Is this the best coffee in Dublin?, asks the sign outside the new coffeeshop on Tara St, Nick's Coffee Company. This is the second Nick's coffeeshop (the other more established one being in Ranelagh) and it opened just over a week ago.
"Best" is a difficult concept in the world of coffee, not just because individual tastes vary but because there are so many niches within the coffee business, so many subtly different types of customer. And of course anyone hoping to be the best faces many tough rivals, and in particular 3fe (Third Floor Espresso) on Abbey Street.
My impression of Nick's got off to a good start. Their coffee is strong and well prepared, so much so that walking along the street I could smell the acidity before I had even tasted the coffee. Nice - most coffee in Dublin doesn't have much of a zing. The coffee (Nick's "sweet espresso" blend) reminded me of Ariosa coffee. The decaf is also good and passes the "actually tastes like coffee" test.
Service is prompt and very friendly. There are a few nice touches: the Irish Times and other papers are available for reading, and the names of the day's baristas are written up on the chalkboard.
So how much does this all cost? One of the wierd things about coffee is that cost and quality are largely unrelated. OK, so you'll always pay a lot for a cup of Esmeralda, but time after time I've found that many of the highest-quality coffees available in Dublin are also very reasonably priced. In some cases, this is because the baristas selling quality coffee are based out of stalls instead of fixed premises; or like 3fe they use an unconventional venue. In the restaurant business, a fancy venue and good food often go together, with a corresponding price: in the coffee business, a spacious and expensively decorated interior or high prices do not indicate anything about the quality of the coffee.
It's possible that the recession has actually helped the growth of Dublin's "coffee culture", by offering baristas the chance to get shops at affordable rental levels. Whatever the reasons, Nick's is currently the best value coffee in Dublin. Why? Firstly, it's very good coffee. Secondly, they currently have a special offer for anyone working in the area: €1 for a coffee. Even at their normal prices they'll be extremely competitive.
I'm not sure yet if Nick's can claim to be the "best coffee in Dublin" but at €1 a pop to try it out, anyone around the Tara St who likes coffee should give it a go.
Update: the €1 special offer is over, but Nick's will soon be introducing loyalty cards.