Feb 28, 2024

A Luscious Valentine’s Day Lunch at the Buttery

Ella Parry asks whether it is possible to romanticise the most disparaged lunch locus on campus

Ella ParryFood and Drink Editor
Ivan Rakhmanin for The University Times

It is a truth universally acknowledged that those without partners must spoil themselves on Valentine’s Day. We’re taught that this is the epitome of self-empowerment. You cannot expect other people to treat you in a more loving way than you treat yourself! For this reason, I decided to take myself on a solo date on February 14th. I pondered long and hard on the perfect location. Then it came to me: a luscious lunch at the Buttery! I thought I would share the experience with my esteemed readers.

On a slightly more serious note, the research (purchasing and eating food) for this piece was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I thought this article was a great idea when I first pitched it. However, my enthusiasm declined exponentially once I realised it would actually require me to eat lunch by myself in the Buttery on Valentine’s Day. Of course, I could (and, let’s face it, maybe should) have lied and taken someone with me. However, I pride myself on my journalistic integrity. Also, surprisingly, nobody wanted to spend that particular lunchtime in the Buttery. I had rarely been more scared of being perceived than during that lunchtime. But then, Valentine’s Day isn’t Valentine’s Day without some form of public humiliation. And what is more humiliating than being charged extra for ketchup and butter? 

I know what you will say: It’s a canteen! Comparing it to a restaurant is unfair. Well, I am more than happy to treat the Buttery as a university canteen when its prices reflect that. Given that some of its mains currently cost more than €10, you’ll excuse my French.


So, on January 14th I rock up to the spot. The open-minded individual that I am I could not wait for this experience. The Buttery is unlike any other restaurant I have been to, not being afraid to break social conventions when it comes to meals. They aren’t just selling you a meal, they (that is Big Buttery) are selling you an experience. The Buttery takes its own spin on the eating experience through self-service. You carry your food on a chic plastic tray. Is it blue? Is it green? Who knows! The day’s meal choices are presented on plates, thus replacing menus. Simply ingenious! The next part of the experience is the intense hunt for a place to sit and eat. What fun! Some academics (me) hypothesise that this is where Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for The Hunger Games. 

Next, I would like to discuss the Buttery’s atmosphere and interior design. It is apparent to me that those in charge read my opinion piece from the last issue on how important mindful eating is, urging people not to distract themselves and their senses during meal times. The Buttery’s interior caters to this resolution. It is so thoughtful to design a common eating space in a way that creates zero visual distraction.  

For my lunch, I chose a carrot and ginger soup accompanied by a carrot cake. After extensive analysis, I believe this curious carrot theme to be an impulse given by my skin in a feeble attempt to gain a little colour. The soup was nice and, at under three euros, sufficiently lush for this lunch. 

While the soup was perfectly lovely (especially considering the price!), the carrot cake sent me spiralling. For PR reasons, I only had the soup in the Buttery and brought the cake to my next lecture. The presentation was interesting. For best taste preservation, the carrot cake is served in cling film. I remember really enjoying this particular cake back in first year. Now, I don’t know what has changed in these last two years but something has. Either my tastebuds did a 180 or someone downgraded that frosting to a criminal extent. At this point, I’d like to thank my dear friend Rachel for consoling me in my time of need. Cake-gate was followed by a two-hour Political Violence lecture so my grievances were somewhat put into perspective. Nevertheless, please bring back the old frosting!!

I would like to leave you with my two main takeaways from this experience: When it comes to on-campus lunch, trinners really are winners. And, after this humbling Valentine’s Day experience, I have never been more motivated to find a boyfriend.

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