Everything Tastes Better With Fire
Lisa Cope - 17th September 2019
What’s the story?
Mister S is the much anticipated second opening from Featherblade owners Jamie O'Toole and Paul McVeigh, who had a goal of bringing real, live-fire barbecue to Dublin - something the city has never had many options for. They brought Daniel Hannigan on board as head chef (formerly of Richmond and the driving force behind the Food For Thought charity dinners), and Tim Geeves, previously at London's famous and much loved barbecue restaurant Smokestak, as sous chef, and after some back and forth on the name, colour scheme, and a lot of work to turn what had been a blind and curtain shop into an upmarket but casual restaurant, they finally opened their doors at the start of September. (If you want to see exactly how much work has gone into this build, and be put off opening a restaurant forever, click on the "Our Journey" highlight on their Instagram page.)
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What's good to eat?
Everything. We tried most of the menu over two visits and want to eat it all again, and again. The gambas served on flatbread drowned in bisque butter are haunting us on the daily. This isn't a dish to go for if you're butter-averse, but this is the land of butter, so why would you be (dairy allergies aside). The shells are used to make the intensely fishy, rich bisque, the gambas are fresh and fluffy, and at €8 this is just the dish to showcase the incredible value to be found here.
Another dish you shouldn't miss is the organic smoked chicken with romesco, and if you don't get how rare it is to see organic chicken in a casual dining setting just take our word for it - it's going above and beyond, and only the teeniest amount of chicken produced in Ireland is organic. The thigh served in Mister S is smoky and juicy with crispy skin, sitting on a smoky, fruity, nutty romesco sauce, topped with almonds and olive oil, and will put paid to any notion that chicken is the inferior meat. Another dish of just charred mackerel with fennel and herb oil shows what you can get out of a cheap fish when you treat it right. Light, lukewarm and lovely.
Sides include hispi cabbage with spicy sobrasada sausage and feta - what vegetable dreams are made of - and miso roasties with homemade smoked harissa (and loads of crispy bits at the bottom of the bowl), which will ensure that going back to regular roasties is a struggle forever more. Next time we'll be trying the sharing fish or steak, which was brill with langoustines, and côte de boeuf on the day we we were there.
Where should we sit?
There are plenty of seating options, all made from beautiful repurposed wood, that they've painstakingly burnt, oiled and brought back to life. There are booth type seats for four, single tables for two, and a counter with three seats facing out onto Camden Street that have 'solo diner' written all over them. There's also a long communal table hidden down the stairs at the back of the room that's perfect for larger groups. Mister S don't take bookings, but we were relieved to hear that they're using the Qudini app, so if they're full they'll take your name and text you when your table's ready. There are a lot of seats so we can't see this getting to ridiculous wait times (but may stand corrected).
Unsurprisingly they really come into their own with the meats. The Andarl pork tomahawk is a very generous portion for €15, particularly considering the quality of the sweet, smoky meat. The meat from Andarl Farm is called 'velvet pork', a description that makes complete sense when you taste it. As for the smoked Angus shortrib, if anyone in the city is doing a better version we need to know about it. Getting a cheap cut of meat to taste this good takes time, skill and slow cooking, but it's a masterclass in why tougher cuts of meat and barbecue cooking are a match made in meat heaven. Don't miss all the crispy good stuff on the bone, and it's also served with smoked bearnaise, in case you needed any more reasons to plan a trip here.
As you might have guessed, everything here is cooked over fire, even dessert, with the kitchen experimenting with different types of wood for fish, meat and vegetables, and there's something very raw and caveman-like about knowing your food has been licked by smoke and fire. These guys are also intent on delivering serious value for money, so 'nibbles' range from €6 - €8, and 'smoked and grilled' plates from €12 for carrots, freekah and salsa verde to €17 for smoked Angus shortrib. Considering their impeccable sourcing, with free-range pork from Andarl Farm in Galway, Waygu beef from Ridgeway Farm in Wicklow, and free-range organic chicken from Ring Farm in Kilkenny, these prices are pretty unbeatable in the city right now.
Where should we go for a drink first?
You won't be short of options around Camden Street, but we'd suggest Ryan's for a pint away from the madness, or Against The Grain if delving into craft beer is your idea of a good time. For a cocktail head to The Sitting Room, the bar with a "mid-century feel" above Delahunt (below), or for wine you could hover outside Frank's for a quick one.
For dessert the bubble pudding is the one you're going to see everyone posting about. It's cooked on the grill in a cast iron pan, drowned in salted caramel sauce (which is still bubbling when it comes to the table) and finished off with a scoop of banana ice-cream. It's very good, but very large, so one to share is plenty. The other dessert on the menu right now is a strawberry and elderflower (picked by owner Paul's Mum) pudding, and while it's equally huge (and delicious), it feels slightly lighter on the stomach.
What about the drinks?
They've created a very smart, concise drinks list, with wine on tap and in bottle, cocktails, four beers and a cider. Everything's been carefully chosen to work with the food, and there are some serious wines on there, like Tenerife producer Envinate's garnacha, which we imagine would be a stellar pairing for loads of the dishes. We weren't expecting to drink white wine with barbecue but the surprise hit was a South African roussane/chenin blanc blend called Adi's House, which had the complexity, texture and acid to pair beautifully with dishes like the gambas and the pork. There are 8 wines by the glass and 18 by bottle, and we would love to see carafes introduced like in sister restaurant Featherblade.
And the service?
Great. Even though they've just opened it feels like a family operation, with everyone getting stuck in. Staff were warm and chatty and if they can keep up that level of hospitality under pressure and with a queue outside we don't think they'll have many unsatisfied customers.
We love Mister S, and don't think we've been this excited about a new opening since Variety Jones stormed onto the scene last Christmas. In Dublin's rapidly evolving food scene, it feels like a stake in the road, an important chapter in the growth of fast casual restaurants that could hold their own in any major city. Along with places like Lucky Tortoise, Chimac and Pi, Mister S are proving that exciting food of the highest quality can be delivered at every price point and in every setting, and are helping to reconnect all of us with what it means to eat Irish food.