Dee Laffan checks out the new French café in Alliance Française on the corner of Nassau Street and Kildare Street.
When news of the closure of Chez Max on Baggot Street broke, a lot of people were extremely dismayed that this classic culinary landmark had closed its doors. Thankfully, the second location – and probably most people's favourite – on Palace Street, at the entrance to Dublin Castle, remains open and thriving, often described as a little corner of Paris right here in the capital city of Ireland.
Now there is even more good news as the owner and renowned restaurateur Max de Laloubie has opened a new location in the Alliance Française. The award-winning Alliance Française Dublin is the third biggest in Europe and the first established in a non-French speaking country. The aim of it is to be a French language and cultural centre and it is located in a beautiful listed Irish Heritage site at the corner of Nassau and Kildare Street.
Chez Max Café
The cultural centre has always had a corner café, which looks out onto both streets and this is the new home of Chez Max, a small canteen-style French café that is open for breakfast, lunch and early evening meals and snacks all day serving homemade French dishes.
Max has decorated the café appropriately in the French style that is reminiscent of his Baggot Street restaurant and there is a lounge in the corner of the room (complete with imported Moroccan rugs that Max brought back himself!) that is great for casual meetings over a coffee or those looking for a quiet spot to work remotely on their laptop. Another little pocket of Paris in Dublin!
Plat du Jour
The café is a self-service-style, so you can grab the ready-made food from the fridges or order hot food and drinks at the counter. There is a selection of baguettes (€6-€8) filled with an assortment of freshly-made fillings, such as Slow Roasted Beef with Caramelised Onions and Horseradish Mayo, the classic Croque Monsieur – toasted ham and cheese with Bechamél sauce – and also a Vegan Sandwich option.
Large fresh salads are served daily (€7.90 each approx.) and include classics with chicken, goats cheese, La Niçoise with tuna, boiled eggs, green beans, mixed leaves, tomatoes and anchovies, and a vegan salad option also.
The hot food counter has soups of the day, including French Onion, with a variety of other classic French dishes that would be familiar names, like Beef Bourguignon, from the Chez Max menu. There isn't anything better on a cold autumnal day than a bowl of this hearty, warming classic with a glass of vin, of which the house offering is surprisingly cheap at €3 a glass, and there is a variety of other wines available also.
Daily Specials – Plat du Jour – means something new every day and an opportunity to try lots of French dishes like Poulet à la fondue de poireaux et gratin dauphinois or Toulouse sausage in red wine.
It wouldn't be a French café without pastries and there are lots to choose from whether it's a croissant or pain au chocolat with your breakfast coffee, apple or pear tarte tatin and other varieties of tarts, and there are also classic desserts, like créme brûlée.
An épicerie fine is a delicatessen or shop of foreign foods and in this case, of course, it is a larder filled with French products that Max imports for his customers. From cans of vegetables to packets of Madeline pastries, you can find a little taste of France here on the shelves.
Chez Max Café, 1 Kildare Street, Dublin 2.