The Picky Eater

by Gazette Reporter

PANINI, focaccia, baguette, ciabatta … Ever longed for an old-fashioned ham sandwich? With a plain coffee? At a reasonable price?
The Picky Eater was on a short lunch the other day and frantic for such simple fare. Everything from gourmet burgers to vegan salads was on offer – but a bit of bread and cheese?
Not a chance … until Picky reacquainted itself with Simon’s Place, on George’s Street. The cafe has thrived for 30 years, through recessions and in different guises at different locations but with much the same menu.
Owner Simon McWilliams still has customers from his first outlet, Marks Brothers, on South Anne Street. On our visit, it was jammed, but not uncomfortable.
A lot of those who pop in do so for a takeaway so, while the queue may be long, that doesn’t mean no chair when you’re ready to sit down.
Simon’s young student staff are really friendly and helpful, even if they do sometimes have difficulty understanding your order!
The tables are wide and wooden, with plenty of room for big plates and large mugs. The windows are huge, looking out onto both George’s Street and the arcade, yet the atmosphere is intimate and bookish.
The venue is tailor-made for readers: the walls are like the pages of a magazine, sporting posters of the latest films/shows on offer.
Early morning frequenters park themselves in cosy corners and pore over their books or papers with backs to the counter. In Simon’s Place, you can be in the thick of it, but quietly left alone.
And, when it comes to simplicity, this is a sandwich bar par excellence. Piles of egg, avocado, ham, chicken, tuna and cheddar sandwiches gaze up invitingly at the queue of hungry lunchers.
Couple your choice with the Simon’s staple – veg soup (soup of the day was courgette, on Picky’s visit) – and you’ll have enough carbs to get you through the toughest afternoon.
For those with more delicate appetites, there are salads to choose from: cauliflower and cheese; mixed salad; mushroom; pasta and kidney bean; and potato.
For the adventurous luncher, go for sandwich, soup, salad – and burst!
Sandwiches are priced about €4.90 each; salads €2.20 for a half portion; coffee at €2.40 and desserts from €2 to €2.50.
The Picky Eater – yet again – took the cheddar option, and wasn’t sorry. Soft, fresh bread, satisfying wedges of white cheese and just the right amount of greens.
A companion chose a plate of salads. Two half portions – one of cauliflower, the other mixed salad – were heaped onto a dinner plate and took a while to clear. “Delicious”, was the verdict.
With the calories doing the trick and bestowing an air of calm, dessert became an option. After all, every lunch should have one.
The companion opted for Simon’s signature cinnabun – a fragrant twist of cinnamon, pastry and sugar – while Picky went all out and devoured the baked berry cheesecake. Washed down with very large mugs of piping hot coffee, we were finally replete and ready to return to the office.
Yes, any good review should include a moan or two, but the Picky Eater, on this occasion, can only say to those about to head for Simon’s Place: bon appetit. You know you’ll enjoy it.

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