Over the past five months, I have come to view Dubliners as the most upbeat and fun-loving people: this, despite continuous news of the dire state of their economy. Their enjoyment of a good time is infectious, and their ability to drink is infamous. However Dublin as a drinking capital perhaps overshadows its reputation as a culinary centre. The city may have taken longer than many of its western counterparts to catch on to the business of ‘eating out’, but in the last few decades, Dublin has branched out far beyond its roots, and opened its eyes to international cuisine in a serious way.
The fact that despite the recession, not only are established restaurants flourishing but there is space, and indeed demand for, new eateries, including Dylan McGrath’s latest venture, Fade Street Social, is testament to Dublin’s commitment to improving its position in the food world. Of course, a name like Dylan McGrath (judge of Irish Masterchef among other accolades), provides certain advantages from a marketing point of view, but also raises expectations. Dubliners may have entered the food scene belatedly, but they are a discerning crowd, and the premature closure of Gary Rhodes’ Rhodes D7 in 2009 is proof that they will not be won over by a name alone. So with this in mind, it was with a truly Irish attitude that I entered Fade Street Social on a wet and windy Wednesday evening to sample for myself the newest hot spot in Dublin city centre.
The project to convert 8000 sq ft of space on Fade Street into a one stop gastronomic destination began in July 2012 and the care and consideration taken with the interior design is clear to see. The use of warm colour, and bench-style tables, copper napkin rings and specially commissioned ‘street art’ illustrations on the Tapas menus, combine to create a perfect relaxed modern environment. Satisfied diners improve the atmosphere of any restaurant, but McGrath has ensured that his customers will feel confident the moment they sit down by opting for an open kitchen, and by hiring well informed, attentive, but far from stuffy, waiting staff. The ground floor is split into a Restaurant and a Tapas bar, while upstairs there is further space to enjoy the Tapas, and also a ‘drinks only’ area with low cow-skin seating and quirky wooden tables.
In order to make the most of my visit, I joined some friends who were eating in the restaurant, before moving on to the Tapas bar to enjoy some nibbles and cocktails myself. Reports on the restaurant food were resoundingly positive. The flatbreads from the ‘Woodfired’ section of the Menu were described as incredibly satisfying without being heavy, with such interesting taste combinations – the pumpkin, pork and chestnut in particular – that it was no struggle to finish the healthy portions. The Salmon with crab sauce under the ‘Charred and Smoked’ heading, with Cauliflower fondant roasted in nut-brown butter as a side was apparently mouthwateringly good. If Dylan McGrath were a contestant rather than a judge on Masterchef, he would have been delighted with the feedback.
There is an increasing trend towards experimental cooking. This is undoubtedly something that should be encouraged, but I have found on other occasions that the resulting dishes have fallen short of my expectations. Fortunately, there are no such problems at Fade Street Social. The Tapas Menu makes for an exciting and amusing read, and the food that arrived, delivered every way that I had hoped. Mini Lobster Hotdogs with melted hazelnut butter in a brioche roll, Crispy Chicken pieces served with truffle popcorn, and Pumpkin Macaroni with spring onion and Parmesan all demonstrated a perfect balance of fun, flavour and ingenuity. There is little in the way of subtlety, and there is no holding back in the use of cream and butter, but as long as you eat the dishes in the Tapas style (and you aren’t on a diet), then I would be surprised to hear any complaints.
I am struggling to find fault with Fade Street Social, and it would seem that the rest of Dublin is inclined to agree with me if the stream of eager diners entering the restaurant throughout the evening is anything to go by. Yes, the prices are fairly steep in the restaurant, but (depending on how restrained you are) actually the Tapas menu is very reasonable, with dishes between €6 and €10. If the initial level of popularity continues, it may be a while before there is a spare table, but it is certainly a table worth saving up for.
More information here.
Written by a Thoroughly Modern Miss, Lucy Freedman.