In January I was in Dublin for ten days. It was wonderful in totally new ways. Surprisingly, it was a visit totally devoid of music. I met some pretty great people, had some amazing cocktails, stayed out until 9am again, hung out with Graham and had lively conversations about music that left me confused and exhausted but with the feeling that I learned something new (what, I'm not sure), and I went to the Fumbally every single day. Thanks for the recommendation, Cormac. Everyone at the Fumbally was nice, and lovely Ger always brought over my lattes which were so very good. I kept count of how many I had during the trip. A thousand, that's how many. On the last day, I sat down with one of the owners, Luca, for a quick chat about the Fumbally and life.
I recorded my interview with the darling Luca and am trying to write down the exact words he said, without correcting anything. I wish you could listen to it but since that's not possible, may I recommend reading this interview in your head in the voice of a cheerful Italian man who has been smoking for a while. And he's wearing a really cool blue hat that I wanted. Here it goes.
Why don't you tell us a little about yourself...
Well you see this place is not made just by me but is made by two of us, so it's not at all just about me, but also Aisling... and all these amazing people who are working with us. We could have opened the nicest place in the world but if we didn't have the most incredible people working with us, it would have been a very, very, very plain place without character. So we try to surround ourselves with our friends. Obviously not all of them are working with us, but there's not a lot of professionals. In the kitchen we do not have chefs but just cooks. Cooks, because we love food so much and we wanted something completely different. We didn't want a kitchen where there is a head chef, like somebody giving orders, but more like a collaboration. So I guess that's why it came out so quirky with this lovely atmosphere...
Yeah! that is one of the first things I noticed. It feels very... family... I don't know, everyone is lovely.
Yeah... yeah... and we all hug each other when we arrive and there's this feeling that we love to get to work. Nobody works more than four days a week as well. It's a rule that took place from day one. The idea is that when you come over, you are very happy. And then there are a lot of people who are just one or two days here; they might be musician, they might be artist, they might have their own thing going on. So it's a nice, very lovely collective of people. So I wouldn't talk about me because I'm nothing in this project without them hahahahaha!
So who got the idea of opening up the Fumbally?
Me and Aisling, my business partner and friend. We met six years ago at the wedding of her sister and we thought to work toward opening something and just chatting... 'What do you want to open?' a falafel place. So we say 'Let's do it together', and since then we worked doing food in festivals. When the summer would finish we would go a little bit around the world, around Europe with what we did. We weren't paid a lot but we would travel and discover what other people were doing and street food... we love street food! So the idea was to go around and see other places, get ideas, chat with the owner and chat with the people, travel, and just try all the street food we could. And five years ago, a good idea that in one, two years we were going to open... – six or seven years ago now! and then it took us five years because, well, we couldn't find a place that was suiting us. We wanted to be in the city center, having a very small place... and then little by little we realized that we wanted something that creates a community base. People were not taking us seriously. So you would go to the city center and they would look at you, and they were not calling you back, not showing you premises, and things like that. We have an office – we organize the Dublin flea market as well. It is a market once a month. And we have our office here in the back and we could never find any place to go for lunch in the area so one day Aisling was in front of here and said "let's go to have a look in this place" and when we entered we were like 'wow'. This was an office space ten years ago and it was empty for eight years. So we entered and we were like 'Yeah this is it'.
About the decoration...
And we organize the flea market so we've been collecting for years. And we go to auctions to find very cheap things. So everything you see was bought at a flea market or auction. A friend of ours made some of the furniture. Nothing is made by an architect; there is no designer behind this. Just an idea that we wanted a lot of space. We just put less than fifty seats so when you enter you get this amazing feeling. We did talk to some architects and designers as friends. Some said 'Why don't you drop the ceiling a couple of meters?' but we thought 'Why would you drop the ceiling when you have all this space?'. The idea was very clear straight away. They were going more into the usual thing – like all the other places, all the furniture the same... but no, we wanted something completely our own style, our own little broken things, recycled flea market things. But the idea at first was to open something with only street food.
How did you put the menu together?
Obviously now it's not just street food. It moved into a big research of food, trying to develop new recipes, new ideas, and trying to give the best we can. We try to have very good product and sell it for cheap. We try to use most we can organic. If not organic, then local. These are the worst three months of the year, nobody grows anything. Then March we'll start to have a lot of product again.
We already ran a little cafe in a cooperative... The eggs that everyone loves that are the simplest thing in the world. We realized places that were doing brunch were only doing it Saturday and Sunday, so we really wanted a place where you can go all week. Very simple but very nice eggs fried on a toast - that was the base. Then we wanted one sandwich to be everyday and we love porchetta so we developed our own porchetta that is between Irish and Italian. Pulled pork with the flavor of porchetta. And falafel, obviously, because we wanted to open a falafel place. Then, what else is always in the menu... the avocado! another very simple vegan food. Rustic bread with the best avocado you can find with a bit of tomato and olive oil. The basic menu is based on simplicity. And then we have two sandwiches of the day and two specials, that we change every day. And we tend to try to let our creativity just go a little bit wild. We try to find new flavors and new recipes.
We bought the very old building next door - and we will be paying for the next fifty years! We wanted to have a space where we can play even more with food. So there will be a yoga studio, a residency, just a room with a bed and a desk, where we will invite artists, foodies, and colorful people to stay with us for two weeks and work on some projects. Together we can develop ideas and share knowledge. There's a lot for artists, but not a lot for food and coffee people, so we decided to do it. Also a bread kitchen for The Fumbally so we could maybe start opening at night time.