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Photo by Al Higgins via Colm Keane
Culture Magazine

Dancing the night away in Dublin and restorative trips out West: Colm Keane's perfect weekend

Night Out, Night Off: Daddy’s Cafe chef and owner Colm Keane takes us through his favourite spots to spend his day (and night) off.

FINE DINING IS all well and good but sometimes you just want to eat something that tastes like it could have been made by mom or dad. A restorative breakfast sandwich on a Saturday morning or a hearty bowl of soup on a chilly Winter afternoon. 

In Dublin 8, in the village of Rialto, Daddy’s Cafe is the quintessential spot to go when you’re in need of a comforting meal in a place that feels like a home away from home. 

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Having previously worked as a food researcher in television, opening a cafe was always Colm Keane’s dream. He eventually made the leap into the food industry and picked up invaluable experience along the way. Following a chance encounter with John Mahon – co-owner of The Circular, where Daddy’s Cafe operates morning to afternoon during the week – who was looking for someone to set up a cafe in the same building to ensure that the space would accommodate the local community throughout the day, Keane was finally able to realise his dream. Soon after, Daddy’s opened its doors in December 2019.

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Catering to the community has always been a crucial component of Daddy’s ethos. Daddy’s has fast become an integral part of the Rialto neighbourhood. In the three years since commencing service, the team have developed strong relationships with their customers, as Keane told The Journal.

“We appreciate every customer that walks through the doors of the café, but the locals have our heart. Throughout the last three years, we’ve gotten to know the people around us, and watched some of them fall in love, get married, and have babies that have grown into toddlers. It’s that gorgeous part of having a business that is the fabric of the community. We definitely feel very lucky!” 

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As well as providing a place for locals to stop by for a toasted ham and cheese sandwich or coffee on the go, offering a welcoming space for everyone is important for Keane, and one of the most rewarding aspects of running the cafe. “One of my favourite things about running the café is how casually queer it is. Growing up in Kildare, queer spaces were few and far between. The café here is for everyone from every walk of life, and I love that. As well as that it’s great craic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very stressful running a small business – but the craic you have with customers, the team, the suppliers and all that – it beats anything else I could think of doing!”

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Since childhood, food has played an important and influential role in Keane’s life. Given his early associations with food and its ability to bring people together, it’s no wonder he aspired to open a cafe.

“I always loved how food brought our family together. Raising five kids was a busy challenge for my parents, which, to me, they did quite seamlessly – although I’d say they were stressed out of their minds. Dinner times were always important. Everyone together at the table, no excuses, talking about their day. And the breakfast at the weekends was ritualistic. The grill and frying pan are quite full when you are feeding seven people total – so we learned from a young age the skill of getting everything on the table hot.” 

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These early memories of family mealtimes instilled a sense of ritual and sharing conversation and food in good company. Bringing that warmth and familiarity to Daddy’s – from the atmosphere to the flavours in each dish – was essential to Keane. “There’s space for every type of café. Everything has relevance and a space to exist and the customers that want it. For me, it was the hearty, generous, cosy cooking you get from people you love or that you make for yourself when you’re exhausted or when you’re relaxed. I like traditional things that spark food memories for me – like mashed egg in a cup on our menu.”

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As well as serving up dishes that evoke memories of the lunches or dinners you’d enjoy throughout childhood, the quality and origins of the fresh produce used in Daddy’s food are equally important and carefully sourced. “Where the actual produce comes from also means a lot to me,” Keane says. “Ireland produces some of the best quality food in the world, and the ingredients we use in Daddy’s are an effort to showcase that.”

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This extends into how the culinary team at Daddy’s create their delicious and inventive specials. Their Instagram is a feast for the eyes with kaleidoscopic sandwich fillings, mouthwatering cakes and boldly hued soups. Each item on their menu, as well as being exceptionally appetising, is extremely artful.

Keane describes the process of developing these impressive dishes: “We like to keep a few rules at the heart of our specials. Seasonal or occasional produce, texture and colour. Nutrition is also a big part and of course, flavour! We normally don’t do too many trials. We’re happy to put something together and give it a go and see what the customers say. Thankfully it almost always lands in the delicious category. I did try to do something with Dandelion leaves before that was vile.” 

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Given the level of inventiveness the Daddy’s team brings to traditional recipes and meals, what does Keane have in store for customers this festive season with their specials? “I adore all the flavours of Christmas, who doesn’t!? At Daddy’s, our annual Festive Sandwich is Spiced Beef with Brussel Sprout, Horseradish and Cranberry Slaw. I like traditions and that’s become our staple. I adore stuffing and cranberry sauce and lots of woody herbs. And ham. But ham is an everyday obsession for me.”

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When Colm Keane isn’t behind the counter serving customers and ensuring the best dining experience in Daddy’s, we asked him how and where he likes to spend his free time.


Down the Local: “I love Walsh’s and The Glimmerman in Stoneybatter and The Magnet on Thomas St. I’d happily sit in any of them for a solo drink or swing out of the bar stools with a gang of pals. They’re great pubs to have a pint for any and all occasions.”

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Dream Night Out: “Dinner with my pals in Piglet Wine Bar on Cow’s Lane. They nail the restaurant experience for me. Relaxed, delicious, boozy. Then on for a night of dancing at Mother Club to get sweaty!”

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Morning off Ritual: Slice in Stoneybatter for brilliant eggs and a chat with Ray, Jack and the team there. They’re brilliant and were always a big inspiration to me as well. I walk around Phoenix Park most days; I love the park. I annoy my friends with little facts about it every time we walk around it. ‘Did you know the Wellington Monument is the tallest obelisk in Europe!?’ Etc etc…”

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Hidden Gem: “Lilith Wines in Stoneybatter on Prussia St. is a new addition to that neighbourhood and I love going in. I’m an easy sell though – bubbly rosé. Yes, please. Anything by Whiplash brewery; I’ll take 10. Delicious booze!”

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Weekend Getaway: “I like going west to Galway to see my childhood friend Ciarán and his wife and kids. He lives in Spiddal, so we’ll usually pop to Builín Blasta or Pota Café for a coffee and a bite. Jess and Dave from Kai are good pals and I feel like everyone who heads West would want to make sure they pass their door – one of the best restaurants in the country.

I have pals in Westport and we climb the Reek if I’m out West. Corley’s of Ballintubber is one of my favourite places to visit out that direction. Their dinners, the roast beef especially, are legendary there. That whole part of the country has strong links to our pagan past – things like the Boheh Stone and Church Island. I’m a witchy kind of person so all that history is right up my street.

If you want to get away to somewhere serene, I can’t recommend the little islands off the coast enough – Inishturk and Inis Oirr in particular. Great hikes, great B&Bs, great Guinness, great swims and great locals. Go!”

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