FALLON & BYRNE
11-17 Exchequer Street
Phone: 01 472 1010
In Dublin there was life without Fallon & Byrne and there’s now. Now is much better. Let me count the ways.
First things first. Fallon & Byrne is now firmly established as a Dublin institution and there is nothing else quite like it in the country. I’m old enough – just – to remember when the capital had Smyth’s on the Green, a shop that was a grocer and wine merchant of such grandeur that it took one look at the 1970s and simply faded away.
For a long time, Dublin was without a single destination for what one might call the finer things in life. We didn’t even have a homeopathic whiff of a Fortnum, let alone a Mason. Much less a Dean or a Deluca.
And then a large, rather mysterious building in the heart of Dublin was suddenly transformed into an oasis of gustatory civilisation, a hive of the best kind of temptation. Fallon & Byrne burst upon an unsuspecting city, emerging from what had once been a vast, but architecturally rather pleasing, telephone exchange.
We were enchanted and we struggled to find a word that described the new and exceptionally cool and sophisticated kid on the block. It was more than a deli; more than a wine merchant; it was more than a café, a butcher’s, a traiteur. For heaven’s sake it even had a restaurant (one of the finest rooms for eating in the whole city) and, to be brutally honest, Dublin’s first wine bar within the meaning of the act.
Well, I think we’ve established that Fallon & Byrne was somewhat revolutionary. It has now settled down, as I say, into being a Dublin institution, a one-stop shop for those of a sybaritic disposition.
Take my last visit. Wending my way through the fruit and vegetable section, I picked up some girolles, then some violet artichokes. On I went, into the narrower aisles, to choose a bottle of exceptional olive oil (Greek, as it happens, but choosing between countries was tough), an earthenware jar of Dijon mustard without which civilised life is unthinkable, and some Ortiz anchovies.
At this point, I paused for a flat white and a rather cute little fruit tart, while I pondered the world of cheese. A slice of Roquefort and a chunk of Ardrahan later, I was on to the dry cured bacon and Sally Barnes’s smoked tuna.
I tried valiantly and wholly unsuccessfully to get to the checkouts without putting anything else into my groaning basket but the strategically located wine display arrested my progress. An Arneis from Piemonte? How the hell did they know my weak spot? Oh well, if this is spontaneous purchasing, it’ll do nicely, thank you.
Does that sum up Fallon & Byrne? Oh no, there’s more to it than that. Staff are friendly, helpful, knowledgeable. If you find something intriguing that you’ve never seen before, they can tell you everything you need to know.
And the basement. This big room, lined with wine bottles, is an oenophile’s dream. You can choose one of the 600 wines (or just have recourse to the wine list) and enjoy it with simple, chunky, dishes from simple boquerones or marinated olives, through proper sandwiches to braised beef cheek or cod and chorizo cassoulet. Personally, I often stop by for a glass of Chateau du Coing Muscadet sur Lie and half a dozen oysters. I’m a creature of habit.
Okay, this has been an exercise in How do I love thee, Fallon & Byrne; let me count the ways. Well, there’s one more. On Mondays you can choose any bottle of wine from the shelves and pay just €1 corkage.
I rest my case.