Thursday 27 June 2019

Restaurant review: 'A slice of country in the city - served up with grá on a hidden farm'

Grálinn Supper Club, Elmhurst Cottage Farm, Glasnevin, Dublin 9. Instagram: @_gralinn_

Farm fresh: The menu at Grálinn is centred around the urban farm’s seasonal produce
Farm fresh: The menu at Grálinn is centred around the urban farm’s seasonal produce
Katy McGuinness

Katy McGuinness

Unless you live in the area, you probably don't know that there's an urban farm right in the middle of Glasnevin. The mention of it is intriguing, the reality gorgeous. Located on the grounds of a nursing home, Elmhurst Cottage Farm is currently under the guardianship of Nadja and Rossa Cassidy, a young couple who live there with their children, Maya and Samir.

On a sunny Saturday evening, Elmhurst is enchanting... The hens potter around happily in their enclosure while Maya scours the vegetable beds for snails to feed to the Indian runner ducks as a pre-dinner snack. Polytunnels house all manner of salads, fig trees and vines, and the strawberries are starting to flower. The herb beds are in rude health, already spilling over with mint and sage. On the one-acre farm, occupying an original walled garden dating from the mid- 19th century, there is a lot going on.

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That morning, Rossa and Nadja brought some of their spare produce to sell at the new market in the Fumbally Stables, and now they're collaborating with chef Matteo Griscti to provide some of the key ingredients for tonight's supper club.

Dee Kelly, Matteo's partner, is the other half of Grálinn (loosely translated, the name means 'love with us') and she's busy making negronis and bringing tonight's six guests on a tour of the farm while Matteo puts the finishing touches to our meal. The kitchen unit was formerly home to everyone's favourite bakers, Scéal, which seems like a lucky omen. (The queue for Charlotte and Shane's breads and pastries at the Fumbally Market is long, but you can also find them at the Naomh Olaf market in Sandyford on Friday mornings, where there are no queues and you can fill the boot of the car with vegetables from McNally Family Farm and all manner of other good things while you're at it.)

The supper club happens in a simple space adjacent to the kitchen, and guests sit at a communal table - the maximum number is eight. It's a six-course, no-choice tasting menu that, in the modern way, is plant-focused without being vegetarian or vegan, and changes according to whatever is available on the farm, supplemented by judicious purchases from McNally's and Niall Sabongi's Sustainable Seafood Ireland. Tonight there is no meat on the menu and we barely register its absence.

Matteo is originally from Malta, where the food culture borrows from Italy, Sicily and the UK, and there is a joyous eclecticism to his food - Dee describes it as a mish-mash - that must owe something to exposure to a wide variety of food influences.

We start with slices of rosemary-flecked focaccia accompanied by generous bowls of vibrant lou sassoun, which according to Niki Segnit's Lateral Cooking (a fascinating resource for food nerds) is a French dip - a cousin to pesto - made from pounded almonds, mint, fennel, anchovies, olive oil and lemon juice.

Next come delicate strips of marinated red gurnard with lovage oil, blood orange and fronds of fennel, and then kuku sabzi, a Persian herb omelette - so green that the egg is really there just to bind the herbs - with labneh, pickled celery and carrots. A classic plate of Macroom buffalo ricotta with roast golden beetroot, dressed with apple balsamic, is simplicity incarnate.

A dish of Connemara clams and Kelly's mussels served with a chunky ramson (wild garlic) and hazelnut pistou comes - fittingly - with Scéal sourdough. Something has gone awry with the cooking times here and, while the mussels are open, most of the clams are not. It's a pity because the flavours are good. To finish there are anise-scented, Zeppelin-shaped beignets - appropriately called zeppoli - served with a savoury sugar and orange blossom cream of absolute perfection.

Dee and Matteo will post details of future supper clubs on their Instagram account (see above). Go if you can.

The rating

8/10 food

8/10 ambience

8/10 value

24/30

ON A BUDGET

The Grálinn food truck will be appearing at festivals this summer. You'll find them at Body & Soul, Taste of Dublin and Another Love Story amongst others, and it's an opportunity to try their individual small plates.

ON A BLOW-OUT

A seat at the BYOB supper club costs €70.

THE HIGH POINT

The sublime location.

THE LOW POINT

The clams weren't cooked for long enough and many didn't open.

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