Monday 19 February 2018

Review: Food: Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud: The First Thirty Years by Susan Ryan with Photography by Barry McCall

Books Editor John Spain looks at the singer's love affair with Patrick Guilbaud's restaurant
Guilbaud Books, €50


John Spain

Bono is now, by all accounts, a noted oenophile. But fine wine -- and fine dining -- were things he had to learn to appreciate. As he says in his foreword for the magnificent new coffee table book on Patrick Guilbaud's, the best restaurant in Ireland and Bono's favourite, it was far from vintage wine and gourmet food he was raised.

"Food, since my teenage years, had been fuel more than any culinary escape," he writes. When U2 first became successful and started going to Guilbaud's, Patrick regarded them as being feral rather than exotic creatures, cosmic litter, untidying his perfectly crafted space, Bono says.

"I quite quickly realised that the silverware, the fine linen, the ceremony of the restaurant, was waking up a dormant side of my life that had left with my mother, Iris, although this was a long, long way from how we used to eat, even when she was around at 10 Cedarwood Road when the only fish I ever ate was from the chipper. Spaghetti and rice were puddings in our house. But I do remember her reverence toward sitting down together for Sunday dinner.

"Anyway, I learnt a lot over the years from Patrick and his team and particularly enjoyed their relationship with our manager Paul McGuinness, who as Gavin Friday once put it, 'was clearly eating the profits'.

"Here were two great masters, one standing overseeing the table and one using it as his stage. I remember one occasion where the band and our manager were gathered with one of Paul's biggest influences, Michael Deeny, the Horslips manager, sometimes investor, and still our French promoter. The occasion was the usual fusion of business, friendship and food, with Paul and Michael each trying to out-mentor the band on the great things in life.

"The climax of their presentation was a bottle of very posh wine, a first growth, a great claret, whose name and year I sadly can't remember. Paul suggested the memorable description of 'still a hint of the farmyard'. He wasn't being pretentious; he was really trying to figure this out. The band, only a few years over punk rock, looked incredulously at the two foodies battling it out. Michael turned to the assembled company. 'This,' he said with his very musical stammer, 'is a v-v-very b-b-big wine. Very big'.

"Performing for my bandmates, I decided to take him on. 'Michael,' I said, 'would you explain to the table exactly what you mean by a very big wine?' 'Well, B-B-Bono. Let me put it this way, it's going to b-b-blow your little focking head off.'

"And it did. And still does. And I am eternally grateful for the education I have had at the hands of Paul McGuinness and Patrick, and indeed the ever-gracious Stéphane (the restaurant manager)."

Bono's foreword is just one of the testimonies to and stories about the famous restaurant (the only one here which has two Michelin stars) from dozens of well-known names. The book is titled Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud -- The First Thirty Years and all proceeds are being donated to the Irish Hospice Foundation.

So this is not a TV chef's latest money-making stew. It's a unique, very large-format book which combines the restaurant's history, staff and diners with many of its signature recipes. As sumptuous as the food it celebrates, the book is the best ever produced in Ireland on the fine dining experience.

As the title states, it's now 30 years since Patrick Guilbaud came here from France and opened his restaurant in Dublin at a time when, as Helen Lucy Burke puts it, "prawn cocktail with Marie Rose sauce was our height of sophistication".

Over time -- and it did take time -- Guilbaud changed the gastronomic landscape of Ireland forever.

For anyone interested in food or the business of running a restaurant -- or indeed in the social history of Ireland over the past 30 years -- the book is a treasure trove.

This is not the pseudo-pressured world of MasterChef. This is the real story of what's involved in running a top restaurant over three decades, told from three different perspectives, that of the owner, manager and executive chef.

And if you've ever felt like recreating some of its mouth-watering dishes, the book includes over 40 recipes, illustrated with lavish, double-page colour spreads.

It's also replete with tales of the famous diners who sat at its tables over the years, including a great story about Bill Clinton.

Written by Susan Ryan, with photography by Barry McCall, the 264-page hardback book is €50 and is available from Avoca, Bob Bushell, Brown Thomas, Dubray, Fallon & Byrne and House of Fraser.

The perfect last minute Christmas gift for the foodie in your life!

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