There's several restaurants in Dublin that are firm favourites - solid choices for a nice meal out – yet sometimes forgotten in favour of newer, trendier spots.
One such place is the beloved Ananda in Dundrum. I say beloved, because anyone I know who's ever been comes back raving about it. Forgotten, because it rarely comes up in conversation when chatting about the hottest spots in Dublin.
Open since 2008, Ananda was originally set up by Atul Kochar, who was the first Indian chef to achieve a Michelin Star whilst working at Tamarind Restaurant in London.
With Atul no longer involved, the head chef nowadays is the very talented (and very young too, at only 25) Karan Mittel.
Tucked away in the side of Dundrum Town Centre, Ananda is the exact opposite of what you'd expect to find in a bustling shopping centre: peaceful, stylish and boasting truly fab food.
What's the vibes?
Having recently moved to Dundrum I made it a mission to get to Ananda sooner rather than later. A sunny evening midweek provided just the excuse to check out their Early Bird menu and stroll down for a feed.
Up, up, up four flights of stairs and you enter a vibrant room that feels like a cocoon. Water-lily chandeliers hang from the ceiling, rich cerise and lime colours transport you to the hottest parts of India.
We're greeted with a cheerful 'Namaste' and even though it's 15 minutes since the Early Bird menu finished, the sound staff say it's no problem to still order from it.
What's on the menu?
What's not on the menu? Ananda accomplishes the feat of showcasing a range of dishes from India's various subcontinents without it feeling like a stretch.
Rich, meat-based foods of the North play a part as does vegetarian cuisine and coconut-based fish curries of Goa and Kerala.
The Early Bird menu (which we luckily went with) runs from 5.30-7.30pm Monday-Thursday and 5.30-6.30pm on Friday and Saturday. €28 for two courses, you can't go wrong with this.
Snacks of poppadom strips with chutneys and yoghurt are brought to the table while you order, and a tempting menu of cocktails had me wishing it was the weekend.
We went for one starter of panfried potato galettes with spiced lentil, pea, raisin and tamarind and another of fried tiger prawns with cucumber yoghurt and chilli garlic.
The soft potato cakes were perfect pillows stuffed with the peas and raisin, scooped into mouths in seconds. Prawns were fresh and the cucumber yoghurt nice 'n chunky.
Mains of a Goan seafood curry and a tender Old Delhi style chicken tikka were packed with flavour
Bellies half full but still excited for more, mains arrived as we sipped from two pints of Cobra beer (sure it's almost the weekend, right?). A seafood curry cooked in the coastal style of Goa was bursting with spicy coconut. Grilled seabass, mussels and juicy prawns made up the package.
My boyfriend is a man of simple pleasures and can never resist a Tikka Masala, whether it's 3am from a local takeaway or 7.30pm in our new local fave. Yes, that's right Ananda, you're our new go-to in Dundrum.
His Old Delhi style dish came with a rich masala sauce and a chunk of chicken cooked on the bone, flowing with juices and oh-so tender.
All mains are served with light as air plain naan bread and a colourful pulao rice.
What's the damage?
As far as food this amazing goes, it's pretty gentle on the ol' wallet. Two starters and two mains from the Early Bird with two Cobra beers comes to €66.00.
Desserts were extremely tempting, and I'm already regretting not ordering the raspberry sorbet with white chocolate ice cream and a cardamom yoghurt.
I'll be sure to save room next time... And the next, and the next, because knowing this restaurant is a mere 10 minute walk from my home will make it too difficult to stay away for long.
A quick Google after dinner tells me that 'ananda' means bliss. It makes perfect sense. Walking down the stairs after dinner I felt like I'd travelled much further than just outside my front door, and that's what the best restaurants achieve effortlessly.
Arrive here hungry, leave in a state of pure happiness. Namaste to that.