2009 Reviews

2008 Reviews

2007 Reviews

2006 Reviews

2005 Reviews

2004 Reviews

2003 Reviews

2002 Reviews



2009 Reviews


Four Stars

“I visited this restaurant after the St.Patrick's Day parade on Tuesday the 17th March 2009 . It was my first time to visit with my family and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. The food was excellent and mouth-watering as they say...It is located in the Chester Beatty Library and I feel it is somewhat hidden away from the public. The food was Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean, excellent variety and the staff that served me knew exactly how it was made and what was put into each dish...I will be back there again very soon..the only comment I would make was that the service was a little slow but I would put that down to the fact that it was St.Patrick's Day ..Well done.

Review on www.menupages.ie 19 March 2009


Dublin’s Hidden Gems – The Chester Beatty Library

"…You’ll probably feel in need of some rest and refreshments after taking in the Chester Beatty’s dizzyingly varied displays, so you should plan your visit to culminate in lunch at the museum’s well regarded restaurant. Jerusalem-born chef Abraham Phelan built his reputation in the popular canteen of the mosque in Clonskeagh and now serves delicious, reasonably prices and mostly Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, such as mousakka, falafel and spinach and feta pie, at the Silk Road Café, which has garnered plaudits from “The Dubliner 100 Best Restaurants 2008” guide and Food & Wine magazine. … When you factor in an appealing restaurant and free admission to the museum, the fact that the Chester Beatty Library sometimes seems to be more popular with tourists than with Dublin residents becomes all the more puzzling. "

Ronan Abayawickrema in Living in, February 2009

Four Stars

“A hidden gem in Dublin. I adored this place. I went for lunch on Sunday afternoon, before a visit to the Chester Beatty Library. The location is beautiful, entering through a lovely garden into a bright, airy, tall ceilinged building complete with water feature and huge well-spaced tables. The menu is lovely and rustic – definitely one for the health conscious and very good selection for the vegetarian eater. There is a good selection of drinks and a vast selection of salads as well as hot food. Our bill came to about 30 euro however we ate and drank plenty. I highly recommend this place!”

Review on www.menupages.ie 18 January 2009


100 Best Restaurants – Eastern promise

"Abraham Phelan certainly has catholic taste. The Jerusalem native has drawn on the full range of Middle-Eastern influences to create a menu that combines Lebanese and Persian dishes and still finds room for mousakka and cous cous. Situated in the serene surroundings of the Chester Beatty Library, the Silk Road is a hidden gem that offers an uplifting dining experience: The food is healthy! The staff smile at you! Your fellow diners seem like nice people! Walk up to the serving counter, point at whatever takes your fancy and stuff your face with the world’s favorite foods. Save room for baklava and coffee. One of our favorite city-centre cafés. "

The Dubliner 100 Best Restaurants 2009 Edition


Back to top

2008 Reviews


Come and see my etchings

"Spend a wintry day in a gallery or museum: Many have good cafes for an afternoon treat. … I keep meeting people who have never been to the Chester Beatty Museum at Dublin Castle, missing out on the outstanding collection, and the best self-service food in the country, which is served at the Silk Road Café. Both are hidden gems and the cooking combines strands from places such as Turkey and Lebanon. The coffee is exceptional, too. … People who enjoy museums and galleries are, of course, a mixed bunch but I reckon that an awful lot of them enjoy good food. Isn’t it odd then that relatively few of the really good places to eat in the country are located in such facilities? I’m talking about the kind of cafes and restaurants that genuinely merit the “worth the detour” tag. "

Tom Doorley in The Irish Times Magazine, 13/12 2008

Five Stars

This is the best museum/gallery cafe in Dublin, & one of the best restaurants in the city at large. The atmosphere could not be better, being bright & airy and attached as it is to one of the best museums in Europe. The food is consistently fresh & delicious and the prices is reasonable. Try any of the curries with Basmati rice. The coffee is excellent too!

Review on www.menupages.ie 17 August 2008

The Bridgestone 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland 2008

"Ibraham Phelan is producing some of the city’s best ethnic cooking, but make sure to get there early to enjoy the best of the Silk Road Café. Sally McKenna hadn’t even finished her lunchtime dish of lamb and vegetable mousakka with mung bean and pea salad, tadziki and mint and lemon zest before she said “This is 100 Best cooking!”. And so it is. The Silk Road, tucked away besides the fabulous Chester Beatty Library in the bowels of Dublin Castle, may well be the best kept secret in Dublin, but it sure isn’t going to stay that way for long. Ibraham Phelan has attracted attention when cooking at the mosque out in Clonskeagh, and here in the city he is firing out sublime food. The cooking takes mainly-Mediterranean ideas – lamb curry with chickpeas; pizza; spinach pie; stir-fried lamb; mousakka – and to this Mr Phelan weaves a Middle Eastern array of seasonings and grace notes which gives the food distinctiveness and very pleasing textures – the food is particularly light, and expertly seasoned, which goes a long way to explaining how it attracts such a hip crows of punters. Do be warned that you need to arrive early at lunchtime to make sure you get a seat, and it gets very busy when there are big exhibitions in the CB. "

The Bridgestone 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland 2008 Edition

Four Stars

i love this place. it has delcious food and the service is also good. the decor is also very nice

Review on www.menupages.ie 12 August 2008


Take silk

"The Chester Beattie Library café has the best of flavours from the Middle East and northern Africa. … And so I wandered off to the Silk Road Café in the Chester Beattie Library. There was a welcoming smell of turmeric in the air and my already healthy appetite was sharpened. It was only while I was queuing up and eyeing the grub that I realized that this establishment is more about Middle-Eastern than North African cooking, though many of the spices are similar. … chicken in a yellow yoghurt-based sauce. This is where that pungent whiff of turmeric was coming from. Spicy, sharp and salty, it was a damn good dish. As were the salads. There was more hummus (which I asked for), an attractively textured combination of raw carrots and sultanas, and a rather multicultural combination of chickpeas and mung beans dressed with a nicely deep and earthy soya sauce. It’s not often you can say that a restaurant or a café smells good, but here the aromas are actually seductive. Not just the spices, but also the coffee. There are few places where I order a regular coffee because regular coffee regularly turns out to be a variation on the theme of dishwater. Not so here. … One final point. In a city where the average menu is so dull and predictable that it’s hard to maintain the will to live beyond the starters, it was good to stand in line at the Silk Road Café and have to struggle with the choices before me."

Tom Doorley in The Irish Times Magazine, 24/5 2008


100 Best Restaurants

"Don’t let tourists be the only ones to enjoy this place. Located in the underrated Chester Beatty, the Silk Road offers a wide selection of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, prepared by Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese chefs. We love the Jordanian monsef (layers of flat bread with lamb, rice, yoghurt and pine nuts) and Lebanese kataif –pancakes filled with nuts and coconut. Over half of the dishes are vegetarian, and everything is halal …. All big, colourful, relatively cheap and very tasty. Don’t forget to stock up on Turkish delight, sugared almonds and exotic teas and coffee on the way out. Nothing is particularly expensive, and it’s all good. "

The Dubliner 100 Best Restaurants 2008 Edition

Four Stars

I had lunch in the silk road cafe with friends. The food was great - really tasty & 'moreish'. The only drawback is the queue - which is always very long.

Review on www.menupages.ie 01 April 2008


Back to top

2007 Reviews


Best World Cuisine Award 2007 – Silk Road Café

"The Silk Road Café has been doing its rather quiet but truly excellent thing for some years now, but recently this delightful self-service café has really come into its own. Having moved to Dublin from his native Jerusalem, Abraham Phelan built quite a reputation at the popular canteen of Clonskeagh’s mosque before bringing his largely Middle-Eastern influenced cooking to the Silk Road Café in Dublin Castle. Housed within the multicultural treasure-trove that is the Chester Beatty Library, the cafes repertoire of ethnic dishes is suitably wide-ranging, taking Mediterranean and North African influences into a largely Lebanese menu. "

Food & Wine magazine’s Restaurant of the year awards 2007, September 2007


Best of the best

"In a fine location in the heart of the city centre, Dublin Castle provides wonderful gardens and historic architecture which greatly enhance the enjoyment of a visit to this unusual restaurant, which is situated in the clock tower beside the Chester Beatty Library (European Museum of the Year in 2002, and one of the few Dublin museums offering free entry).

Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, vegetarian and organic are the themes brought together by Abraham Phelan and his small but dedicated team, who create inspired versions of classics like Greek moussaka, Moroccan cous cous, falafel and spinach & feta pie to the delight of their many returning customers.

Fresh organic herbs are used in all dishes and, in line with halal/kosher rules, all dishes are made without the use of pork or beef. Prices are very reasonable.

Chosen for inclusion in the highly selective Georgina Campbell’s Best of the best Ireland guide


Five stars

"One of my favourite places for lunch, great value, huge portions, fantastic selection of dishes, wonderful salads, very very tasty..nice atmosphere and plenty space, nice place to relax & you never feel hurried. The floor staff are 10/10, I was there recently to meet a friend with her new baby, they were so friendly and helpful and went out of their way to assist at every turn..offered to bring boiling water to clean the dummy when it fell on the floor etc etc - above and beyond normal service standards in Dublin today! All in all, great spot, highly recommended for casual lunch date. "

Review on Menupages.ie, September 2007

Salad days

"The Chester Beatty has long been one of Dublin’s best-kept secrets, so I expected its café to be an equally undiscovered gem. But, when I arrived, the place was teeming with the standard Sunday afternoon museum visitors – couples talking loudly about art, and parents with an air of up-since-6am desperation trying to coax their little darlings into sitting still.

The furniture and strange orange curtains scream West of Ireland craft shop rather than eastern exoticism, but the food more than redeems the Silk Road – it is a café proper, not some token museum eatery to fill a gap. Here, instead of overpriced quiche and dried-out cake, there is creamy mousakka and deliciously sweet baklava.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re not up on your Greek/Middle Eastern cuisine – staff seem well used to being asked about dishes, but simply pointing to what looks best is equally effective.

A pie of soft spinach, salty crumbled feta and crisp filo pastry was particularly good but, for me, the accompanying salads were the stars of the show. Mung beans and chickpeas in a sour, lemony dressing, toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and mixed peppers with olives and feta were all definite improvements on the usual Dublin offering of soggy lettuce and tomato.

With main courses and two salads for under a tenner, make sure you save room for coffee and a flaky pastry, or a few cubes of Turkish Delight. After all that, it may be difficult to drag yourself around the museum itself – but, with food like this to look forward to, there’s always a next time. " 

Aoife Ni Dhalaigh, Evening Herald, 12/1 2007

A Streetcar Named Connolly

"… One of the best places to eat in Dublin is actually a café within a museum. Practically all the museums in Dublin have a partner restaurant that echo, in terms of cuisine, the museum’s theme. Tucked away behind Dublin Castle is the Chester Beatty Library, created by the American Industrialist Sir Alfred Chester Beatty who later bequeathed it to a trust for the benefit of the Irish public.

The Library also houses a museum containing Sir Alfred’s outstanding collection of Islamic manuscripts, along with Chinese, Japanese, Indian and other Oriental art. Early papyri, including some of the earliest texts of the Bible and other early Christian manuscripts, western prints and printed books complete what is one of the richest collections of its kind in the world. It was voted Best European Museum in 2002.

The Silk Road Café is the threat that binds and reflects the museum’s collection by serving culinary treasures influenced and inspired by Eastern Mediterranean cooking. This simple but stylish museum café which spills out into the library’s sky-lit atrium is well worth a visit on its own. Chef and owner Ibrahim Phelan has created a fascinating menu that changes daily. For starters one should not miss the salad greens with Sicilian dressing bedecked with Kalamata olives, tabbouleh, hummus and couscous wrapped in vine leaves. For main course: grilled spicy Lebanese chicken, marinated in yoghurt and spices, lamb mousakka, kofta meatballs in rich tomato sauce, spinach and feta filo pie and lots of vegetarian options. For dessert my partner and I shared a plate of stodgy cake made of pecan, walnut and pistachio and tidbits of baklavas, Turkish delight, and dried fruit.

Popular with museum visitors from far and wide, it is no longer Dublin’s best-kept secret. But for me, the Silk Road Café has become almost a place of pilgrimage. "

Guillermo Ramos, METRO Society, Philippines, December 2006-January 2007


Back to top

2006 Reviews


Eating Out

"This year’s hugely successful Taste of Dublin was an eye opener for many. If ever you wanted proof that the level of gastronomy in Ireland’s capital is at its highest level ever, then this display by 15 of Dublin’s restaurants provided it. Of the 15 participating restaurants 14 were well known to me, but one – The Silk Road – was not.

You can find The Silk Road Café in Dublin Castle, where it occupies part of the ground floor of the Chester Beatty Library. I’d arranged to meet Kevin Flanagan and Sorcha for lunch there, since it only opens at night for special occasions. All I knew about it was that it specialized in Middle-Eastern cookery. It did occur to me that while the news was filled with daily reports of the continuing tragedy in Lebanon, now was a good time to see a more positive side of what the region has to offer. I arrived a little before Kevin and Sorcha, which gave me time to take in the surroundings.

The café is in two parts; a part is set up where the kitchen is, another part in what would have been outside had the space between two buildings not been covered by a glass roof. It almost feels as through you’re outside because the glass roof is three storeys high, so there’s a great sense of space at the tables that are set up there.

The Eastern Mediterranean covers a number of countries, and to some degree their gastronomies overlap. As well as that they all share the same approach to a meal, which is that the starters are many and varied, and sometimes so many that they in fact make up the meal. The notion of one plate with meat and two veg on it is unknown. In Dublin some compromises have been made by The Silk Road to accommodate the Irish way of eating, but the dishes on offer are authentic and typical of the region.

I don’t normally report on the owner when I review a restaurant, but for Abraham Phelan I’ll make an exception. You may wonder about his surname, so let me explain. He’s taken his wife’s surname, maybe because it’s more pronounceable than the one he was born with. Anyway, Abraham is a Palestinian and in him his people have a worthy ambassador. He’s charming and urbane and as I’ll describe, he also makes good food. I spoke to him after our meal and we talked of the tragedy in Lebanon. He was saddened and distressed for those caught up in the invasion, but resolute in his dignity. He told me that in his restaurant he regularly served Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and Lebanese customers. If only their homelands were as peaceful and as welcoming as The Silk Road.

So to the food. While Kevin and Sorcha held a table I went inside to the counter and picked out what would be my starters: humus, falafels and dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). For my main course I picked the moussaka and the spicy red rice. A bottle of mineral water completed my selection. While I sat picking at my starters, Kevin and Sorcha went inside and returned with their spoils. For Sorcha a plate containing a chicken and coriander curry, a pasta salad, some humus and some red spicy rice for her too. Kevin had picked out the Turkish chicken, okra in tomato sauce, cauliflower and red rice.

What struck me while I picked on my starters was that this was probably the first time that I’d actually enjoyed stuffed vine leaves. I’ve eaten them many times in Greece, but they’ve always left me feeling rather flat. These were actually good to eat. And that delight in these simple dishes continued with the humus and the falafels as well – they were all expertly done and much tastier than any I’ve had previously.

We did what all serious foodies do and shared little tit-bits with one another, about the only thing we had in common was the red rice. Sorcha’s chicken curry with coriander was nicely balanced, the coriander complementing the chicken rather than overpowering it and I was very taken with Kevin’s choice of Turkish chicken. Marinated in lemon juice and turmeric it was bright yellow in colour and the zesty lemon gave it a fresh, crisp taste. Other tastes that were worthy of mention were the okra in tomato sauce, which I enjoyed, and the simple pasta salad that Sorcha had. A main course with a choice of three side orders is a modest €9.95.

Not so much from hunger, but rather in a spirit of gastronomic discovery, we decided to try the baklava. If that name has confused you in the past, it may be because as I discovered from Abraham, that the word is generic – it applies to any dessert with the basic ingredients of filo pastry, sugar and nuts; normally pistachio, almonds and coconut. We tried three different varieties and enjoyed them all, although I’ll admit that baklava does give you a major sugar rush.

All this variety of food, our fruit juice, my three bottles of mineral water and our coffees came to just €57.80, which I thought was terrific value for what we’d eaten. There are some wines available, but as it’s not a feature of the café I won’t be allocating marks this week for the wine list. "

Food 4

Ambience 3

Service (self service)

Value for money 5

Total 12/15

Paolo Tullio, Irish Independent Weekend, 9/9 2006


What’s hot

"Silk Road Café the exotic jewel in the crown of the Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle."

Irish Times, What’s hot and What’s Cold


"The Silk Road Café. This pleasant place has become a haven for Hellenists in Dublin since opening five years ago at the superb Chester Beatty Library. Housed in a new addition to the old clock tower building at Dublin Castle, once strong-hold of Britich rule in Ireland, now headquarters of government and municipal offices.

Visitors to Dublin yearning for something Greek to eat may lunch on moussaka, spanakotiropitta or yemista at the café, described as "one of Dublin’s best-kept ethnic treasures" in the June issue of The Dubliners, rated Ireland’s top city magazine. Proprietor and chef Ibrahim Phelan, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian, ran a taverna and learned Greek cooking skills on Crete, where he also met and married Caroline Phelan. The Greek specialties he included on the menu in the museum café promptly attracted Dublin philhellenes. "

Ann Elder, ODYSSEY The world of Greece, September/October 2006


15 of Dublin’s Top Restaurants

"The Silk Road Café is one of Dublin’s hidden ethnic culinary treasures. Tucked away in a quiet inner courtyard of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle, this inexpensive day-time restaurant boasts a peaceful interior water feature on one side while the other faces the well kept decorative gardens of the Castle’s Coach House where the Taste of Dublin experience is being held. The inspiration behind the food here is Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East, and the daily menu, prepared following halal… rules, is peppered with classic dishes such as Greek mousakka and spinach and feta pie, Moroccan cous cous and Middle Eastern falafel. "

The Irish Independent, Fine wine and food guide, June 2006


Back to top

2005 Reviews


"Stylish museum cafe, spilling over into the library's skylit atrium, that's well worth a journey in its own right. The chef (who's from Jerusalem, one of Chester Beatty's favoured hunting grounds) rustles up mostly Middle Eastern food - lamb moussaka and lasagne, falafels, spinach and feta filo pie and plenty of other veggie options, and very good salads. To round off, as you'd expect, there's great coffee and titbits such as Turkish delight and baklava."

2004 Reviews

"The Silk Road Restaurant is one of Dublin's best kept secrets...[Ibrahim Phelan's] kitchen produces equally fascinating Middle Eastern culinary treasures. There are wonderfully exotic salads like tabbouleh and houmous, spicy lamb casseroles and curries, kafta meatballs in rich tomato sauce and much, much more. Everything is made from the freshest ingredients - Ibrahim also owns a vegetable shop in the suburbs - on a daily basis."                                                                         IRISH INDEPENDENT, 14/9 2004

"Why do so many arts institutions serve dull, catering-company cuisine...It doesn't have to be like this. The cafe at the Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin Castle is a shining example of what can be done."

"Smooth as silk...we found the Silk Road Cafe to be a very modern affair...A best-seller in our cafe catalogue."
Suzanne Yarker, EVENING HERALD

2003 Reviews

"Instead of the usual cafe favourites, the Silk Road offers a menu influenced by the Middle East and inspired by the traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean. Popular with people working in and around the city centre, and people looking for a different menu at a reasonable price, the Silk Road is a haven of peace just minutes away from Grafton Street - and seconds away from some superb exhibitions."

CARA Magazine, March 2003


2002 Reviews

"Bravo to The Silk Road Cafe for daring to be different...instead of the usual museum cafe favourites...The Silk Road offers a far more interesting menu, with its sights fixed on the Middle East...there's plenty to choose from: fine looking salads, seven hot dishes, including a couple of vegetarian options...it's very satisfying...All in all, The Silk Road Cafe is a great addition to a fairly tired list of lunch favourites."

Louise East, IRISH TIMES MAGAZINE, 06/7 2002

Printable Version