Lucinda O'Sullivan looks at a union of restaurant, classroom, design shop and theatre that grabs the imagination
WHAT are the odds of two people of the same name ending up together as partners in business and in life? Kevin Byrne and Kevin Byrne are the chef-and-front-of-house team of the marvellous Mayfield Deli & Eatery in Terenure, which they describe as a seafood restaurant, French restaurant, sandwich shop, breakfast and brunch restaurant. In fact, it's a lot more than the sum of all that because they have created, out of virtually nothing, a unique little world involving food, interior design, theatrical performances, sewing classes, and computer lessons. All of which has captured the imagination of those for miles around.
Imagination truly is the operative word because it does show what a bit of imagination and initiative can do. There are people who can miss an opportunity staring them in the face, and people who can see an opportunity where no one else can.
These guys grasped a rather unlikely premises and, along with neighbouring interior design business Wilson & Co, run by Deirdre and John Wilson, created their own colourful world under the banner of Union Square encompassing both businesses in one area. It really is almost an artistic centre on its own because between them they also run theatre dinner evenings, sewing classes and computer courses on site.
Kevin and Kevin originally opened their Mayfield Deli on the main road, which is still there, but when what I would loosely term 'the sheds' or outhouses to the rear became vacant seven months ago, they took them on and have created a really funky eatery there.
Mayfield Eatery is piled from head to toe with what some might simply term as junk but what others would see as vintage chic. Not a thing in the place is new. It's all pretty old china teacups, mixed with vintage tables and chairs, and wacky wallpaper with chickens in one area and roses in another. A Sixties tea trolley is propped on a table laden with gorgeous cakes. It is totally kitsch, and the punters are loving it.
From Dundrum and Knocklyon respectively, the guys first opened the Mayfield Deli and Restaurant two years ago. It also had seating for about 24.
"Seven months ago the other buildings became available, and myself, Kevin, Deirdre and John got together and decided to take on the building and expand our businesses." Kevin A has been a
chef in many places, including the erstwhile Gruel on Dame Street, and at the Canal Bank on Upper Leeson Street. Kevin B was previously the manager of the Fernhouse Restaurant at Avoca in Kilmacanogue, so both are fully experienced in the food industry.
"The building itself hadn't been used in 20 years, you will see some of the original features, so we basically refurbished it with new ceiling, everything from scratch, and it has grown and taken on a life of its own."
They have been running fantastic dinner and theatre evenings at €25. "You come in, have a bite to eat, a glass of wine, dessert, all in the room and then in the other room we have a stage and you go in and watch the show for about 45 minutes."
These were running up to the end of October and will be resuming in January.
Primarily a daytime eatery, Mayfair has just started to open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. "With such a big operation, we wanted to get it right, otherwise you can be stretched. We are very happy about it, excited. We are running it on the basis that the Early Bird is dead – we do an all-evening value menu at €25 for three courses, €22 for two courses, or indeed €15 for one course."
On Sundays they are open all day, with live piano music with Will O'Connell from 1pm to 5pm. What a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Kevin B says that what people want nowadays is a good variety of salads and good home cooking. "We make everything here, all our own sauces, cakes, and so on, and when you see people's faces when they eat into it they go 'Wow!', they can taste flavour. You taste the difference between manufactured and home cooking straight off – I think that's what people want. People want to feel good, not be ripped off , they want to feel they are in a nice atmosphere and we try our best to achieve all of that."
The other part of the team at Union Square, John and Deirdre Wilson, had previously been in a neighbouring premises for six to seven years.
John says, "Union Square grew organically. We spent about six months refurbishing and then we both moved in.
"As well as the interior design store and interior design business, we have the Class Room, which is a dedicated area for different classes such as sewing classes by Aislinn McLoughlin – that's the most popular one, but we are putting on different classes as time goes by. We also run maths classes given by Orla Cooney. It's all about make-and-do and upskilling. We've tried to organise classes that will dovetail into the services we've got here. We don't really want to run sheet metal classes, we want to run things that are basically creative and artistic."
Deirdre emphasises that the primary focus of the business is interiors and design.
She says, "At present the emphasis is very much on value for money. People still want that quality look that they were prepared to spend on during the boom. However, now, with their budgets restricted, the challenge is to create that quality look by spending on strategic areas and refurbishing existing items where feasible."
Apart from the retail shop, which is awash with gorgeous lamps, mirrors, French desks, vintage teacups, greeting cards, costume jewellery, and vintage dresses, there is a large fabric library on site. They are agents for many of the top brands including Zoffany, Andrew Martin, Sanderson and GP & J Baker, amongst others.
So, when you are out and about, keep your eyes open for that niche location or premises where you could create a magic world of your own.
Union Square, 9-13 Terenure Road North, Dublin 6. Mayfield Eatery, Tel: (01) 492 6830; Wilson & Co, Tel: (01) 405 5055