I am back slightly later than I said I would be. Mea culpa!
The Tuesday before last, the 14th July, was the French National Day: La Jour de Bastille. Its celebration is many degrees different from St Patrick’s Day. Whereas our national day is: party central, a riot of all things green, and, for some, an excuse for a monumental piss-up; Bastille Day is, in contrast, celebrated in a more sombre way, the highlight being a carefully curated set piece military parade down the Champ Elysees.
Obviously there is merrymaking on Le Quatorze Juillet when families and friends get together for a special meal or picnic and in most cities and towns in France there is a municipal painting of the sky with fireworks to mark the day.
Last week, a few days post the event, I took myself off to Chez Max on Dublin’s Baggot Steet (there is a second branch, a restaurant/café only, scenically located in the shadows of Dublin Castle) for a belated minor celebration of Bastille Day. Chez Max Baggot Street is a culinary triptych that consists of: a coffee shop, a french épicerie, and a basement restaurant/café.
Said trinity are in a period building that has a short flight of grey granite steps leading up to a pillar-box red front door, to the left of the door is a small outside terrace. Once through the door you are in the central hallway off which to the left and the right there are two high-ceilinged rooms, one the coffee shop and the other the grocery store.
The room that houses the coffee shop has a dark planked wooden floor, a stunning marble fireplace, and a chic light fitting dangling from the ceiling. There are tables and stools a plenty, French bric-à-brac scattered around as decoration, and framed black and white images march around the walls close to where they meet the ceiling. French radio burbles away in the background.
I had a latte and a pain au chocolat. The coffee was good-ish without being sublime. My pain au chocolat, which was baked, rather than made,on the premises was ok too. In fairness to find the buttery flakiness I love in French breakfast pastries it’s necessary to track down an artisan baker and sadly they are an increasingly rare breed.
I bought a take away sandwich for my lunch and it was delicious. In the interest of research I also bought a tarte au citron: size-wise it would easily have divided into two helpings but I managed to greedily gobble it down in one sitting as I was enjoying it so much. The restaurant kitchen makes the ‘to-go’ deserts Chez Max sell.
The verdict: I probably know that part of Dublin too well to ever imagine I was in France but that said Chez Max itself has an authentic feel. It’s not the place to find Dublin’s finest cup of coffee but my latte and pain au chocolate were excellent value at €3.50: a total bargain in Dublin terms. And it is the place to go to find French food brands not normally for sale in Dublin.