independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Troc on! Why our actors need never go hungry again

Trocadero restaurant

The acting community is up in arms. And no, it's not because of the Oscars, the BAFTAs or the IFTAs. It's because they've taken the deep-fried brie off the menu at the Trocadero.

The 'Troc' on Dublin's Andrew Street has been an actor's hang-out for as long as anyone can remember. It has just re-opened after a major refurbishment, and there's a new menu too.

There's a fresher, brighter look to the place, a state-of-the-art kitchen, and they've moved the stage lights they salvaged from the old Theatre Royal.

"Yes, they have taken the deep-fried brie off," says actor Marion O'Dwyer, who is soon to appear in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Gate theatre. "There is complete panic! But I think they might reconsider."

Like many Dublin-based actors, Marion is a regular at the Troc. "I feel I spent my youth in there," she laughs. "You went there to celebrate after a good opening night, or to be consoled after a bad one.

"For years, it was one of the only places where you could get a late supper. And, in the days when taxis were rare as hen's teeth, you knew you could go there and they would sort you out."

"It's just a really good spot," agrees actor Michael James Ford, who is appearing in two shows a day at Bewleys Theatre on Grafton Street.

"We were always treated so well. You celebrated all sorts of things there. It was a great place for cast parties, not least because you were never thrown out," he adds.

"I've been going to the Troc for about a thousand years," laughs designer Peter O'Brien. "When I would come home from Paris, it was my first port of call.

"In the old days, it was sort of a private club for the acting fraternity. I remember one Christmas, they gave out carol lyrics sheets, and people like Cuan Hanley and Jean Butler were singing. We were there until God knows when."

Michael Ford, Marion O'Dwyer and Peter O'Brien agree that the heart of the Trocadero is maître d' Robert Doggett, who co-owns the restaurant with Rhona Teehan and Patricia Aitchison.

"He is so welcoming. He remembered my father's name, and he'd only been in the place once before, and that was two years ago," says Michael.

"He's the kind of man who remembers the date of your niece's Holy Communion, or your mother's name," agrees Peter O'Brien.

"He can tell you all sorts of things," says Marion, "like the night they found a set of false teeth under one of the tables, or discovered a diner asleep in the gents in the morning."

"I used to look the actors up in their theatre programmes when I started, 28 years ago," says Robert when questioned about his powers of recall. "But now I just know them all."

Back then, the Trocadero, which had last orders at midnight, was a rare late-night spot in the city. And the previous owner had befriended Gaiety panto legend Jimmy O'Dea and cultivated the acting set, explains Robert. "We just carried on from there," he says.

One of many famous Troc nights was when Brenda Fricker flew back early from Los Angeles to celebrate her Oscar win for best supporting actress in 1990.

"Her agent rang me from Hollywood. We kept it very quiet. But it was a great night. I remember [playwright] Tom Murphy leading a standing ovation as Brenda left," says Robert.

With its new look and new kitchen and Sunday opening from 2.30pm, the Troc looks set for many more years of success. But the crucial question is: what about the deep-fried brie?

"It has been mentioned," laughs Robert. "Let's put it this way, it's not on the menu, but it's there for the people who want it."

Irish Independent

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