Dooks Fine Foods
Kerry Street
Co Tipperary
Phone: 052 613 0828

Irish Daily Mail
11th February 2017

It’s a long way from Fethard, County Tipperary to Primrose Hill, London NW1. Indeed, it’s a long way from Fethard to anywhere, including the M8 (well, it’s 15 kilometres to be precise) but Richard Gleeson has come home to this remarkable little town having worked with the now legendary Ottolenghi, the outstanding Anglo-Australian chef Skye Gyngell when she was at Michelin-starred Petersham Nurseries and latterly with what I think of as the Avoca of Camden and Hampstead, Melrose & Morgan.

Gleeson worked in advertising before taking the Ballymaloe Certificate course that has started the culinary careers of many now well known chefs – Stevie Parle and Thomasina Miers to mention just two who were there when I was teaching the wine course.

Since returning to Ireland – a move inspired by imminent parenthood – he has taught at the Dublin Cookery School in Blackrock and eventually gave up looking for premises in the capital for a restaurant thanks to astronomical rents.

Dublin’s loss has been Tipperary’s gain and he is now established in a big, very cool and modern premises on the outskirts of the town (it’s really a large village and, unusually, was fortified in medieval times; some of the ancient walls and gates survive).

While the menu is very much his own, it’s easy to see influences from his earlier berths especially in the freshness and what I think I’ll call saladiness which I accept is not really a word.

Some of it is a bit puzzling. For example, at the moment there is just one hot dish at lunchtime and several cold but it’s early days yet, Dooks Fine Foods having opened its doors only at the dawn of December last. There are plans for evening service, for an extension of the deli section and for a cool wine list (both for the restaurant and the off-sales) plus a cookery school and an outside catering business. These are all things that should go down well in the well-heeled, carefully manicured part of the country that is Horse Central.

Our lunch was good. Rare roast beef, served cold, with an impeccable salsa verde (with just enough accent on the anchovy) and a salad of young carrots which had been roasted with thyme, honey and pumpkin seeds was actually quite delicious while seeming a little unlikely.

Lamb meat balls, again cold, were dense and meaty (the lamb quite strong at this stage in the year) flavoured with Parmesan and, unusually and successfully, sage. They came with a beetroot slaw and a zingy lemon yoghurt dressing and were good but, we thought, probably much better when they were hot.

Pickled red cabbage was ace – cut at exactly the right thinness, pickled with just enough sweetness and acidity – and roasted cauliflower salad – in large singed florets and sharply dressed – was fine.

Baking appears to be a major dimension of Dooks Fine Foods and the sight of various cakes and comestibles as you come in is more effective than any number of bald menu descriptions. Indeed, I had seen a picture of their bread coming out of the oven only that morning on Twitter but foolishly forgot to ask for any. I suppose we half assumed that it would feature on the table when the salads arrived; bread does appear to be actually compulsory in most Irish restaurants.

We finished up with decent coffee and two cakes. There was an individual coffee and hazlenut affair (I think walnut works better with coffee to be honest) with good texture and decent icing, and an outstanding flourless chocolate cake, a triangular ingot of intense, very dark, unsweet chocolate rich with butter and egg and intense flavour. All it needed was the whipped cream with which it was thoughtfully served.

As I say, it’s early days yet at Dooks Fine Foods but there are clear signs of excellence and innovation. It may seem a little eccentric at this stage (the references to “salad and protein” on the menu are a bit odd, to be frank, and probably not a huge hit with the people of Tipp) and it desperately needs more hot food in the depths of February.

And while the quiet calm that obtains in the big open kitchen and the restaurant generally is rather lovely, I can’t help feeling that the operation would be seriously boosted by a strong sense of direction and purpose. I trust that this is something that will be in place soon.

Our bill, with coffee and sparkling water came to €35.50.