ - a fried snack coated in spices, ginger, garlic and lemon juice.
Pho Kim, Parnell Street
Nothing beats a bowl of warming pho to cure the winter blues, and Pho Kim serves some of the city's best Vietnamese food on Parnell street seven days a week. You can order a variety of phos here, including Pho Dac Biet (steak, brisket and beef meatballs), Pho Ga (chicken noodle), Pho Tom (prawn noodle), Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef), but the other non-soup dishes like Bun Tom Ga Nuong (marinated chicken and prawns) are delicious and full of fresh and healthy ingredients like crunchy carrots, sliced cucumber and coriander.
Canal Bank Cafe
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Canal Bank Cafe on Leeson Street Upper offers lots of healthy and lighter options including salads, poke bowls, veggie flatbreads, and omelettes. With appetisers like padron peppers with Achill Island smoked sea salt, sautéed gambas and gremolata, and sharwarma-spiced white bean hummus, it’s a nice option for small plates to share too.
Eathos, Baggot Street
Another great shout for mid-week healthy breakfast and lunch is Eathos on Baggot Street Upper and Lower. Their ‘breakfast salad’ is a solid choice sounding way better than a full Irish, with yuzu aubergines, galangal beets, poached egg, feta yoghurt, Aleppo chili and sea salt pumpkin seeds. Their lunch/brunch options include salads (with proteins like char sui salmon, and turkey and courgette kofta), soup and a selection of sandwiches, and food this brightly coloured has to be good for you.
Fish Shop, Smithfield
Fish and chips, hardly a ‘light bite’ for January, we hear you say. Well, as great as the beer-battered fish is here, we also love Fish Shop's lighter small plates. Their menu is ever-changing, but expect shellfish like Kelly's Gigas oysters, and Killary Fjord mussels with garlic and parsley, alongside squid and crab on toast. It might not be as light, but you really shouldn't miss the anchovy + Russian salad either, and unless you're doing dry January, their wine list is there to submerge yourself in.
Another great Vietnamese, Aobaba serves the only handmade Vietnamese-style noodles in Ireland. Based on Capel Street, this small, informal restaurant serves a selection of phos (of which you can order small or large – perfect if you want to sample some other dishes), as well as Vietnamese street food staples like banh xeo (crispy pancake), banh cuon (rice rolls) bun cha (grilled pork meatballs and noodles) and banh mi (filled baguettes).
Sprout & Co, City Centre
Locally-sourced, seasonal, healthy, delicious - Sprout is always a good idea. They have five sites across the city, as well as their own farm in Kildare which supplies some of the produce for their salads, warm bowls and wraps. They also do breakfast including porridge and granola, and we love that they offered up the front space of their Dawson Street cafe to start-ups, which is how it became the home of Fable Bakery. Life is nothing without balance.
Honey Truffle, Pearse Street
This daytime cafe near Grand Canal Dock serves fresh, vibrant salads, soups and sandwiches, and a ‘seasonal savoury tart’ of the day, alongside healthy breakfast options like granola crunch, porridge and compotes. There’s a big focus on sustainability in Honey Truffle (which you can read about here), and they've even partnered with an environmental company to turn their grease waste into compost.
The Fumbally, Dublin 8
Located in the Liberties in Dublin 8, The Fumbally has been serving a menu of feel-good food for just over a decade, in a high ceilinged, sitting room-like space perfect to while away a few hours over a cup (or three) of coffee. They're famous for their eggs, Tuscan beans, overnight soaked oats, toasts, lentil based hot dishes and focaccia sandwiches that change daily, plus they’re dog friendly, and serve food til 15:00 – after this, coffees, drinks and natural wines are on offer until 17:00. Bonus points for the quote emblazoned on their wall from Don Quixote: “All sorrows are less with bread.”
Social Fabric Cafe, Stoneybatter
This cosy little coffee shop and cafe in the heart of Stoneybatter serves breakfast and lunch every day until 16:00. There’s a great selection of breakfast options on the healthier side like porridge, house granola and Shakshuka, and for lunch they have fresh salads, vegan buddha bowls and wraps. Social Fabric is also pet-friendly so you can bring your pooch.
If your new year resolutions include reducing your meat consumption, check out our guide to the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Dublin here. We’ve also got a soup guide for those cold days when a warm bowl and a hunk of bread/handful of noodles is the only thing that will do.