Tuesday 22 January 2019

Katy McGuinness: The restaurants and cafés to book in 2019

There's plenty of new restaurants and cafés across the country to dine in this year

Lucky Tortoise. Photo: Mark Condren
Lucky Tortoise. Photo: Mark Condren
Damien Grey. Photo: Tony Gavin
Katy McGuinness

Katy McGuinness

Towards the end of last year, there was a flurry of new openings in Dublin - so many that it was hard to keep up. Gertrude on Pearse Street is the first restaurant proper from the 3Fe team, and head chef Holly Dalton's menu looks both interesting and well priced. I like the sound of the bacon and cabbage dumplings in particular.

Kwanghi Chan opened Bowls by Kwanghi on Marlborough Street in Dublin 1 and early reports are of great food, reasonably priced. Kwanghi is a familiar face from the telly and is the man behind the Chan Chan range of Asian condiments.

Keelan Higgs' Variety Jones on Thomas Street opened a few days before Christmas. This was one of the most hotly anticipated openings of the year, from a talented chef who's worked at Luna and Locks. Higgs is cooking over fire and I expect the food will be amazing. I'm very much looking forward to this one.

Another very hot opening is Aimsir at Cliff at Lyons, where husband and wife team, chef, Jordan Bailey, and front-of-house, Majken Bech Christensen, will draw on the skills they honed at restaurants such as the three-Michelin-star Maaemo in Oslo, using a larder of wholly Irish ingredients. Watch out for reservations to go live.

The unstoppable Press Up group opened Isabelle's in the city centre and Elephant & Castle in Rathmines late last year. In early 2019 it will open another branch of Elephant & Castle in Monkstown. Later in the year there will be a new restaurant on Camden Street and another on Richmond Street in Portobello.

Other Press Up projects in the pipeline for completion in 2020/2021 include The Mayson Hotel on North Wall Quay, The Dean Galway and The Dean Cork, all of which will have restaurants.

Also opening at the tail end of last year were two new Italian restaurants, Grano in Stoneybatter and Gigi's in Ranelagh, where Giorgio Casari, formerly of the Unicorn, is involved. I'm looking forward to visiting both in the coming weeks. Rita's, also in Ranelagh, opened in December; its focus is on pizza.

On Aungier Street in Dublin, opposite instant hit Uno Mas, Sofie Rooney and Garret Fitzgerald will open Chimac Dublin in the late spring/early summer. Inspired by the food they ate on a visit to Korea two years ago for a wedding, they'll be serving Korean fried chicken and beer, alongside burgers, wings and fries. Also on Aungier Street is Thom Lawson's newly opened Lucky Tortoise, an evolution of his nomadic pop-up, specialising in dim sum (pictured main).

One Society is a new café on Dublin's Gardiner Street about which there is already lots of good feedback. Café 1920 on Westmoreland Street also opened towards the end of the year.

From early in the new year, the people behind the Grálinn pop-up at MVP, Dee Kelly and Matteo Griscti, will be basing themselves at Elmhurst urban farm in Glasnevin.

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Damien Grey. Photo: Tony Gavin

Damien Grey (pictured above) of Heron & Grey, which closed at the end of last year, will open Liath in the same premises in Blackrock in March.

Dylan McGrath's Shelbourne Social opened in Dublin 4 at the end of last year, with a boom-time menu and décor to match. I'll be putting on my glad rags for a visit early in the new year. And just opposite, the people behind Cinnamon are opening a new restaurant in March, with interior designer Róisín Lafferty overseeing a no-expense-spared fit-out.

Another fancy fit-out, under the direction of Press Up's favourite architects, O'Donnell O'Neill, is under way at The Marlin on the corner of Aungier and Mercer Streets; the hotel will have 301 beds. There will be a 13,000 sqft bar and restaurant on the ground floor when it opens in July.

Niall Davidson, the Northern Irish chef who was at Nuala in London, will open his new restaurant on South Frederick Street in Dublin in the next few months. Anyone who ate at Nuala while Davidson was involved will know that this is something to look forward to.

Joining the ranks of British chain restaurants setting up in Ireland is Leon, known for healthy fast food. It's opening in Dundrum Town Centre and at an as yet undisclosed location in Dublin city centre. And Damascus Gate on Camden Street is opening another branch in Terenure, while popular Tallaght restaurant, Wing It, is opening a branch in the city centre.

TV chef Gary O'Hanlon has taken over The Kitchen at Arnotts from Clodagh McKenna who is now based in London. There will be a re-branding later in the year.

FX Buckley's pub and restaurant at Ryan's on Parkgate Street is getting a makeover early in the new year, as is its Bull & Castle at Christchurch.

Bunsen, which serves what I and many others consider to be the country's best burger, will open its first international branch in Barcelona in 2019.

Outside the capital, the Copper Hen Restaurant opened just before Christmas on Queen Street in Tramore. Chef Eugene Long ran the Copper Hen in Fenor for nine years and in Tramore will work alongside chef Conor Foran. The kitchen will focus on 'traditional fare with a flair'.

In Wicklow town, the word on Lily's, which opened on Church Street a couple of months ago, is positive.

Keith Boyle of the Bay Tree Bistro in Waterford and his wife Carmel will open Restaurant Lady Anne in Creamery House in Castlecomer early in the new year.

Fifty50, which has branches in Ashbourne, Navan and Templeogue is opening in Drogheda, and Séamus O'Connell from the Ivory Tower in Cork is opening Malarkey in Killarney in late spring.

Chef Frank Landy opened Sweet 'n' Green in Ennis at the end of last year; early reports are good.

With so many new openings, there's a concern that the Dublin restaurant market is saturated, and that there simply aren't enough people in the city to justify the number of seats looking to be filled. Joe Macken's restaurants - JoBurger, Crackbird, Hey Donna and Bar Giuseppe - went into liquidation just before Christmas; there are bound to be more casualties as the impact of the VAT and minimum wage increases kicks in. There are tough times ahead.

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