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Fairmental review: It’s not often you get food this good at this price in D4

Delicious meals with the added bonus the food is good for your health

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Address: 10 Grand Canal Street Upper, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, D04 H6K7
Telephone: N/A
Cuisine: Modern International
Cost: €€

Noma is a restaurant that has left a lasting legacy, not just as the “world’s best restaurant”, an accolade it won five times at the World’s 50 Best awards, but for the continuous stream of chefs who have passed through René Redzepi’s kitchen and spread what has amounted to the doctrine of the “new Nordic cuisine” to just about every corner of the globe. An ingrained appreciation of the seasons, foraging, fermenting, preserving, pickling and a sense of curiosity are the hallmarks of the alumni.

Valentin Ivancenco may have worked in Noma, but his experience of ferments dates from considerably earlier than his days there. Fermentation is a big part of the culture in Romania, where he grew up, eating fermented foods as part of his family’s everyday meals. Having worked as a chef for more than 20 years, in The Hand & Flowers in Marlow in the UK, Goh in Fukuoka in Japan, and Forest and Marcy, Charlotte Quay and Ely wine bar in Dublin, it was the Covid lockdowns that reconnected him and his wife, Mihaela, with their roots.

Like so many chefs, he was out of a job during this period, and set up Fairmental, a fermentation concept. Word spread via Instagram and friends, family and the local community supported the couple by buying jars of ferments from them. Soon they were being stocked in select grocers and retailers and being used as an ingredient by restaurants. In February 2023 they opened Fairmental cafe, on Grand Canal Street in Dublin 4, which they call a lab and deli. They serve coffee, breakfast and lunch, either dine-in or take away, and have all of their ferments on sale, which include kombucha, kefir, spicy kraut, hot sauce and pickles.

It is a smart cafe with outside tables and two long, shared tables inside. Red chillies, strung like beads, hang in the window. A fridge filled with jars of colourful ferments is the first thing you’ll notice, with a selection of bottles on top. It’s the hot sauce museum, he jokes. All of the hot sauces are on the table so that you can spice up your food as you please, and it is a neat “try before you buy” approach, because you will definitely want to buy some.


Orders are placed at the open kitchen, where two induction hobs, an oven, a rice cooker and a grill toaster are the sum of the cooking equipment. Florin, Ivancenco’s brother, works with him there. The handwritten menu includes chia seed and kefir pudding, 48-hour fermented oats and scrambled eggs for breakfast; and for lunch there is a rice bowl, wraps and bone broth with ramen.

At Fairmental, there’s no bearded dude with an air of “I’m genuinely saving the world”

The heart-warming bone broth (€14) arrives in a beautiful bowl, filled with chewy ramen, seaweed and a deliciously fudgy tamago egg that tastes like it has been cured in ponzu. There are generous chunks of Ring’s Farm organic chicken and the rayu adds a textural crunch from the peanuts. Chopsticks are on the table, as well as wooden soup spoons, which are rather lovely.

The rice bowl (€14) is equally impressive. Available with chicken, salmon or vegan, we have gone for the vegan option. The rice on the bottom is hot and is loaded with a mix of leaves, kraut, pickles, courgette, vegetable caponata, tofu and rayu. It is incredibly tasty, and even better when some of the hot sauce is added.

To drink, we have the raspberry, hibiscus and cayenne kombucha (€3.90). It is so good, I pick up a bottle on the way out.

On Saturdays, there is a brunch menu, so I pop back to try it again and there is the same feeling about the place, the neighbourhood buzz of people dropping in for coffee and a short, simple menu. The bap with a perfectly fried egg (€11), comes with pastrami, Emmental, house-made labneh, spicy kraut and vegetable caponata.

The cultured potato hash (€12) is a substantial bowl with two poached eggs dolloped with kvass crème fraîche and dusted with sesame seeds, sitting on top of baby potatoes, pickled carrots, chopped scallions and salad leaves. A cup of tea (€2.70) is all we need to wash it down.

At Fairmental, there’s none of that hipster energy you sometimes get around anything that involves lacto-fermentation, no bearded dude with an air of “I’m genuinely saving the world”. It’s just the sort of place you wish was down the road from you. And the fact that the food is good for your gut is an added bonus.

Lunch and brunch for two was €64.20.

THE VERDICT It’s not often you get food this good at this price.

Music Who Made Who and indie rock.

Food provenance Ring’s Farm, Salters’ free-range pork, McNally vegetables and leaves, Annies, Caterway.

Vegetarian options Rice bowl (vegan), wraps, breakfast eggs with rayu, porridge, ferments

Wheelchair access Fully accessible, with accessible toilet.

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly restaurant column