Food is Life... With Niamh Hopkins
What’s your favourite dish?
My mam’s spaghetti bolognaise. I’m not a huge meat eater, but it’s incredible and always my preferred choice when I go home for the weekend. She’s a chef and had a restaurant for years so knows what’s she’s at. I think she puts a full bottle of red wine in it and 97 pieces of garlic - whatever is in it I always need to lie down afterwards. Day-to- day, I mostly eat fish and as much veg as I can. I’m equally obsessed with avocados and sweet potatoes and try my best to eat like as healthily as possible because otherwise I feel like crap. By Friday night I’m always ready for a glass of wine and some cheese, though.
What’s your favourite cuisine?
It’s a toss-up between Japanese and Italian. I’m constantly thinking about food and eating out is my favourite thing to do, ever. Japanese is nearly always my first choice. I’m obsessed with the tuna carpaccio in Ukiyo. But, Italian food is life! Last year I visited Rome, Florence and Tuscany and am pretty sure I was just short of turning into a ball of Burrata.
Best place to grab breakfast in Ireland?
I live beside the cringe-worthily named ‘Paleo Mile’ aka Baggot Street so there are lots of delicious and healthy options to choose from. I’m currently obsessed with the Buckwheat pancakes or Acai Smoothie Bowl in Eathos, and I adore Cocu too. For hangover feeds you can’t beat Juniors. Oh, and Farmer Browns beside me is great also!
Best place to grab lunch in Ireland?
Hmm. I don’t tend to eat lunch out a-lot, it’s usually more brunch or dinner. In work, during the week, we have a delivery service which includes Cocu, Chopped etc. so I order something from there most days. My current favourite is the Angelina’s Mixed Berry & BBQ Salmon Salad - which I’m currently waiting at my desk for! On weekends, you can’t beat lunch in Blue Bar in Skerries (my hometown). They are famous for wings, but my favourite is their Bang Bang Shrimp, I highly recommend! Skerries is really special because it’s the only west facing harbour on the east coast so, if you hang around long enough, you can watch the sun set over a glass of wine or two.
Best place to have dinner in Ireland?
Ok how long have you got?! This totally depends on mood and occasion. For mid-week catch-ups I adore Yamamori and Ukiyo for sashimi and noodles. Keshk beside me is great too and it’s BYOB. I’m just back from a trip around Northern Spain and going through a tapas obsession – La Bodega is the best in Dublin, I’ve found! For special occasions I still love Trocadero which is proper old school and always feels so festive. Catch 22 for amazing seafood in the heart of the city, and sitting outside Chez Max at Dublin Castle or Coppinger Row is another favourite way to spend an evening. My absolute favourite, which suits all occasions, is Paulie’s. Their New York style Italian food is unrivalled anywhere in Dublin and they do the best cocktails in town. One of the managers is also quite a catch – but hands off, he’s mine. So yeah I could be a bit biased about Paulie’s but the queues out the door don’t lie.
Best place to get coffee in Ireland?
Our local ‘Coffee to Go’ on Mespil Road is a great little spot and strolling up there on a Saturday morning is somewhat of a ritual. Lotts & Co. in Beggars Bush is good too, as is Olive or Seasons in Skerries when I’m home. Butlers too, especially the one in Ranelagh. It always tastes nicest there! I have to admit to getting a mocha though, I don’t like the taste of coffee!
Best place to get a cocktail in Ireland?
See above – Paulie’s! The Espresso Martini there is amazing (bizarrely, as I don’t really like coffee). I also love the Raspberry Mojito from the Shelbourne. We got married there so the odd time I like to pop in and have one for a treat. I always wave at the concierge and like to pretend they remember me. They pretend too, they’re so polite. The Camden Exchange is a new favourite. I had about 19 cocktails there one night recently and they were all good! Upstairs in Rustic Stone is a great cocktail bar too, I love the Mango and Basil Smash, I think it’s called.
Best shop/ supermarket to grab bits for a home-cooked dinner?
Lotts & Co. is my local. Fallon & Byrne of course too.
What’s your favourite meal to make at home?
I often cook for one (sob) because my husband works 5 nights in weeks as a restaurant manager. When he’s at home, ‘we’ like to make things such as a Thai green curry with lots of vegetables. Or we’ll rustle up something with fish. He’s a much better cook than me, though, and whips up the best chowder, soups and even makes his own bread.
Who’s your favourite cook/ chef?
Well I will have to say a split between my mam, my father-in- law and my brother-in- law who are all fantastic chefs. I’m surrounded. Aside from them it’s Rick Stein.
Do you have a favourite recipe book?
I like Deliciously Ella. Am currently trying to convert myself into a Happy Pear by eating as many vegan dishes as possible, so am working my way through their book.
Favourite restaurant you’ve ever been to & why…
So many stand out but I’ll say Chez Francis in Paris. It’s where I first tried carpaccio as a teenager and always remembered it. Then when I got engaged I was brought there as a surprise – he had listened! You literally feel like you’re sitting at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and everything is delicious.
What city, from your travels, has the best food?
Oh dear, this is tough. We pretty much base all of our holidays around food. Can I say a mix of New York, Paris and maybe San Francisco. San Francisco is special because I spent a few months working there about 13 years ago and it’s where I had so many firsts – Pad Thai there, sushi, clams, Mojitos…
What’s your favourite ingredient to use in cooking?
Best place (or website) to get gorge bits for the kitchen?
Stock on South King Street.
I don’t care about desserts at all really; I’ll go straight to the cheese board every time.
Prosecco or champagne.
What six people would make up your dream dinner party?
Louis Theroux, Larry David, Jamie Dornan, David Bowie, Kate Moss and my grandmother who is no longer here. What a weird dinner party that would be.
What food/ ingredient do you detest?
Ginger. It’s vile. It tastes like gone off perfume. Also, it could be because our family cat who is dead now was called Ginger. I just can’t do it.
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