Okay, I’m going to start by addressing the elephant in the room: I know Bray isn’t in Dublin.
What’s more, I know this not because I can read maps, or because I checked it on the internet – but because I’m from there. And when you’re from Bray, ‘not being from Dublin’ becomes a very important part of your identity, in the way that Canadians are ‘not from the States’ or indeed Irish people are ‘not from the UK’.
The problem with defining yourself by a negative, though, is that you can forget to carve out an identity of your own. And such was Bray’s problem for decades, as it subserviently cowered in the unwelcome shadow of the capital – but never really extended itself to create something to be truly proud of.
That all changed in the last few years, though, as the seafront blossomed into a veritable hub of excellent places to eat and drink – Platform Pizza, The Tower Bistro, The Porter House, Barracuda, Ocean – and Bray’s reputation as the day-trip capital of Ireland was given a second wind. This time, however, casual dining replaced slot machines and bumper cars as the seaside town’s selling point.
And yet, until very recently, its numerous qualities as a foodie haven seemed to only kick into action in the evening; breakfast options were largely limited to traditional greasy spoon fare, while the very idea of brunch was – much like Bray itself – completely outside the Pale.
Dockyard No 8 was something of a game-changer for the town in that sense. A café that not only served brunch, but led with it as a prime selling point; an much-discussed niche had finally been exploited, and the town’s offering became all the better for it.
Located down by the harbour – beside the famed Harbour Bar, and the gym where Katie Taylor trains – Dockyard is permanently steeped in the satisfying sounds of ropes clanging off metal boat masts, and of course the waves lapping against the pier. Suck it, Malahide; this is how you do maritime chic.
The interior is fairly cosy, with seating for about 20 inside, while the terrace outside has a similar capacity and is closed off to shelter punters from the sea air.
The menu offers an interesting selection of brunch options, but I opt for the standard-bearer of brunches all over Dublin (and its environs): the eggs benedict. My mother, meanwhile, opts for the more simple option of poached eggs with toast – it’s an off-menu order, but greeted graciously and kindly by the friendly waiter.
The ham hock eggs benedict are flavoursome, perfectly cooked and contain the perfect balance of sauce/runny yolks to bread. Unfortunately the poached eggs on the other plate are too vinegary – not only affecting the taste but also the texture – leaving the whites so pockmarked and powdery that my mum decides to send them back.
Thankfully, the request is greeted in kind, and the replacement eggs are absolutely nailed. Nobody wants to be that person who sends things back to the kitchen out of habit, but it’s good to know when you do, you’ll be responded to with such professionalism.
The dishes are colourful, the atmosphere is spot-on and the coffee is quite possibly the best in Bray; the morning’s been well spent, and it looks like Bray’s brunch dilemma is at an end.