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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Deals on meals

One of the silver linings of the recession is the reduced price of dining out. In the struggle to stay afloat, restaurants have slashed prices and drawn up all manner of deals to entice customers. Look around and you'll find that many restaurants are serving up nutritious, delicious fare at fast-food prices. It made us wonder: could a single person eat out for roughly the same price as eating in? On €100. Granted, it's slightly more than the weekly grocery bill for the average person, but eating out saves precious time.

No more deal-hunting in the aisles of Aldi, no more complicated recipes or dish washing. No more lunch breaks with only your computer screen for company.

It wasn't easy. There were coupons to cut out, friends to rope in and specific dining times to follow. Fancier restaurants were eschewed, as were starters and desserts (I didn't want to follow the same path as Morgan Spurlock). Alcohol was also vetoed and the query of "still or sparkling?" was answered with "just tap".

With luxuries abandoned, and insider knowledge on side, the challenge was very achievable. Food blog cheapeats.ie was the guiding star. The blog is edited by a team of foodies who search out the best-value food deals in Dublin and beyond. Their on-the-ground knowledge is second to none. A visit to the 'restaurant offers' section provided me with plenty of budget eating inspiration. Bookmark it now.

Monday

>breakfast Coffee, @ Subway €1 and bacon sandwich @ Centra, Dame Street, €1.

>lunch Spinach, feta and sundried tomato quiche served with salad @ Lolly & Cooks at the South William, South William Street, €5.50.

>dinner Thai red chicken curry and rice @ Sushi King (received a third off by downloading the online discount voucher at sushiking.ie), €5.20.

Total €12.70

aside from the calorie-laden brekkie (cuts have to be made somewhere), I manage to source nutritious food while keeping within budget. Cult cupcake makers Lolly & Cooks have expanded their operation from the popular stall in George's Street Arcade to the South William, where their homely fare has replaced the pie menu. The homemade quiche portion is decent and the filling tasty. Dinner is at Sushi King, a sushi-to-go restaurant that has quickly cornered the lunchtime market by offering exceptional food at keen prices. The Dawson Street branch has an ambient eating area and is open until 9pm, Monday to Wednesday; 11pm, Thursday to Saturday and 7pm, Sunday. The Thai red curry is as good as any upmarket Thai restaurant offering.

Tuesday

>breakfast Croissant & Cappuccino offer @ L'Officina, Dundrum Town Centre, €3.50.

>lunch Vegetable Firecracker Rice, €3 and unlimited miso soup, €2 @ YO! Sushi, Dundrum Town Centre (receive a third off total price between 3pm and 6pm, Monday to Friday). Total: €3.33.

>dinner Calabrese pizza @ Milano, €7.50.

Total €14.33

l'officina is owned by Italian restaurateurs Dunne & Crescenzi. While it's popular for lunch and dinner, it tends to get overlooked as a breakfast destination. A shame, because with authentic Italian cuisine, al fresco dining and keen prices, it's easily one of the best breakfast restaurants in Dundrum Town Centre. I went for the croissant and cappuccino offer. Otherwise, their Parma ham, mozzarella and rocket salad panino (€8) is one of the best in Dublin. I plump for a late lunch to avail of YO! Sushi's third-off offer. The rice dish is flavoursome and filling and the unlimited (that's four bowls for me, thank you) miso soup goes some way to meeting the five-a-day tally. I source a very tasty offer at Milano for dinner. They are offering any two main courses for €15. By dining à deux, I get a Calabrese pizza -- sausage, roquito peppers, fresh green chillies and spicy soft nduja sausage -- normally priced at €15.95 for €7.50. The offer ends today, but they are replacing it with a €15 set menu deal which runs until the end of the month. See milanooffers.ie for more.

Wednesday

>breakfast Homemade porridge with honey @ Café Sol, Clare Street, €2.

>lunch Edam & ricotta ravioli, with asparagus and lemon emulsion @ Fallon & Byrne, €7.

>dinner Gourmet cheese burger and fries (shared) @ Gourmet Burger Company, Ranelagh, €6.75 (with two-for-one voucher).

Total €15.75

café sol has been rolling out the recession deals. I plump for porridge but they also offer a pastry and any hot drink for €3.50. Lunch was at Fallon & Byrne. Too much pasta at lunchtime can induce a siesta, so I opt for the smaller dish of ravioli for €7. Large dishes cost €12. Portions can be smaller where good produce is used, so this size is just perfect. For dinner, it's the two-for-one burger offer at Gourmet Burger Company. I sit down to a 100% organic cheese burger, towering with toppings, and hand-cut French fries which I share with my dining partner. Email info@gourmetburgercompany.ie to receive your voucher.

Thursday

>breakfast Muffin or cupcake and any hot drink offer @ Insomnia Coffee (Dublin-wide), €3.50.

>lunch Pepperoni pizza slice @ Alponte Café, Duke Street, €3.

>dinner Bangers & Mash @ Gruel (half price) €7.50 (from 3pm-6pm).

Total €14

the breakfast offer at Insomnia is excellent. Their coffee servings are huge and the muffins and cupcakes, substantial. Add to that a free 30-minute Wi-Fi voucher. €3 bought me a sizable portion of pepperoni pizza with side salad. Alponte also offers a 12-inch pizza with glass of wine or beer for €10.95. And so to dinner. You can't report on good-value food in Dublin without paying a visit to Gruel. Kudos to the Dame Street eatery for introducing realistic food prices during the excesses of the Celtic Tiger. Between 3pm and 6pm any main course is half price. I opt for the bangers and mash: creamy potatoes, good-sized gourmet sausages and a tart red-onion jam. It's excellent. Quality produce at keen prices has been the guiding ethos at Gruel since its inception. According to chef, Siobhan: "We don't sell anything we don't make on the premises. Even our bread is homemade. We are all about using the best produce at the best prices."

Friday

>breakfast Bacon sandwich @ Centra, €1.

>lunch Spicy lentil soup and bread @ Nelly's, 12 South Circular Road, €4.

>dinner Chicken and chorizo stew, €8.75 @ Nude

Total €13.75

another centra bacon sandwich for breakfast -- I'm growing particularly fond of them. Lunch is at the newly opened Nelly's, a café and gourmet parlour in Dublin 8. The menu is well considered and the prices low for the standard of food on offer. A grilled ciabatta with chorizo, brie and caramelised onion is just €5. Dinner is a hearty chicken and chorizo stew at Nude, served in a bread bowl or with mash.

Saturday

>breakfast Breakfast smoothie @ Nude, Suffolk Street, €4.10.

>lunch Beefy Barbacoa burrito @ Pablo Picante, Baggot Street, €5.95.

>dinner Beef curry @ Kokoro, Liffey Street, €5.45.

Total €14.55

in a bid to offset the damage of the bacon sarnies, I visit Nude for a breakfast smoothie: a delicious swirl of banana, honey, muesli, frozen yoghurt and low-fat milk. Lunch is at the new burrito bar, Pablo Picante. I choose a Beefy Barbacoa: slow-cooked shredded rib-eye, refried beans, cilantro and lime rice, grated cheese and choice of salsa, all served in a soft, floury tortilla. It's a winner. It's over to sushi and bento restaurant, Kokoro, for dinner. The portion isn't huge, but it's enough to ward off hunger pangs.

Sunday

>brunch Huevos rancheros: corn tortillas, fried eggs, salsa, guacamole and home fries @ Odessa, €10

>dinner Recession meal @ Burger King, €3.50.

Total €13.50

i don't surface until 11.30am thanks to the excesses of the night before. All I want is water, Solpadeine and stodge. The huevos rancheros on the brunch menu at Odessa satisfies the latter. I opt out of the pitcher of Bloody Mary (deceptively good value at €40). A siesta follows before a traditional Sunday dinner: Burger King. The Whopper has to be passed over in favour of the recession special: a double cheeseburger with a small fries and small drink for €3.50.

Grand Total €98.58

NOTE: These prices do not include gratuities. HQ

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