Monday, March 29, 2010

Juice Vegetarian Restaurant (closed)

Despite the obvious benefits, I’ll never quite be persuaded to turn vegetarian. If I had to sum up my reasons as to why in one word, it would be ‘steak’. I think a lot of you will agree. Yes? Good. Let’s not beat about the bush, the human race has eaten meat in mountains for millennia, and it’s an integral part of cooking throughout the present day world. Dishes like the veggie burger or quorn mince vie to imitate it, but none succeed. I do, however, have an open mind and to deny that vegetarian cooking is nonetheless an exciting and tasty area would be an outright fabrication. So, I’m more than happy to be a temporary veggie whenever necessary. It was how things went during my visit to India last summer, and after two weeks of nothing but garlic soup, Kashmiri dum aloo and delicious mango lassis I’d never felt healthier! If ever you need to shed a stone or two then Ladahki cooking is definitely relevant to your interests, though anything I lost over there was pretty much remade in gift and souvenir weight. Regardless, it wasn’t long before I was tucking into a juicy chicken breast; despite leaving an impression on me, my two-week vegetarian experience didn’t stick. That impression did however lead on to an investigation as to what exactly Dublin’s vegetarian food scene was like, and where exactly it was producing the goods. Cornucopia the oldest and as such, the most widely spoken name in the city when it comes to vegetarian restaurants, with Govinda’s a close second after having opened three locations and going down a storm with students on a tight budget. The fantastically named Blazing Salads deli on George’s street has been around for an entire decade by now, and you can find Café Fresh, purveyor of veggie friendly soup and sandwiches in the Powerscourt shopping centre nearby.

The one that had, up until a couple of recent visits, eluded me was Juice, a comparatively larger vegetarian restaurant on George’s street. To be honest, I’d known about it for some time but simply hadn’t copped on that it was a ‘no meats allowed’ joint. Instead, I’d figured it was a café that revolved around smoothies and, obviously, juice. In my defence, both are featured quite highly but if that’s all you were to sit down for and try then shame on you! There’s any number of delicious gems to be discovered on Juice’s extensive menu. Japanese, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Thai; all of these styles are covered by two or more dishes. Brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert are each accounted for, with a good selection of herbal teas and no less than twenty-nine varieties of juice and smoothies available. The food aside, Juice absolutely lives up to its name. The beauty of it all is that despite running what looks to be a larger operation than Govinda’s or Cornucopia, the all round low pricing bar is retained with dinner mains never exceeding the fifteen euro mark, and mostly hovering closer to ten! Brunch and lunch dishes stay firmly below, and the inclusion of an early bird is an added money saving bonus. On top of this, they offer a discount for students which, given the immediacy of Trinity College, is a move that’s bound to have hit off with numerous regulars in the past few years. If you have no prejudices against eating veggie, then you’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that’s so bargain friendly whilst offering the menu that Juice does.

This particular meal was my second, Áine and I being in the mood for a decent plateful of something after she’d been good enough to show me her exhibit, ‘Oddio’ in the Exchange (it’s aurally satisfying art, if you have the chance to then inspect it!). We’d scoped the usual suspects of Café Bar Deli, Soho and Shebeen Chic but to expect a free table at any of those restaurants midway through a Saturday evening would be optimistic at best. Thankfully, Juice was bucking the trend with several free places. I’d been eager to go back to be quite honest, as it hadn’t been a month since I first discovered it. The last time it had been for a late lunch, and I was hugely impressed by the good service they offered. Now it was a little busier, so it was a good opportunity to see how consistent they were. As before, water was immediately brought to our table and refilled constantly the moment each glass was emptied. Beyond that, it was quick and flawless. It wasn’t tightly packed as any of its carnivorous neighbours, but you’d forgive the staff if they’d been a little slower at something like refilling glasses on a weekend night. The reality was perfection, so a big hats off to all involved!

Interior-wise, Juice plays it safe but stylish; halfway between café and restaurant with wine glasses visible but decor kept to a minimum, each table with its own large, colourful flower. By day the light streams through the panelled windows that comprise of the entire front wall and by night, a lattice of fairy lights blink away toward the back of the restaurant. Artwork and stuffed toys adorn the walls around the entrance, all of which can be bought if you happen to be interested!

And what about the food? Part of the reason I’d inclined toward Juice again was because of my last visit, during which I’d ordered two courses which I considered a miss and, well, maybe a half miss. That and I’d been on my own, which didn’t help. Either way, I felt compelled to give them another shot, avoiding what I’d eaten before. Said dishes were the vine leaves and ‘Juiceburger’ with chips. In a nutshell, the former was extremely tart and difficult to eat; a shame, since I love feta with a passion.

The Juiceburger was actually a rather tasty substitute for the real thing (and my first ever veggie burger, I’m ashamed to admit...), but aduki beans are the primary meat substitute which, pleasant tasting as they are, became a real task to chew as time went on. It came with some lovely hand cut chips however, and a tasty relish which I’d have loved a bigger helping of. Armed with menu enlightenment, I chose a simple tofu norimaki to start with and homemade cannelloni for the main. Áine meanwhile had taken the Juiceburger’s side, although I will admit that the piece I stole still tasted good. If you’ve the jaw strength then by all means try it!

My norimaki was, to be honest, a bit dry and unimaginative. Thankfully, there were no such problems with the cannelloni; melt in your mouth pasta, a delicious marinara sauce, spinach, hazelnuts and rich, creamy ricotta all combined to make a fantastically executed dish that did a very good job at shattering the myth that vegetarian food is 100% healthy. The hazelnuts in particular were a lovely surprise as I hadn’t noticed them on the menu at first. We shared a pot of mandarin orange tea and I decided to try what seemed like the obvious choice: one of their freshly made juices. The choice was an apple, lemon and ginger juice and probably the best I’ve ever had. Again, Juice absolutely lives up to its name. I finished with a very nice lime and lemon tart (picture unfortunately AWOL), albeit with a slightly unusual base. No matter, it fit the bill and I finished every last crumb!

In the end, we left just under forty five euro lighter which, considering that a 10% (deserved) service charge is applied to all customers, was an absolute steal (Even more so given that I’m now being treated to cinema tickets for paying!). Yes, it may sound like I’m being harsh on the food at times, but a little perspective is needed: you’re only paying a little over ten euro at most for a main course, Michelin star fine eating is not what you ought to go in expecting. Do however, by all means, expect a great menu, a good meal, excellent service and extremely reasonable prices.

Juice Vegetarian Restaurant
73-83 South Great Georges Street,
Dublin 2

Tph: 01-475 7856


  1. Nice work on the review, i'm getting hungry again recounting those delicious chips!

  2. I love Tart Cherry Juice because It is not only look delicious but also very healthy

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