Whenever I hear of a new café, restaurant or bar open I’m eager to stop by and see what new delights are in store, and when I heard about Alma it was no different. It seemed Alma was only open a wet day and the reports coming in were terrific. With hungry bellies and sleepy heads that needed caffeine, we hopped on the bus to Portobello to visit this new café owned by husband and wife Alejandro and Lucrecia. In Spanish ‘alma’ means soul. It also happens to be the initials of the pairs four daughters; Anabella, Luciana, Macarena and Augustina.
With rumours of its popularity I expected a queue when we arrived, and indeed there was. We gave our details to be added to the waiting list and decided to grab some coffee while we waited outside. Things moved along quickly and just as I finished my last sip of coffee our table was ready. The café is small but the vibe is intimate, not overcrowded, and the front of house staff are experts in taking orders, clearing plates swiftly, seeing to newcomers as they walked through the door – all with genuine smiles and hospitality.
We went for the free range Poached Eggs (€11.00). This colourful dish was served with smashed avocado, garlic portobello mushrooms, feta cheese and salsa criolla on organic Tartine sourdough. I added on extra chorizo for a spicy kick (€2.75). Eggs and avocados are a classic brunch combination, but one I just love, and this gorgeous dish was no exception. The crumbled feta added a saltiness that cut through the richness of the avocado, the vibrant salsa with mixed peppers gave the dish a nice bite, and the perfectly runny poached egg was the cherry on top.
Across the table sat a bowl of sweetness in the form of Dulce de Leche Pancakes (€10.00). Here buttermilk pancakes come with homemade Dulce de Leche. Smooth and full of rich caramel flavour, this was scraped clean from the bowl with gusto. A generous spoonful of brandy and orange mascarpone was a delight to eat, as were the soft and sweet poached vanilla pears topped with orange zest and candied almond nuts. We added on bacon for an extra €2.75. Our only qualm; we wished the bacon was crispier, a few minutes more in the pan and it would have been perfect.
We followed these dishes with a cruffin and latte (we shared the pastry, so we didn’t feel too guilty). If you don’t know what a cruffin is, it’s a heavenly hybrid of a muffin and a croissant. While I don’t usually fall for these food fads, I’ll admit I just love a cruffin. There’s a distinctly homely vibe in Alma, which of course comes from the family who are running this charming spot. Service comes with a smile, and you feel right at home from your first sip of coffee (supplied by 250 Square). It’s growing popularity means that if you visit at the weekend, there will be a queue of hungry diners in front of you. But is it worth the wait? Yes, absolutely. Supporting small and independent businesses is something we all should do, and this is made easier when the business is as good as Alma.
12 South Circular Road,
T: +353 086 815 8324
REVIEW BY SINÉAD SMYTH