Since 2014, Blas Cafe has been serving some of the most flavourful brunches and lunches north of the river Liffey. Think breakfast baps, toasties, eggs Benedict – and everything in between.

Based in The Chocolate Factory, which once manufactured Toblerones and Mint Crisps, Blas Café’s neighbours include an eclectic mix of startups and individual creatives who share its coworking space.

Setting up Blas Café played a big part in the old industrial building’s transformation. And its founder, Hassan Lemtouni, is extremely proud of what he has helped to create here. sat down with him to find out more about his experience of starting a café in Dublin.

Chatting with Hassan Lemtouni of Blas Café

I was born and raised in Morocco, and lived for 30 years in America, before coming to Dublin. My wife is a Dubliner and we have two beautiful little girls, so we decided that we wanted them to grow up here.

Starting up Blas Café

I was lucky enough to step into this beautiful building, The Chocolate Factory on Kings Inn Street, and that opened up a whole new avenue for me, professionally.

One of my business partners was looking for a place to put on a gig and met Val, who runs the building. We started talking about food and what we’d like to do – and decided to go for it.

There’s a great sense of community. It’s exciting to come here.

It took us about a year-and-a-half, but we opened the Blas Café and people love it. We stayed true to our vision to create something modest and simple. And to take this amazing space – a former chocolate factory – and maintain its integrity.

Now, every floor has different things happening – from graphic designers to artists to designers and architects. It all started from people with small ideas that got bigger – and bigger again. It’s the sum of everyone’s contributions.

There’s a great sense of community. It’s exciting to come here. We’ve brought life back to this building.

Dublin 1’s unique character

Dublin 1 is a hidden gem. You’re surrounded by all this amazing history on every street. It’s the real Dublin: I’m surrounded by blue-collar workers, students and traders.

You go to Moore Street and you know everybody by name. I like to buy my meat from FX Buckley, I do it all myself every day. I go to the markets in Smithfield, find out what’s seasonal and work with that.

There’s a lot of Morocco in what we do.

Dublin is experiencing an amazing growth in terms of its food culture. It’s trying to create its own identity. It’s not trying to copy New York or London – it has its own thing. And I’d like to think I’m a part of that. I brought my own thing to the mix.

There’s a lot of Morocco in what we do, mixed in with the Dublin influences. Nothing too fancy. And we don’t overcharge. We’re making food for the city.

Signs of the city’s evolution

I’ve always lived in cities that grow and evolve over time. That happened in Athens, Georgia, when I opened a restaurant there and it’s happening in Dublin now. I didn’t fall in love with Dublin right away.

When I moved here first, there was a lot of crying about the recession and the economy. Things weren’t moving, places were closing. That’s changed. Now, there’s a new energy, a lot of people pooling their money together and making things happen by themselves. Collective endeavour. It’s inspiring. And that’s what we did.

What do I love about Dublin? Its humbleness.

What do I love about Dublin? Its humbleness. It’s a humble city. And its surprises. Just when you think you’ve figured it all out, there’s always something new. I’m still exploring it. When I get up in the morning, I can’t wait to go to work.

I’m proud of it. I like being here.

To check out Blas Café’s latest menu, head to its website.

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