It was the eve before my morning departure and after a rather overindulgent early afternoon at The Four Seasons and essential napping stint I was back on my feet. Amiee and I strolled along the cobblestone’s to Temple Bar and swung open the door to Gallaghers Boxty House. The restaurant was packed, clearly a local favourite and a dream of a spot for those looking to indulge in traditional Irish pub fare.
Boxty House was the brainchild of Padraic Og Gallagher, a native of Mohill, County Leitrim. While working in Venezuela in the early 1980’s, Padraic Og observed the Syrians that he worked with practicing their native home-cooking, preparing pittas and koftas. It reminded him of home-cooked food that his mother used to prepare when he was a child, particularly Boxty. He vowed that when he returned to Ireland he would set up his own restaurant and share his favourite food with the people of Dublin and its visitors. True to his word, Gallaghers Boxty House was incorporated in 1988, and opened its doors at Number 20, Temple Bar in February 1989.
We were seated in the bustling dining room overlooking Temple Bar by their large street-side window. Tables were filled with steaming plates and cold pints, antique lanterns hovered overhead. We started off with a bottle of Hollows Alcoholic Ginger Beer. At my first sip I fell in love. I’m very much a fan of Ginger Beer back home in Canada but I’ve only ever encountered non alcoholic bottles. Over the course of the next hour we had the extreme pleasure of sitting with Padraic and chatting Ireland and his love for Boxty.
A traditional Irish potato pancake, Boxty is a dish associated with the northern midlands which contain finely grated raw potatoes, mashed potatoes, flour, baking soda, buttermilk and egg. The mixture if fried on a griddle pan for a few minutes on each side. Traditional alternatives include boiling as a dumpling (sister to the Italian gnocchi) or baking as a loaf.
I selected two boxty off the menu, a traditional pancake with corned beef and cabbage as well as an indulgent boxty dumpling in a blue cheese and portobello cream. We finished off the meal with a hearty trio of Irish stews served with butter slathered soda bread.
The following morning I found myself sitting in a plane, waiting to take off for London. I sat beside two lovely Irish woman who asked me what I had gotten up to the following evening. I spoke highly of my experience at Gallaghers and asked them about how they prepare boxty at home. I was greeted by blank stares. I then explained the history of the dish and described the restaurant philosophy. I had incorrectly assumed that I was chatting about a common dish: similar to Italians with their risotto and ravioli. Just as our plane was jetting off the tarmac both ladies scribbled down the name of the restaurant and promised to visit soon.
As we took flight, I stared out the window and waved salut to The Emerald Isle. In that very moment I realized how essential restaurants such as Gallaghers Boxty House are. These institutions continue a dying tradition, a lost art, a celebration of peasant food, local flavours and inspire us to keep in touch with the historical dishes that have sustained a nation. Educating locals and visitors one mouth watering bite at a time.
Hollows Alcoholic Ginger Beer
Cashel Blue Cheese and Mushroom Dumplings
sauteed portobello, boxty dumplings, cream
Corned Beef and Cabbage Boxty Pancake
cured irish beef from mullingar meats with cabbage in rich parsley sauce
Stew Platter with Soda Bread
irish lamb, murphey’s beef, mcgowan’s coddle