The word ‘eclectic’ springs to mind when looking at the range of businesses on Dublin’s Capel Street.
You can buy mattresses, drink in a gay bar, enjoy a 7D cinema, have wonderful Middle Eastern food, and then visit one of several sex shops without taking more than 100 steps (great way to kill an afternoon, by the way).
It’s a street of contrasts. Where a trendy craft beer bar sits comfortably beside the early house where many of us have had a fine rollover or two. A street where hip millennials shuffle alongside fruit packers finishing their shifts.
For me Capel Street is the most ‘Dublin’ of all the streets and a large part of that comes from the multicultural influences that have enriched our city.
You’d struggle to just stumble upon Hilan, because they’ve no website, no social media presence, and they don’t even do a great job of marketing themselves outside their own door. Glossy photos of the food and poorly spelled menus are not usually the best sign.
As I stepped in, the canteen style room was packed. Happy faces were slurping up bowls of noodles, soups and other dishes that looked otherworldly. A good sign I thought.
I started with the salt and pepper chicken wings. They were superbly tasty, in that wickedly bad way where you know the batter and the fat within them is shaving a year off your life, but you still don’t care.
Half the menu is in Korean and I could see the waiter enjoying my bewildered look as I thumbed through the pages looking for something vaguely familiar.
I went for the pork and kimchee soup. It came boiling hot and bubbling up like a witches cauldron. I’m not going to pretend it looked nice but it did taste absolutely gorgeous.
It even included delicious tasting tofu, which is about as common as non-corrupt politician.
My main reason for getting addicted to Korean food are the health benefits. Ignoring the chicken wings starter (which was for review purposes, of course) the main was packed with cabbage, spring onions and all sorts of other goodness. For under a tenner including rice, it’s a steal.
As I left the place I breathed in fresh Dublin air and looked at the people scurrying by me. An older couple coming out of the sex shop giggling like teenagers, an old dub cursing the smoking ban outside a pub, a delivery man carrying octopus into an Asian restaurant, and lads in tight shirts showing the muscles heading on a night out.
The street has an edge to it, but for me it’s the real Dublin and Hilan sits perfectly at the centre of it.
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