Conrad Gallagher opens third restaurant in just 15 months
CONTROVERSIAL chef Conrad Gallagher opens his third restaurant in 15 months tonight -- but insists he is not overstretching himself building up a new chain of businesses.
The Dining Room By Conrad Gallagher, at Dublin's landmark La Stampa Hotel, is owned by businessman Louis Murray, but will be fronted by the Donegal man.
The chef plans to run the 190-seater "upmarket brasserie" while looking after two other restaurants, Salon des Saveurs on Dublin's Aungier Street, and sister restaurant Conrad's Kitchen, which recently relocated to Rockwood Parade in Sligo.
The latest opening will bring back memories of the late 1990s when Gallagher ran a number of restaurants in Dublin, which included Peacock Alley, Ocean, Lloyd's Brasserie, and Christopher's, later rechristened Mango Toast -- all of which closed after a time with the chef relocating to the US.
Asked if it was possible he was overstretching himself again, Gallagher told the Irish Independent last night: "I'm surrounded by good chefs and by good finance people. I'm hoping to split myself between the two restaurants, if that works out successfully, that's great.
"Right now, Salon has a very loyal following but if I see it as a natural draw, that everyone comes here (La Stampa), I will have to address that in the coming months," he added, hinting it was possible his tasting restaurant would close rather than his latest endeavour.
But Gallagher has had to put up with worse things in life than closing restaurants.
In 2003, he was arrested in New York and extradited to Dublin to stand trial for the alleged theft of paintings. He was subsequently acquitted.
South Africa was his next port of call until summer 2009 when he moved back to Ireland with his wife Candice Coetzee and two young sons after the collapse of his Geisha Wok and Noodle bar in Cape Town.
Declared bankrupt, his assets in South Africa, including cars and properties, were auctioned off to pay off debts of €187,000.
However, the chef put himself back in business when he opened tasting restaurant Salon des Saveurs on Dublin's Aungier Street in January 2010.
Now, with the backing of La Stampa owner Louis Murray, The Dining Room By Conrad Gallagher sees the controversial chef entertaining on a scale not seen since his Peacock Alley heyday.
The 40-year-old revealed he has made a few changes to the dining room of La Stampa.
Gone are the famous collection of Graham Knuttel paintings for which the restaurant was renowned, to be replaced by plain yellow walls.
"This is a new period with me at the helm, and should communicate more what I like in design and where I think atmosphere is in restaurants.
"As far as I'm concerned Graham Knuttel is passe, is (the) old, and this is the new. That's why I decided to change," Gallagher said yesterday.
Gone too are the sky-high prices Gallagher once charged at the height of the Celtic Tiger, with a three-course lunch at his new eaterie costing just €18.95.
"The Conrad Gallagher brand is about value for money -- whether you buy a €200 or €26 bottle of house wine. You get the same respect. We treat everybody the same. Barristers or plumbers," he added.
So starters range from €7 for pea emulsion soup to €12 for caesar salad, mains vary from €14.95 for confit leg of duck pie to €24.95 for seared tuna with a sesame crust and there is a selection of shellfish, salads and steaks.
So what about the dreaded food critics who will be out in force tonight? Gallagher joked: "Unfortunately I have to treat them just like normal customers. Of course I expect them, and of course I'll be waiting on them, and welcoming them, like I do all customers."
However, the critics may prove hard to spot with a full house expected and the restaurant booked out until Thursday.
"We took 300 reservations yesterday alone and some callers who want to book their Christmas parties here. I've been in the kitchen for the last eight days getting everything ready," he said.
"It's going to be a very tough year but I'm ready for it."