72-74 Queen St,

Smithfield,

Dublin 7

https://tokendublin.ie/#about

I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how much I love old computer games. It’s an interest that’s spanned pretty much my entire life: one of my earliest memories is playing a tabletop Space Invaders machine in a pub lounge with my sister some time in the early 1980s, and I remember a family holiday to Butlin’s around the same time being dominated by a Pac-Man machine in their games room, one of only two arcade machines in their entire games room, both surrounded by kids at all times. I wasn’t even tall enough to see the screen, but I kept pumping those big chunky old 10p coins in to it only to be killed in about 30 seconds, loving it despite having no real idea how to play it. Another family holiday to Spain was spent pumping coins into an Off-Road Racer machine: on the way out there our flight was delayed, and I was delighted because I was glued to a Commando machine in the departure lounge (until my mam cut off my supply of 10ps, leading to a tantrum). We had a Pong console at home, which I loved; in 1987 I got a Spectrum ZX+3 for Christmas, which had some classic games; and at Christmas 1991 I got a Sega Megadrive (which I still have), and that started a gaming obsession that lasted most of my teens and never truly left. I started collecting retro consoles and games in my 20’s, and had amassed quite a decent collection by the time I broke it up two years ago to raise money for my wedding. Selling it was heart-breaking but it was worth it… (just). Below is a a selection from it.

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There was an arcade in my town growing up, although it wasn’t much cop. Half the machines were broken, and at night it was where all the tough kids (which definitely did not include me) went to hang out and smoke and spit and be anti-social (and, I found out later, sell weed), so it was off-limits most of the time, although I remember obsessing over a few games in it; Wonder Boy, Daytona and Off-Road Racer were all firm favourites, and I spent most of a summer with three friends trying to beat the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game (we never managed). So picture me, a 37-year-old manchild who grew up during the golden age of arcade, lived through Sega v Nintendo (#TeamSega), had a subscription to Sega Power, watched GamesMaster every week (and less-remembered copycat show Games World featuring Jet from Gladiators), who once made his dad drive around three towns trying to find a copy of Road Rash 2 the day it was released – imagine THAT GUY finding out Dublin was getting a retro games arcade.

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Yeah, that’s pretty much how it went.

Now, as well as a great selection of original arcade games and beers, Token also has a surprisingly fabulous-sounding menu (and frequently show up on my Facebook timeline with some incredible specials as well). Lime-pickled radish; salted honey butter; Taleggio cheese; not the kind of food you’d expect to find in a games arcade.

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A snapshot of the menu – full menu available at https://tokendublin.ie/#food-drinks

We arrived at about 3.00 on a chilly Sunday afternoon, and we got a table straight away, although it was already almost at capacity – booking definitely recommended. I ordered the wild boar burger, with sweet potato fries and vegan calamari (out of curiosity more than anything), Kirsty ordered the regular beef burger with short-rib chilli fries; while Amanda opted for her usual chicken burger with sweet potato fries. Carl, Amanda’s better half, had chicken tenders and chips and is thus never invited back to Burger Club (as an aside, neither is former member Suzy who ordered fish and chips at the last meet).

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Wild boar burgers

The burgers are sliders, but decent-sized ones, and you get two so you shouldn’t go hungry, but someone with a Rory-sized appetite could probably put away four pretty easily. Still, it’s very good value at €8. My wild boar burger came with Tallegio cheese, sliced apple and burnt tomato jam and it was absolutely superb. Pork and apple is always a classic combination, and the sweet burnt tomato jam complimented it perfectly. The burger itself was juicy and tender too – exquisite. Kirsty really enjoyed her beef burgers and thought the sliders were delicious, and that although there were a lot of flavours in it (smoked cheese, bacon jam, pickles, Token sauce, fried shallots, jalapenos) they went together nicely and nothing overpowered the rest of the flavours. Amanda was equally enthusiastic about her chicken burger, the meat used in it was top quality, fresh (as a butcher’s daughter, she knows her meat), and although her description of the hot glaze  (“some kinda jam that was all spicy and shit”) was vague she certainly enjoyed it – so much so that she went back two nights later without us and ordered exactly the same thing.

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Kirsty’s beef burgers

The sides hit the mark too – the sweet potato fries were amongst the best we’ve had anywhere, crispy and crunchy, and the garlic mayo dip that came with them is just to die for – all three of us agreed on this. Kirsty really enjoyed the chilli fries too – they were excellent, the chilli full of flavour and with just a slight kick. The vegan calamari didn’t do much for me however, it was simply rings of yellow pepper deep fried in batter, kind of slimy and not very appetising. If this is #WhatVegansEat then I’m kind of glad I’m not vegan.

For dessert we split a couple of portions of churros, a classic dessert which I love but these didn’t really work for me. A few days previous Kirsty and I had returned from a holiday in Madrid, where they eat churros for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we’d got through a lot of them over there. In Madrid they serve the churros plain with a little pot of warm chocolate to dip them in or drizzle over them, and a bowl of sugar on the side so you can have them as sweet, or as savoury, as you like. These churros, while fresh, hot and crispy, tasted like they’d had half a bag of sugar and cinnamon tipped over them and were sweet to the point of being unpleasant. None of us could eat more than two. Fresh churros are always a winner, but these need tweaked. I am however interested in trying “Bacon-battered Reese’s Cups” which are on the dessert menu – definitely a must-try on the next visit.

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The only real negative was the service, which wasn’t great. I won’t go in to specifics, but I will say that there only appeared to be two girls looking after the whole place on a busy Sunday afternoon, and they were obviously rushed off their feet. Service was poor, and all our food was cold, presumably it had been sitting in the kitchen waiting to go out. It’s a pity this brings the score down, because if we were judging the food alone then Token would have been a serious contender for top of our charts (where they’d probably have entered their initials as “AAA” or “BUM” anyway) – but it still scores very respectably, and I would go back and eat here any time.

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You won’t go thirsty if you’re a beer drinker.

Of course we had to play a few games on the way out. Carl and Kirsty (who’s addicted to the Android app version) played a few games of Pac-Man while me and Amanda blasted our way through Sunset Riders. Downstairs, The Simpsons and The Addams Family pinball machines got a spin, before Amanda and I tackled my old nemesis, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We made it to level 2. It seemed a lot easier in 1989.

Burgers: 9

Sides: 8

Service & Surroundings: 7 (poor service, cool surroundings)

Value: 9

Overall: 8.5 / 10

(Photos below taken on a previous visit – note my classic 3-letter ID at #2 in the charts on Donkey Kong!)