FADE STREET SOCIAL
6 Fade Street
Phone: 01 604 0066
A large eating establishment indeed which has become, in a sense, the epicentre of Dublin’s restaurant quarter. A tapas bar that interprets the word loosely but very exciting, a restaurant that keeps it simple but with massive emphasis on sheer taste. And more…
Dylan McGrath is a very talented chef. He can cook at the highest level (by which I mean the Michelin-centric, tortured, sometimes magical end of the haute cuisine scale) and while he respects those who do, he chooses not to. At least, not for the present.
He made his name, at a ridiculously young age, at Mint in Ranelagh where he won a Michelin star despite the tiny size of the restaurant and various other handicaps at which the rubbery inspectors tend to shy. Mint went west with the Celtic Tiger and Dylan, seeing what way the wind was blowing, decided that he would forge the next stage of his career at a less rarefied level but using the same old McGrath creativity and energy.
One of the results has been Fade Street Social, a very large eating establishment indeed which has become, in a sense, the epicentre of Dublin’s restaurant quarter. From the doors of Fade Street Social you could heave a small brick at many of the capital’s funkier places in which to eat.
Fade Street Social has what they call a tapas bar but in fact this refers only to the size of the portions. It’s blissfully informal but the food is complex. Take the following menu description, for example (and eat it when you have a chance, because it’s bloody good): “Bacon and cabbage burger, pork belly in balsamic, smoked pudding, crispy cabbage, peppered bacon, lyonnaise and a milk bun”. See what I mean?
When it opened, those who know about such things commented that Fade Street Social didn’t feel very much as if it was in Dublin (despite the use of seasonal, local produce) and that the vibe was altogether more London. That, I reckon is still fair comment although there are a few other recent openings that share this quality. The other things you need to know about the tapas bar is that it gets very busy and it offers remarkable value for money.
The restaurant proper offers inventive things like crisp beef tongue with a carpaccio of scallop, very traditional things like Irish stew or beef and Guinness stew (in portions to serve one or two people), flatbreads from the wood-fired oven with all manner of toppings, and chargrilled delights like veal or rare breed pork chops.
Tracing the culinary DNA of such dishes back to the explosions of taste and colour at Mint may seem difficult but, actually, it’s as plain as a pikestaff. Dylan McGrath is intensely interested in flavours and clearly thinks about everything he creates in terms of the sweet, sour, umami and what have you. He is also all about a complete lack of pretension and a pressing urge to make people happy at the table.
When he forsook the Michelin clouds for something more terrestrial, the gastrogossip in Dublin was somewhat dismayed and there was talk of him wasting his sweetness on the desert air. How wrongheaded this kind of talk has proven to be; he is bringing more pleasure to more people than he ever could had he stayed in – to use a phrase I detest – fine dining, for want of a better way of putting.