Eating Out: 9ine Hostages a nice place for a few blow-ins from Donegal to wind up – The Irish News

Restaurant News

9ine Hostages

2 Waterloo Street


07563 589358

IT SEEMED like such a good idea at the time. My in-laws said we could use their place in Donegal. A beautiful spot… right on the west coast… just yards from the ocean… we’re not using it… no, we wouldn’t dream of taking a penny off you!

OK, so we’re talking February here, and the bit of February when Storm Ciara was due to hit Ireland. Actually, even at the time, maybe it didn’t seem such a good idea. Still, repeating cheering phrases like, “How bad can it be?” and, “It’s free”, we headed west.

On arrival, we unloaded the car to the driving beat of the rain thrashing against our skulls, but we didn’t worry – until my wife Googled Met Eireann. The news wasn’t good. Even worse, we couldn’t get the telly to work. The prospect of having to talk to each other while Ciara demolished the house like a Big Bad Wolf who’d learned how to deal with bricks was simply too much. We’d get an early night, and then head home first thing.

The next morning, we blew back to Derry, going through four seasons in one day – three of them winter. In our rush, we’d forgotten to pack all the food we’d taken with us. Being less likely to argue about whose fault it was in a public place, we decided to lunch in town. Given the circumstances, it seemed fitting to try 9ine Hostages, owned and run by Daragh, another recent blown-in from Donegal.

The menu is brief enough to be written on a small blackboard, located inconveniently and idiosyncratically on the floor, leaning against the counter. On the day we were there, the soup was potato and leek. My daughter’s favourite, it was a no-brainer, but two spoonfuls were enough for her. If there’s such a thing as a grown-up soup, then this was it, peppery and light, but not creamy enough for a three-year old’s palate.

My chicken sandwich was impressively packed with tender chicken, salty cheese, and a host of other ingredients, all nicely combined to provide a satisfying lunch, albeit the bread, though high quality, was cut too thick even for my docker butty tendencies. A thoroughly excellent sourdough toastie oozed cheese, with lovely, rich, caramelised vegetables giving sweetness and texture.

The cakes we chose to follow were the best things about the lunch. The carrot cake was a delightfully light sponge, with spicy hints, topped by a subtly orange cream. The lemon cake sponge wasn’t quite as light, but the flavour quietly zinged, while the brownie was rich, dark, and gooey.

I loved the vegan moonball. The size of a golf ball, it was packed with seeds and big chunks of dark chocolate, all carried in a delicious coconut flavour and bite.

Daragh’s route to Waterloo Street took him from his mobile coffee shop in a Manorcunningham lay-by via a food-truck in Rathmullan. These new premises used to be Cow Bog, a fine but niche vegan and vegetarian café, and it took 9ine Hostages a while to forge its own identity.

And it very much has its own identity now – cool, pared-down, stylish, and unhurried, reflected in the menu, the music, and in the way it spreads from the small downstairs area to a much more spacious first floor.

The café is not the finished article, but it’s well on its way, driven not least by the terrific coffee – maybe the best in the city – with touches of citrus, sweetness, and nuttiness, too.

While one lunch doesn’t make up for a lost weekend, this was a happy find. It’s an ill wind…


Grilled cheese toastie with caramelised vegetables £5.75

Sackville granary sandwich – chicken, avocado, pesto £4.50

Child’s leek and potato soup £3

Lemon drizzle cake £2

Moonball £2

Carrot cake £2.50

Chocolate brownie £2.50

Coffee £2.50

Hot chocolate £2.70

Glass of milk £1

Total: £28.45

Source: Thanks