We moved to Ireland in 2005, after many years spent in Italy, where Owen was an Export Director for an Italian espresso coffee roasting company. The coffee bar scene was already well saturated in Dublin, but we felt something basic was still missing – the high quality, artisan products that populate the bakeries and “patisserie” in Italy. We felt we could bring something of a different calibre by making the effort of setting up an artisan bakery attached to the coffee bar, so that our customers could enjoy top class baked goods and artistic creations. The business scene was daunting, rent prices outrageous. We were at the “peak of the tail” of the tiger and it wasn’t a good place to be…but we didn’t know that…
How has the area changed since you opened your doors?
Grand Canal area was a building site. Cranes and dust, empty spaces. New buildings taking shape beside derelict ones. Every new urban area that is born is a bet – it can be a success or a missed opportunity. After two years of limbo, Grand Canal South has become one of the most vibrant, gracious and well lived-in areas in Dublin. With two new theatres, tourist amenities and a hub of IT firms, it’s the most international cluster in the capital.
On an average day in the café, what can people expect? Is everything baked in-house?
Yes, and when we say “baked in house” it means that the products are actually made downstairs, from scratch, not just placed in an oven after a van has delivered partially baked goods. You often see signs around of ‘freshly baked’ or ‘bakery’ when you know that nothing the likes of the a true ‘bakery’ happens there. We find these signs misleading for the public. On an average day, we have over 50 breads, pastries and cakes specialties rotating in the counter. Our only limitation is the space!
Describe a day in the life of the bakery downstairs.
Well, we should describe 24 hours as the bakery is always in operation. At around 9pm the bakers take up their shift and start working at the breads batches. If you happen to pass by at 3am you will be engulfed in the lovely aroma of loaves being baked. By 5am the delivers start going out. We deliver to over 40 places in town. By 6am the pastry chef team arrive and start actioning the cake orders, for the counter and for the fridge. A specialty we are particularly proud of are the croissants and alll the viennoiseries, a French piece de resistance that is quite difficult to get right. Our croissant are laminated and hand rolled 24 times and are very appreciated by our discerning customers. There really isn’t a dull moment.
If you had to choose, what would be your Desert Island Baked Good?
Artisan breads with their texture, aroma, and crunchiness are the beginning and the end to each of my days and I could not do without them. So, I would bring the stoneground bread to my island. As for cakes, I swing from the airy and delightful Pain Brioche, without which I can not declare a Sunday officially open (together with the SBP_ and for the winter glooms I aim straight for the unsurpassed chocolate fondant, an explosion of high quality dark chocolate in your mouth that brings you to heaven.
What are some of your favourite bakeries in and around the city centre?
We love and appreciate all of the (few!) artisan bakeries in Dublin. They should be supported by their local community. Artisan bakeries have chosen to do an incredibly hard work to offer ‘real food’ and nourishment. I would even go so far as saying that there is no excuse, nowadays, for not being informed and not making choices. Our choices determine the society we live in.
Il Valentino is a family business. How does that impact the way you do business?
When you run a family business, it’s hard to say ‘stop’ and protect family time. You have to work 7/7 but, as far as I am concerned, I don’t have a problem doing that. Somebody once said “Why would you want to live a balanced life? I like being obsessed with what I’m doing!” At the end of the day, it’s just another way of spending time together, which we love.
Keep an eye out for Il Valentino’s seasonally themed weekends, when they’ll be picking their favourite seasonal ingredients from autumn to winter and highlighting them in their baked goods. Up-coming themes include honey, chocolate, chestnuts and pumpkins.
Il Valentino Bakery & Café
5 Gallery Quay
Grand Canal Harbour
By Valentina Doorley
This is a very popular, as well as ancient, home baked cake enjoyed by Italian families. Based on a rich and crumbly short crust pastry it gets traditionally topped with end of summer fruits jams: strawberry jam, raspberry, figs. It truly gives its best when coupled with blackberry jam, because of their mellow, rounded taste.
At Il Valentino we like proposing the Crostata in long trays, cut by the slice.
The shortcrust is laid out in a round mould, then spreadover with a layer of jam. It is essential to use the right quantity of jam, not too much or too little. A thin layer of 3 mm would be perfect. Then a pattern of pastry strips is placed on to, creating a net effect.Ingredients :
- 260 gr Butter
- 330 gr flour
- 130 gr caster sugar
- 2 eggs yolks
- 1 lemon zest
- Pinch of salt
- Place the flour, the pinch of salt, the butter ( cool but not cold) in the mixer and mix well. Next add the grated zest of one lemon, the two eggs yolks and the sugar. Mix again.
- The dough should appear compact and quite dense. Form a ball with your hands, wrap in film and place in the fridge for 1 hour.
- Remove the film and cut 1/3 of the short crust dough. Set aside, this will serve to create the criss cross pattern.
- Flatten the dough with the help of a rolling pin, and shape it to a round disc about 1 cm high. Place on the buttered mould making sure you have enough to create a rim folding the sheet in all around the circumference.
- Flatten the remaining dough and then cut it in strips of desired length.
- Spread your selected jam on top. Lay the strips in order to form a nice net. Brush lightly with some apricot jam if you wish.
- Place in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes.