Restaurant critic Aoife Carrigy shares her thoughts on the Hen's Teeth diner in the lifestyle store's new location near Fumbally Lane, Dublin.
December can be challenging month, what with all those lists to tick while still needing to feed and water ourselves. If you want to play it really smart this Christmas, consider bundling the shopping and re-fuelling into one jolly time by hitting up one of several markets that are filling this year's Christmas Flea-shaped hole.
Tonight (Friday 6th) sees kick-off of the first of three weekend Christmas BAZAAR (Friday 6pm–10pm, Sat/Sun 12pm–8pm) in Dublin 8’s brand new Hen's Teeth gallery, studio, store and diner, which means you can check out chef Karl Whelan’s diner fare of serious sarnies and salads while supporting some of the 30 indie makers selling their wares out back. Karl has form, as fans of the inimitable Hang Dai and late-lamented Luna will attest, and he’s done a brilliant job here of packing flavour and choice into a short, focussed and (crucially) deliverable little menu.
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A subtle soup
Early for my pal and starving, I had a small bowl of puy lentil soup (€6) ‘to keep things level’ as my empathetic waiter put it, with the optional cream and bacon (but of course!). Utterly comforting with subtle layers of flavour on top of what must have been a very decent vegetable stock, it reminded me that this is a soup we should all have in our repertoire so that we can self-administer hugs in a bowl on demand.
The main event
Encroaching hanger suitably sidestepped, I could relax over the main affair that had drawn me there: a gloriously pretty and skilfully composed salad of some of my favourite things, including crisp, bitter red chicory, sweet and juicy blackberries and slices of smoked duck (again optional, at a mere €3 extra) with Coolea kromeskies. They had me at Coolea to be honest – one of Ireland’s earliest farmhouse cheese, it remains one of my all-time favourites – but had notched things up brilliantly by panéeing it (bread-crumbing and deep-frying) into crunchy little cubes of deliciousness.
My friend’s tartine was just as joyous: a doorstep slice of pillowy granary bread hosting a flavour party of brightly marinated button mushrooms, slivers of Jerusalem artichoke and salsa-textured chestnuts. It goes to show how some smart chef skills can elevate an open sandwich to a thing of beauty.
Ethiopian batch brew coffee (€2.80) from Belfast’s meticulous Root & Branch roasters was spot on too, and while the perky little doughnuts (€1.50) were resisted this time, but duly noted.
A Fumbally Christmas
It’s very early days for the Hen’s Teeth kitchen, which will start to phase in an evening menu of small plates tonight (including that superb chicory salad), but as early days go, this is a most welcome development from what was already one of Dublin’s most interesting and creative hubs.
Their move from the original Fade Street space to a spare industrial-chic cavern on Blackpitts off Fumbally Lane means that if you go along next weekend, you could double up with a visit to the Irish craft, design and food Christmas market at The Fumbally Stables (Friday 13th from 1pm–8pm plus Sat/Sun 10am–6pm). Or wait until Sunday 22nd and catch Scéal Bakery and Grálinn in The Fumbally Stables from 11am selling their beloved pastries, puddings and preserves.
It's heartening to see another hub of positive creative energy join the Fumbally crew in defending the creative spirit that recent Dublin 8 developments seemed to threaten. More of this kind of thing please.
Hen's Teeth Diner, Blackpitts, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8, D08 K0HD
Author: Aoife Carrigy
Aoife’s first proper work experience (if you don’t count a formative stint as the milkman’s assistant) was a TY placement as commis chef in The Wishbone in Glasthule, where she caught the restaurant bug. From her teens and through her 20s she worked front-of-house in restaurants around Dublin and beyond, before a freelance gig as restaurant columnist for the Dublin Event Guide and then Totally Dublin turned into a five-year full-time editorial stint in FOOD&WINE Magazine. She has been freelance since 2010 and keeps herself busy co-writing and editing cookbooks as well as writing on food, drinks and travel. Aoife is WSET-trained and is currently researching a Masters on ‘Cultural Representations of the Irish Pub’ at TU Dublin.