FOREST & MARCY
126 Upper Leeson Street
Phone: 01 660 2840
An intimate space, food that is an intense experience, as if a larger dish has been concentrated into a series of essences, and a deeply thoughtful selection of wines. Forest & Marcy is at Dublin’s cutting edge.
Forest & Marcy is the sister restaurant of Sandy and John Wyer’s groundbreaking Forest Avenue, not far away, the one that rewrote the rules, in a sense, for eating out in Dublin. However, the two places – both outstanding in the city - are quite different and should not be confused.
Forest & Marcy thinks of itself as a wine room with kitchen and, indeed, the wine selection is exceptional, quirky, adventurous and goes big on the new wave natural wines that are very much of the moment.
The long marble bar may look like, well, a kind of bar but when we think of wine bar we don’t think of the kind of food that Cíarán Sweeney is producing here: meticulous, jewel-like creations full of surprises. Each is an intense experience, as if a larger dish has been concentrated into a series of essences.
And, yes, these are “small plates”, although I hesitate to use the phrase as it’s associated with lazy fashionable places that want to charge high prices for little effort. Let me tell you, Forest & Marcy is the very antithesis of that.
The small scale applies not just to the dishes but to the menu itself which is, if you like, in inverse proportion to the wine selection. There are 12 savoury items and there are 40 wines, virtually all of which are available by the glass.
Cíarán Sweeney, once described as Dublin’s best unknown chef, has worked with Kevin Thornton, Mickael Viljanen at The Greenhouse, Daniel Clifford across the water and alongside James Sheridan at Canteen in Blackrock before a stint doing top-end pop-ups with Mark Moriarty. Now he has more than popped up here on Leeson Street where he showcases very individualistic dishes whose apparent simplicity belie the vast amount of thought and work that go into them.
One of the things that I love about Forest & Marcy is that, like Forest Avenue, it has taken Dublin by surprise. In other cities it would be taken for granted that such a small space would preclude any idea of reservations; in Dublin, this initially caused consternation – as did the fact that the wine list is chosen on the basis of quality and style rather than price. Those who cried “what, no house wine?” just didn’t get it.
When I first reviewed Forest & Marcy, I said that this is not the kind of place you come to for a substantial meal.
I added that the dishes are, in a way, the most sensuous kind of titillation and that is certainly one way to read this delightful establishment.
However, there is also a startlingly impressive synergy between the impeccably crafted, thoughtful food and the carefully selected, cerebral wine selection. Of all the restaurants in Dublin this is where you are most likely – if you’re prepared to take advice – to have a eureka moment of pure joy when that synergy kicks in and manifests itself on your palate.
Indeed, Sandy and John Wyer are amongst the first restaurateurs in Dublin to make food and wine matching an integral part of the dining experience. It’s all part of what my friend Nick Lander said (of Forest Avenue) in the Financial Times: that there’s “an expectation from customers that they will experience an energy in the dining room that manifests itself as more than the sum of its parts.” Well, it’s the same here.
Bear in mind the scale (it’s an intimate place where you will almost certainly end up talking to your neighbours), the walk-ins only rule and the rather delightful fact – to me at any rate – that you’re up close and intimate with the cooking, dishes being served by the chefs.