LOOKING UP: Louise Bannon and Yannick Van Aeken in the new eaterie. Photo: Gerry Mooney
LOUISE Bannon has been on a culinary whirlwind over the past few years. This has taken her from Greystones to Copenhagen to now embarking on a new phase with her partner Yannick Van Aeken in Dublin's Temple Bar. The pair are aligning themselves with the legendary Eden restaurant on Meeting House Square in Temple Bar, founded by Jay Bourke almost before there was a Celtic Tiger whisper.
Both Yannick, a native of Antwerp, and Louise have worked at the world's No 1 restaurant, Noma, under Rene Redzepi for the past six or so years, being sous chef and pastry chef respectively. The pair joined Noma at separate times whilst it was a two-star Michelin restaurant, but before the Danish restaurant had achieved the accolade of Restaurant Magazine's San Pellegrino World's No 1 Restaurant – a title it has held for three years. It will be interesting to see if it holds the title this year when the results are announced on April 29 in London's Guild Hall, an event which, as a member of the judging panel for the British Isles, I hope to attend.
Noma is famous for its ethos of foraging and also for introducing a different kind of Nordic food to the world. The cuisine in Noma is completely Nordic – horse mussels, deep-sea crabs and langoustines from the Faroe Islands, halibut, wild salmon and curds from Iceland, lamb, musk ox, berries and the purest drinking water from Greenland. Noma chefs are constantly smoking, salting, pickling, drying and baking on slabs of basalt stone. As others use wine in their sauces, at Noma they use beers and ales, fruit juices and fruit-based vinegars for imparting a lively freshness and edge. Vegetables, herbs, spices and wild plants in season play a prominent role. This will give you a taste of the culinary influences under which Louise and Yannick have worked at Noma but the new restaurant will be focused totally on Irish produce.
Louise trained originally in Cathal Brugha Street before working in Thornton's in Dublin for 12 months. Highly talented, focused and extremely experienced, Louise did a Stage at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck in Berkshire before working for a year with Tom Aiken's two-star Michelin restaurant. "Aiken's was incredibly inspiring, it was very tough with long hours but you learned a lot – the food looked amazing and tasted amazing," Louise says.
She then returned to Ireland to work with Dylan McGrath in his Michelin-starred Mint Restaurant in Ranelagh. When that closed suddenly, Louise didn't let the grass grow under her feet and took a plane immediately to Copenhagen where she had applied for a job at Noma and where she was taken on right away.
Yannick is an incredibly dedicated and talented chef. He trained in Der Duinem, one of the most prestigious culinary colleges in Europe, and did Stages in top Michelin-starred restaurants around the world including three months at Alain Ducasse's iconic restaurant in Monaco.
Following last summer's Noma two-week pop-up in Claridge's Hotel in London during the Olympic Games, which they both thoroughly enjoyed, they departed Noma to do their own thing, with the blessings and encouragement of Rene Redzepi. Since then they have been kept busy between here and Belgium where they recently did a demonstration on sustainable cooking for the parliament in Brussels. They are also in consultation with product developers regarding sustainable induction cooking using wind and solar power.
Renovations are in full swing on the new-look Eden which will be called NEDE, under the guidance of the original architect Tom de Paor with a new mirrored ceiling cleverly reflecting the new NEDE EDEN. A state-of-the-art kitchen will be installed at which point Yannick and Louise will then be at the helm. Whilst final renovations are being carried out, Yannick and Louise ran a pop-up dinner this week which, in case you missed out, will be repeated on March 6 and 7. Yannick and Louise's food is a new style of dining for Dublin. Louise says "our food is light and healthy, using sustainable and organic produce where possible. All of our food is purchased from Irish producers and farmers including Brendan Guinan of In Season products in Drogheda, Co Louth."
"Nothing is wasted," adds Yannick. "We don't discard or disregard a carrot if they are not all the same size."
They are, of course, also expert foragers, and so pea shoots, penny worth, wild watercress, wild sorrel, onion cress and minted cress feature widely – and Yannick is emphatic that there will be no deep fryer in the kitchen! The five-course menu at €45 kicks off with snacks of whitebait, cod skins, mushrooms and potato, and is followed by celeriac and seaweeds from the west of Ireland served in a yogurt sauce.
Next is an unusual tartare of cured beef. They make a good use of vegetables delivered in an unusual way – a cod head is presented with kale, celery stems, watercress, broccoli and red radish. This is to share between two and you just pick away. Grilled spring onions, wild garlic, spring leaves, and mizuna rocket come with pan-fried sweetbreads in a subtle onion-flavoured sauce. Whiskey parfait with toasted barley and malted barley rounds off the evening.
When Yannick and Louise are in full swing at NEDE, they will open for lunch and dinner Wednesday to Saturday and brunch on Sunday.
"The idea was to open for five days a week so that we have the same staff working as a team. That way we won't be coming in on a Wednesday and finding that the guy who was working on a Monday and Tuesday will have left everything all over the place! When you have the team all working together, it is more consistent as well," Louise says.
The menu at that point will revert to a more regular style menu with lunch time starters around €9 and a choice of two main courses at €15. A three-course lunch will be €25 and they will also be doing a NEDE to Eat dish of the day at €15 which will include a glass of wine and coffee. The evening menu will offer nine to 12 dishes priced from €6 to €15 and will include dishes such as wilted chard with poached egg, potato, and kipper sauce, or beer-braised red cabbage with oats. Oh yes, the famous Eden smokies will be there but in a more contemporary way. Yannick and Louise are brewing their own beers in Belgium – I haven't tasted them yet but I have had Yannick's most amazing apple and honey drink – and I'd drive to Antwerp for it!
"Our food is simple, light, using local producers with a new approach to Irish cooking," emphasises Yannick.
NEDE, ph (01) 670-5372
One of Ireland's great chefs, Cork-born Martin Dwyer, who ran his delightful eponymous restaurant in Waterford for many years, is now resident in the Languedoc – where he and his wife Sile are living the good life in the sun while running a Chambre d'hote called Le Presbytere.
Martin and Sile bought the historic former priest's house in 2006 in the little village of Thezan Les Bezier, built on a hill, and enjoying marvellous views even to the Pyrenees on a good day. They brought a little bit of Ireland with them in that master designer Clive Nunn from Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, designed and made the kitchen in Le Presbytere using oak and Kilkenny Black Limestone.
You can get a glimpse of their lifestyle on Wednesday next, March 6, on Nationwide on RTE 1.