This Middle-Eastern Restaurant With A Twist Is A Tasty Spot In The Heart Of Rathmines
"I'd happily eat that roast cauliflower for the rest of my life"
Moving with the trends is vital when it comes to a restaurant making it in such a small city as Dublin, so it came as no surprise that the clever Joe Macken (of Jo'Burger and Crackbird fame) quietly transformed the Rathmines Jo'Burger into a brand spankin' new eatery before Christmas.
With Rathmines already chockablock of burger joints, the introduction of a casual yet trendy Middle Eastern "all-day canteen" was a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.
Hey Donna is Jo'Burger and Crackbird style craic all grown up - think trendy hipster who suddenly has a real job and semi-responabilities.
Taking influence from Dublin to Sydney by way of Beirut, Hey Donna is a whip-smart blend of sharing plates and carefully curated interior design that will have you planning your next visit before you've even left.
What's the vibes?
Despite the long white canteen-style tables and a glass front, Hey Donna on a particularly cold Monday evening was just as cosy as a traditional pub.
Chic touches of coffee table cookery books oh-so-casually leaned against the wall, neon lighting and jars of home pickled "hot stuff" chilli peppers scream of an Instagram influence without feeling forced.
An enthusiastic waiter explained the concept of the menu to us (small and large plates all to share, dips aplenty and pitta breads) and filled in any of the knowledge gaps I had about some of the more unusual options.
Green chilli zhug? 'Just like chimichurri', I was told. Grand, so.
What's on the menu?
It’s all about freshness and flavour, with vegetables earning centre stage with Moorish and Middle Eastern influences. Grilled meats, from garlic sausage to bavette, and a range of sauces and veggie sides round out the feast.
A very tasty bottle of White Hag Pils got the mouth watering, as did a house-made pomegranate & lime lemonade that I stole way too many sips of for my boyfriend's liking. We ordered a portion of mushrooms to start, which arrived chilled and meaty, dripping in a tangy passata-like sauce.
From the 'garden' section we chose the butter leaf lettuce with whipped avocado, NY nut & seed crumb - the only misjudged choice of the evening that would have been much nicer on a balmy summer afternoon.
The whipped avocado was spread under layers of the leaves and the nut crumb added some welcome texture, but we both agreed it wasn't a stand-out dish.
What were the star attractions however, were the grilled cauliflower and grilled lamb chops (grilling is clearly the way to go for 2018, yo).
The Berber spiced lambs chops were served 'family style' on a single plate with warm pitta bread and a sweetly pickled red onion and we were soon digging in with hands and fingers, pulling the last bits of tender meat from the bone.
A roast cauliflower with cashew, spiced butter and rich roast pepper with juicy pomegranate seeds scattered around the plate was hands down my favourite side dish I've ever ordered in a restaurant.
Chargrilled on the edges and perfectly crunchy, it would be enough to convince any hardcore carnivore that veggies are just as - if not more - exciting than meat.
A cashew butter added a creamy softness and the pop of an odd pomegranate seed lifted it even higher.
We smeared a peanut Rayu dip (much like the beloved White Masau one) over everything we could find, while that chilli zhug I mentioned earlier was superb with the lamb chops.
What's the damage?
Hey Donna has just what's needed on a miserable winter's night: fairly priced grub, friendly staff and food to knock your socks off.
Now open from the crack of dawn (7am for the early birds), I'm looking forward to catching Hey Donna in the daytime soon. I'm already eyeing up their banana bread, with mascarpone, caramelised chill banana, grape molasses and toasted seeds.
"Mates, dates and yadda yadda?" It's a yasss yasss from me.