Gaillot et Gray
59 Clanbrassil Street
Phone: 01 454 7781
Irish Daily Mail
4 June 2016
Leonard’s Corner and the immediate area is still a bit tatty. I can’t find the junk shop where Johann and I bought a couple of chairs years ago but the coal merchant up on the canal is still there. We used to buy fuel there in our Dublin 4 days. The terrifying pub, from which men were regularly ejected like corks from a bottle, is derelict.
Nobody could accuse this part of town of being smart, as in fashionable. The artisan dwellings round here may not have seen an artisan in decades; even when property was cheap in these parts, back in the early 1980s, gentrification was well under way. But this busy crossroads (a nightmare for pedestrians) is rather rubbed at the edges.
I have a feeling that this part of Dublin 8 is on its way to being a bit of a restaurant hub, provided commercial property remains relatively affordable. The outstanding Bastible may have started a trend when it opened virtually on the corner itself, and Richmond, another stripped back, focus-on-the-food kind of place is not far away. Now Gaillot et Gray, with its front painted in the shade that I like to call Hipster Slate, is pushing onwards with the trend and, frankly, adding to the gaiety of the nations. Well, of this part of south inner city Dublin anyway.
The restaurant is very simple. Descended from a Greystones “food truck” (to use the New York argot) Monsieur Gaillot and Ms Gray, a Franco-Hibernian team, produce a refreshingly small range of what we must call French pizzas.
My old friend Paolo Tullio would have loved it, not just because his love of pizza recognised no national boundaries but because he loathed the stupid things people do to it in the name of variety.
It would have rejoiced his heart to know that you would have less chance of getting sweetcorn and pineapple on your pizza at Gaillot et Gray than having a bottle of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1959 decanted at your table. No, Gaillot et Gray are purists. They clearly believe that less is more, as it almost invariably is.
We rolled up on a wet evening, not knowing that the place had just been reviewed by three newspapers the previous weekend. It should have been heaving but perhaps we sometimes overestimate the power of the press.
I mentioned that it’s a simple place. There’s equipment and space to make the pizzas. There’s a big communal table, a handful of smaller tables and I suspect the chairs may have come from my old primary school. They have a patina of age, so to speak, but everything is cool in a minimalist, gastrocentric kind of way. No complaints there.
The pizzas, more than a foot in diameter, vaguely round, are served on metal platters and you each get one of those wheely pizza cutters for DIY slicing. More importantly, the pizzas are thin and crisp with no underdone bits and just enough sag when you lift a wedge mouthwards. In terms of texture, I’ve never had better; I’ve tasted a lot of awful pizza in my time, the kind that sits, sludgily, in the pit of the stomach for what seems like days.
The digestibility of these pizzas must have something to do with the sourdough base, the thinness and the very carefully judged ratio of pizza to topping. We left Gaillot et Gray feeling as light and as nimble as ballerinas (although, in my case at least, this would not have been apparent to any casual observer).
There’s no mozzarella, of course. These are French pizzas and French pizzas usually rely on Emmental to supply the essential cheese element. Mine came with little explosions of spicy merguez, the Middle Eastern sausage, thinly sliced mushroom and, beneath the cheese layer, very thin slices of onion which retained their crunch. This was an inspired touch that raised a good pizza into the realms of greatness.
It was also quite spicy enough, so I didn’t need to use any of the chilli-infused Irish rapeseed oil, a bottle of which graces every table.
Our other pizza was, perhaps, even simpler and every bit as good. It came with sweet, just cooked Bayonne ham and, added after it came out of the oven, crunchy, peppery rocket leaves. This is a celestial combination, a pizza that is as comforting as it seems fresh and – I hate to say it – nutritionally balanced.
Oh, for heaven’s sake, who cares? It’s pizza. We’re talking carbs not a ketogenic diet. And if you’re going to have carbs, it makes sense to have damn good ones.
We drank mineral water and a BYOB bottle of red wine and finished with exceptionally good coffee. The bill left plenty of change out of €40.