Apr 5, 2022

Luncheonette: A Gallery Café Firmly in the Right Lane

You might go to the Hugh Lane Gallery for the art, but you’ll stay for the food.

Kate BurkeFood & Drink Editor
Photo by Kate Burke for The University Times

Luncheonette Dublin , previously located in National College of Art and Design (NCAD), has moved to a permanent location in the basement of the Hugh Lane Art Gallery off Parnell Square. This project blurs the line between art and food, calling into question what exactly makes the latter the former. Luncheonette was started in 2013 by Jennie Moran who was studying sculpture in NCAD at the time. When the college’s canteen was under threat of closure, Moran began taking it over for one day a week and before long, Luncheonette was born. The name ‘Luncheonette’ refers to the project’s adaptable nature as a concept that promises to morph to suit the context and place it finds itself in.

Having feasted our eyes on Sean Scully, Harry Clarke and Francis Bacon in the gallery, my friends and I excitedly went to the ground floor for another kind of feast. Luncheonette’s focus on the provision of comfort and nurture seeps into the design of the basement canteen. At the centre of the room is a large kitchen island unit where a banquet of cakes are on display. The staff buzzed around this island unit, as if it was a family kitchen at Christmastime.

Sat at a large round table to the side of the room, we happily absorbed the chatter and the “mmm”s floating from the surrounding tables (all of which were full). The lighting was warm and the space was decorated with dried flowers as the scent of Middle Eastern spices emanated from the kitchen, where Emily Duggan and Jennie Moran have been cheffing since the café opened last October.


Luncheonette’s menu is small and rotating, as well as being expertly curated and very well priced. On offer on that day was Mung Dahl with spinach and nutmeg, basmati rice and toasted coconut for only €5, a scamorza, caramelised fennel and capers toastie made with firehouse sourdough for €7 and sticky red rice with pink pickles and a pink egg for €9. I ordered the last portion of sticky red rice, as ever since my discovery of pink eggs at Table Wine late last year, I have been utterly devoted to them. They are the perfect balance between the sharpness of the pickle and the creaminess of the boiled egg – and they’re bright pink. I ate this delicious bowl of goodness with a pot of fresh mint tea and felt so nourished and happily full. My friends ordered a mix of the other dishes and raved about the scamorza toastie. This is no wonder, as it is one of the most delectable cheeses and melts beautifully.

The desserts on the large island unit had been eyeing me up since I took my seat and we got a few slices of the Guinness cake and the cherry tart to share. Unfortunately the blood orange, rosemary and almond cake was sold out but very prospect inspired me to recreate it at home (and while blood oranges are in season, I beseech you all to do the same).

It is a rare thing to have a gallery café serve such interesting and delicious food that diverges away from the holy trinity of the sandwich, soup and coffee but Luncheonette at the Hugh Lane has expertly filled this gap. I can’t think of many better things to do in Dublin than to immerse yourself in some of the world’s best art and afterwards chat about it, among other things, with some good friends.

Luncheonette at the Hugh Lane Art Gallery is open from 10am–4.30pm Tuesday to Saturday and 11am–4.30pm on Sundays.

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