I’ve had to whisper this the last few weeks but (shhhhh) I’m not a rugby fan. I’ve felt distinctly unpatriotic avoiding the games with excuse after excuse. So, in a way to make up for it, I want to draw attention to some other boys in green, well sort of…chefs that are flying the flag for Irish food. They are taking our favourite hearty Irish foods and making them into world class dishes. Two of the best meals I’ve had recently and perfect examples of this and randomly have been Irish meals in London…
Mark Moriarty cooking at Selfridges, London
Rising young star, Mark Moriarty, recently beat global competition to win the hugely prestigious San Pelligrino Young Chef of the Year competition in Italy, representing Ireland and Britain. With experience in The Ledbury and Restaurant Tom Aikens in London and Dublin’s Thornton’s and The Greenhouse he has had some stellar training and it shows in his cooking. I was lucky enough to sample his recent pop-up dinner in Selfridges in London where I was blown away by his take on traditional Irish dishes…
Not only did this whole meal taste insanely good Mark also popped out in between each course to talk about the food. The Irish-ness was in the stories as well as the ingredients. The canapé served in a scallop shell inspired by ashtrays you’ll find in pubs all over coastline, the crispy potato skins of his youth, comparing cooking his now signature ‘Lamb in Hay’ to Blur always having to play Country House (It was just after Electric Picnic). His take on bacon and cabbage was somehow a million miles away from the dish we grew up with but also tasted exactly as it should. It was nostalgia at it’s tastiest and incredibly executed.
Mark will be cooking his first dinner in Dublin since winning Young Chef of The Year as part of Taste City Fusion on Friday 23rd October. It’s a Medieval menu he told me was part inspired by Heston Blumenthal’s medieval menu at Dinner. Along with his DIT mentor & head of culinary arts Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire he delved into Irish medieval food history along to devise what I’m sure will be a stunning four course feast.
Meath native Richard has been flying the flag for Irish food for longer than most having won a Michelin star at his original London restaurant, Lindsay House back in 1997. I remember eating there back in 2004 and ordering his star dish crubeens and thinking this is pretty cool. An Irish chef cooking this dish right in the heart of Soho. He went on to be a winning chef Great British Menu three times and consequently was thrust into the limelight as an Irish food ambassador. And boy is he good at it. From the seaweed butter at the beginning right through to the petit fours I had a list of questions to ask the chef about various tastes and ingredients that blew me away. And you know what the common theme was? Irish ingredients! Here’s a recap of what I had….
The mussels were the best I’ve ever eaten, big, juicy, tasty. And what really stood out was the broccoli – yep. You could smell the broccoli over the steak, sauces, over anything else. And Richard proudly told me that’s because he grew it himself in Cavan. He’s taken over the beautiful Virginia Park Lodge and has been bountifully growing his own fantastic produce for his restaurants.
I also want to give a shout out for the chefs that are coming home and doing great things in Dublin. I’m thrilled to see that Paul McVeigh has put away his passport (he was travelling the world cooking with golfer Rory McIllroy) and has now opened super cool steak restaurant on Dawson Street Featherblade and I’m waiting with baited breath to see what ex- London chef (Harwood Arms) Barry Fitzgerald will serve up when he opens his new spot Bastible in the next few weeks in Dublin. #COYBIG
My lunch in Bentley’s was thanks to a trip with Cityjet on their inaugural Cork to London flight.