Martin Thomas has drawn a very firm conclusion over the years about his wife of six years, radio producer Venetia Quick. "I have come to realise that Venetia is always right," he teases. "A few years of marriage will teach you that."
While they have always led busy lives, Venetia and Martin have upped the ante with the recent opening of The Artisan Parlour, their new food emporium in Ringsend village in Dublin. Mind you, food wasn't exactly on their minds when they were first introduced 20 years ago at a fashion show in the PoD, when she was 20 and he was 25. "I had been told that he was a d**kh**d," chuckles Venetia, who was in third year in college, and was modelling in the show.
"And I was told that she was a snob from Dalkey, and I had experience with those Dalkey/Killiney girls in the past," laughs Martin, who was involved in organising club nights back then. "We started chatting and I thought she was amazing and great fun."
Venetia and her older brother grew up in Dalkey, and her parents, Nadia and Simon, were a ballet teacher and solicitor respectively.
She studied Russian and French at Trinity College, and lived in Moscow early on in her degree, which she found both fantastic and a culture shock. After graduating, she worked in Milano on Dawson Street for four years and then began her career in radio. She now works as producer of Q102's weekday drivetime show, Call Cooney, with DJ Aidan Cooney, of Ireland AM fame, whom she says is really good fun.
Venetia was seeing someone else when she first met Martin, but it soon fizzled out. She bumped into him again and invited him to her 21st, and they started going out shortly after that. Things got serious quite quickly and they got engaged, but her parents weren't happy because they felt she was too young. Over the next few years, it was on and off - they took a break of five years at one point - but they stayed friends and a spark remained between them.
"Then we got pregnant with our son Felix, and that was that," says Venetia. "We got married six years ago and have three boys, Felix, 9, Arlo, 4, and Casper, 2. Martin's best qualities are that he is funny, charming, and a very good dad. We have the same sense of humour and laugh a lot together, and we are both very determined. This can go against us, although I always win in the end! What annoys me is that he has selective hearing, as does everybody in my house, and it drives me insane that he leaves his clothes on the floor."
Martin grew up in Drogheda as the youngest of the late Imelda and Joe's four children. He studied business at Trinity, and volunteered with Greenpeace for two years, while also doing some publishing work. As he was interested in music, he started running club nights, and his first one, the very well-known Strictly Fish, kicked off 20 years ago, followed by Strictly Handbag. The club scene was very exciting then, and Martin made a career from it for around 15 years, adding in consultancy work, event management and marketing.
"As I got older, I didn't want to be hanging around nightclubs and working nights," he says. "I made all of these great brands with the clubs over the years, and all I had to show for them were people's memories of them. I wanted to create something to do with food, so we decided to open The Artisan Parlour, and started to work very hard on it. The few quid that my late parents left me enabled me to not have to do other work while we were getting it ready, but it didn't last long as we have three kids, a mortgage and a car."
The deli-style grocer's shop and parlour is open only three weeks, but has been very well received. It aims to provide and sell really good-quality food. It has a comfortable seating area, and a menu constructed around the finest Irish and Spanish produce, sourced from independent artisan providers. Charcuterie, cheese- and sea-boards are available alongside fine sandwiches, coffee, pastries, smoothies and salads, and it also sells wine, confectionery, sauces, marinades, dry goods, fresh bread, farm eggs and butter. "It's nice to have community-based businesses with local people running them," Martin explains. "If it works, I would look to expanding, without it becoming a chain. I just want a brand associated with really good, Irish produce."
While Venetia's radio job keeps her busy, she also spends as much time as possible in the business. With three boys to take care of, she and Martin have a lot to juggle at present, but it helps that she is a very organised person.
We will get to see her in action soon as she is part of a forthcoming six-part RTE Two series called Connected, where six women recorded their own lives for 10 months in a self- shot, observational documentary series. Venetia's filming period coincided with the planning of the business, and will show her looking for venues and funding with Martin. It also follows her work, social life and family life, and the series is designed as a time-capsule of what life is like for women in Ireland in 2014.
"Venetia is very loyal, and a fantastic mother, and she is determined to make life better for everyone around her," says Martin. "We are like best friends rather than being a couple who are all over each other. We both have different styles of debate, so when we are debating something, I am often told that I am not letting her finish, but that, to me, is a conversation. We are really busy with life, kids and work, so it is very full on. My only complaint is that we can often be like ships passing in the night."