It’s not often I get to wander the streets of Dublin on a Monday morning, at my leisure, whilst the world hikes it into work to start the week. Having a Monday off is very good for the constitution, I should really do it more often. It’s funny how walking through Dublin knowing that the majority of people are in work casts a new light on the City. You notice things that you may not have seen before, the detail in the grand scheme of things. The cast iron shamrock of an old street lamp or the mosaic roof on the balcony of Bus Arras…
All these new observations had given me an appetite, and what better way to make a sneaky Monday off even better, than a late second breakfast. But where? I didn’t really fancy a full fry up, maybe just a bacon sandwich and good coffee, something like that to really put the shine on the day. I remembered rumblings of a sandwich shop on the North side, somewhere round Capel Street, that was supposed to be knocking out some tasty ‘sangers’ and excellent coffee. So I followed my nose.
I hit Capel Street, the exotic epicentre of the North side, passed the ever faithful Nealon’s and the ‘Adult’ boutiques, took a left down Mary’s Abbey, and spied a chalkboard on the pavement, radiating like a beacon with the words ‘Breakfast 8:30 – 11am.’ Once outside the window I read the old school foil lettering ‘Oxmantown’, noticed a few of the sandwiches written on the white tiled wall inside, such as ‘Grilled cheese,’ ‘Pulled Pork’, and ‘the Ruby’ – I was sold.
Oxmantown occupies a very modest street corner space, serving proper deli sandwiches, soups (e.g. Courgette with Parmesan and Basil), salads (e.g. Roast Jerusalem Artichoke, Kale, toasted hazelnuts and Parmesan), ‘Ox Pots’ (e.g. Toulouse Sausage and Puy Lentil), Brownies, cakes and top-notch coffee. The sandwiches read like all the best episodes of ‘Diners, Drive ins and Dives’ rolled into one – ‘Ham and cheese’: ham hock, grilled Gruyère, Bechamel, roast plum tomatoes, pickled onion on sourdough, or the ‘The Ruby’: Kanturk pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and horse-radish on Rye, and only €5.50 each! Inside is small, with a few stools around the windows, duck egg green walls, cool retro light fittings, a tiny kitchen, a shiny coffee machine behind a narrow counter and a white tiled wall adorned with Oxmantown’s five signature sandwiches.
However, when I looked at the breakfast menu, sitting on the counter there was only one thing I was ever going to have – Sausage sandwich of McCarthy’s free range artisan pork sausage. This was it, this sandwich was just about to turn my Monday up to 11! My co-diner was smitten too, so we ordered ‘deux’ sausage sandwiches and two black coffees, each with a dash of warm milk.
It wasn’t long before we were served our Monday morning treats, by a very pleasant member of staff. It was everything I had hoped for – thick tasty pork sausages that carried a sticky glaze, dressed with restraint in a sweet relish, crunchy thin slices of tangy gherkins, a hint of ailoi, a few peppery leaves of rocket, in between two thick slices of fluffy soft, fresh sourdough. The sausage was excellent quality with a good pork flavour, with just the right amount of condiments adding texture and hits of flavour, not so much that the sausage was getting lost. This sandwich was championing the sausage, whilst the blanket of sourdough goodness enveloped all the ingredients together in a mouthful of pure comfort and joy.
I’m sure there are people out there who would be somewhat perplexed at my hyperbole on such modest fare, and yes, it was just a sausage sandwich. But isn’t it such a revelation when you order food, and it delivers 100%, isn’t it so satisfying when you get exactly what was promised.
Oxmantown show that even the humble sausage sandwich can be elevated to something more than the sum of its parts. My co-diner and I sat devouring our food, sipping our delicious coffee, surveying the many faces of Dublin as they walked passed the window. Monday mornings never felt so good.
I would happily walk from one side of the City to the other for Oxmantown. For too long the South side has had the monopoly on the best sandwich in Dublin, namely the chicken sandwich in Juniors of Bath Avenue. Now the North side has a contender. Might I go so far as to say it could be the best sausage sandwich in Dublin? Easily, but next time I’m having the grilled three cheese sandwich. I implore you to get to Smithfield, do yourself a massive favour and get into Oxmantown as soon as you can. These guys are doing excellent simple food, cooked with passion, great attention to detail, and they’re mixing up the specials menu on a daily basis, with a different soup, salad, ‘Ox Pot’ or sandwich every day. But it really is all about the delights they’re creating between two thick slices of glorious sourdough bread.
16 Mary’s Abbey
t: 01 804 7030
Open Mon – Fri, 8:30 am – 4pm