8 Sussex Terrace
Phone: 01 667 8337
The only way to know Forest Avenue’s food is to eat it and to savour the little surprises, experience the tiniest of elements that resolve with the larger ones to create a fabulous picture on the palate. Quite brilliant.
Forest Avenue is all about the food. There’s no signage outside, just a copy of the menu stuck in the window. There are proper glasses and cutlery, of course, but no table cloths or standing on ceremony. There are breeze block walls painted white. Nothing distracts from what’s happening on the plates.
When, on a cold late Autumn day in 2013, I first stepped through the doors of Forest Avenue there was a touch of the Narnia wardrobe thing about it. One moment I was in Dublin, the next I was in London or New York. Maybe Sydney.
Anyway, I was somewhere where restaurateurs don’t look at their new premises and say “It needs a few more pictures.” Forest Avenue looks different because in Dublin we think the whole notion of plain décor (focus on the food instead) is rather daring.
So, yes, Forest Avenue is refreshingly foreign in that sense. The room used to be a pizzeria and the transformation was achieved largely with a crowbar. John and Sandy Wyer, who met when they worked together at L’Ecrivain, pretty well stripped the place out with their bare hands (and crowbar) and applied paint to bare walls.
Anyway, you can’t eat the décor so what really matters is what comes out of the open kitchen of which most tables have a clear view. It’s a model of calm, precise, choreographed work by the team, no raised voices, just a sense of common purpose. And there’s a sense of something else, too: commitment to doing something really well.
The calmness, commitment and laser-like focus is reflected in the food which is quite brilliant. And I don’t use the word lightly. It’s brilliant in the sense that it involves impeccably judged contrasts and combinations and the kind of skill of which many chefs can only dream.
The environment here may be stripped back, refreshingly uncluttered, cooly basic, the kind of thing that would suit good, earthy, rustic cooking. In fact, it serves to frame and highlight the combination of restraint and panache, invention and discipline that makes John Wyer’s food so compelling. There’s nothing rustic about it.
The menus, written in a telegram style that is just as stripped back and minimalist as the décor, read seductively but sparely. The only way to know this food is to eat it and to savour the little surprises, experience the tiniest of elements resolve with the main ones to create a fabulous picture on the palate.
Some of my fellow restaurant critics greeted Forest Avenue with enthusiastic references to the Scandi genre. On the contrary, I think John Wyer’s food is very much his own, the result of an exceptional palate and impeccable judgement, to say nothing of a huge amount of experience. This is Forest Avenue food. Full stop.
The wine list is excellent: tight, directed clearly at what’s on the plates, and thus off-beat (by general Dublin standards). The fact that you can have a glass of Nyetimber’s Champagne-beater from West Sussex, is very telling.
Forest Avenue was a kind of Dublin secret for a while, but certainly no more. What isn’t generally known is that the lunch menu at 2 courses for €26, 3 for €32 is almost certainly the best value in Ireland at the moment.
The name, incidentally, comes from the street where Sandy grew up in Queens, New York.