Hey Donna: Sunny brunch in the Middle East
Ranked in the 100 best places to eat in Ireland by the Irish Times, winner of Best Casual Dining in Dublin at the last Irish Restaurant Awards, Hey Donna is arguably the most exciting opening in the past few months in Dublin 6. I had dinner there a couple of months ago with a friend and enjoyed, if I remember well, a nice salad of heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella and various Middle Eastern spices - as if a Caprese salad had ventured to Jerusalem.
After the tremendous success of Brother Hubbard and the current taste for Middle Eastern flavours (who hasn't used zaatar in a recipe at this stage?), it is not surprising to see more restaurants embracing the trend.
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend got to try Hey Donna's brunch menu and couldn't stop raving about the flatbread he had ordered - which was probably similar to the photo below.
I really wanted to see what he got so excited about, but when I went for brunch with my friend Tracy last weekend, flatbreads were nowhere to be seen. Plenty of other dishes on the menu tickled my fancy nevertheless, like the Beirut breakfast plate, while my friend got tempted by the green shakshuka with lemon, feta and grilled sourdough - from Le Levain, s'il vous plaît.
On a gorgeous sunny Saturday in Dublin, we were lucky enough to get one of the two tables outside. Inside the restaurant, people sit on long benches and tables, which stick to the self-proclaimed "all-day canteen" vibe - the affordable prices on the menu being congruent with the theme.
Both dishes arrived looking scrumptious. My breakfast plate was a beautiful composition of house hummus, labneh, roasted radishes, tartine mushroom, boiled egg, smashed cucumbers, nuts and seeds, honey and khobz (grilled flatbread). The hummus tasted incredible and the labneh made for a perfect dip for the spicy mushrooms, with the whole plate sprinkled with spices and nuts which worked great altogether. The boiled egg was perfectly cooked for my liking, still slightly runny inside, and I loved the combo with the hummus and the bread.
I was less impressed by the grilled radishes and the cucumber. The former weren’t bad but I just found the texture a bit funny and would have preferred them raw, while the latter felt weirdly cooked, or maybe pickled too much.
I usually am a sucker for pickled cucumber when it is sliced thinly, but here the huge chunks of vegetable just didn’t work to me.
I left these two elements out and still used up all my pita to wipe the plate clean of the hummus and labneh.
Tracy didn’t get so lucky with her dish. The eggs in her shakshuka were cooked through, when we expected the yolk to stay runny, and the feta was far too discreet. Overall the dish lacked flavour and kind of felt too lean.
I'd still like to give the menu another try, especially since I noticed a gorgeous carrot and pistachio cake with a scrumptious icing sitting on the counter when we were already about to leave. Maybe this was just not our day.