THE GOOD NEWS FOR DUBLIN FOOD
Dublin is certainly on a roll as far as food is concerned and I’m delighted to bring plenty of good news in this bulletin. On the other hand, Cork has lost and gained, it would appear. Zamora is now closed after a year (it started, allegedly, with a quarrel between the existing partners but Cork conservatism may have been the final nail in the coffin) and Holy Smoke, yet to be reviewed by me, has opened. The promising thing about it is that it has a large dollop of Pitt Cue in its DNA and that has to be a good thing. If you don’t believe me, trust Marina O’Loughlin in The Guardian here only last week.
THE FISH SHOPS CLOSES AND OPENS
The Fish Shop, which started as a takeaway in a shed at the back of Blackrock Market, is the creation of Jumoke Akintola and Peter Hogan who met when they were teaching in London. Their efforts, initially in Blackrock (where I ate haddock and drank Puligny-Montrachet - from the wonderful Blackrock Cellar across the road - at a picnic table) and latterly in Queen Street, just off the north quays, have been adding greatly to the sum of human happiness.
Queen Street is, unlike the shed, an actual restaurant, if rather basic. The fit out is, essentially, repurposed timber, the menu is shorter than the late Ronnie Corbett and the wine/beer selection is minute but perfectly formed. Or perhaps I should say was. Because it closes at the end of April 2016.
However the Gods of deliciousness close one door but they open another. The Gods, in this instance, being Jumoke and Peter, who have taken over the old Seven Social on Benburb Street where – again from the end of the month – they will be serving fish and chips, pure and simple, but with a selection of 20 wines, all available by the glass. There will be 14 to 16 covers, so expect fisticuffs over tables. Anyway, my cup, so to speak, overfloweth. I want to live in Dublin 7, and I never thought I’d say that.
However, there is more good news. Queen Street will reopen during the Summer, having been turned into a restaurant proper. “We’ve been delighted and blown away by how people have taken to us, the restaurant and our brand; understanding what we were trying to do, perhaps even before we knew ourselves,” Jumoke tells me. “We’ve decided to have a go at becoming the restaurant they knew (and now we know) we can be.”
“Our plan is to serve a daily changing four course set menu with a focus on wild Irish seafood and local produce,” she says, “giving the menu more of a sense of place”.
They will still do walk-ins, but we will also be able to book. During the period of closure, apart from refurbishment, Peter and Jumoke will be developing links with new local suppliers and working on menu ideas. It will still be a small restaurant, but a bit more comfortable.
“We’ll still be casual and relaxed but just better – hopefully”, says Jumoke. And considering that they are bloody brilliant anyway, this really does bode well.
PICHET REOPENS WITH A REUNION
Pichet has been a training ground, a finishing school or, at the very least, a starting point for a lot of seriously impressive chefs. And let’s not forget that it’s still home to Stephen Gibson, one of the country’s top culinary talents. Nick Munier, you will recall, has long gone off to do his own thing at Avenue in Temple Bar.
The reopening of the completely revamped Pichet is scheduled for the weekend of 23rd/24th April and we can expect some changes, including a change of logo, a completely new bar and, according to rumour, something to do with the trademark chairs.
A nice touch in the new Pichet is the foundation of something called Friends of Pichet which involves old boys and old girls of the kitchen coming back to do a Sunday evening pop up. The first, on 29th May, features Andy McFadden, now head chef at Pied á Terre in Charlotte Street, W1, an establishment that has a Michelin star. But don’t let that put you off. Andy is one of the good guys. The press release about his gig at Pichet is a little confused. Pied á Terre did indeed have two stars under Tom Aikens way back, but it now has one which Andy has retained. I don’t give a tuppenny fig about Michelin these days, but for the sake of accuracy I thought I should mention that. The point is that Andy McFadden cooks like an angel. That’s all that really matters.
FOREST AVENUE GOES FURTHER
Forest Avenue, one of Dublin’s most exciting but yet unstarred-by-Michelin restaurants (God give me patience!) will soon give birth to a satellite in the form of Forest & Marcy, not far away, on Upper Leeson Street. It will be somewhat less formal (not that the original is for stuffed shirts) and will be conducted by Ciarán Sweeney in the kitchen. He has been popping up, so to speak, on Sunday evenings in Forest Avenue and elsewhere, having worked at Thornton’s and The Greenhouse.
This is a very exciting opening and you can be sure that Forest & Marcy will be flavour of the month with Dublin’s gastro gnomes, at least for a time. So, sharpen your elbows if you want to get a table.