A chef to watch in Foxrock
11 Feb 2020
What’s the story?
Unless you live locally you probably haven't heard of Bistro One in Foxrock. It's one of those under the radar suburban spots - loved by locals but unlikely to have anyone venturing from the other side of the city to eat there. Local love can get you far though (helped by meticulous food sourcing from both the local area and Tuscany, where they grow their own olives), and Bistro One has managed to survive for an incredible 27 years.
The age profile is considerably greyer than your average city centre establishment, with plenty full of monied Foxrock residents remarking on how well the current release of Pomerol is drinking, and if this sounds like it's not your kind of thing, keep reading, because a few months ago everything changed.
Bistro One owner Mark Shannon has a son, Rory Shannon, who's been making food waves in London for the past few years, in The Canton Arms and Tom Oldroyd's The Duke of Richmond amongst others. We'd eaten and adored his food there (including but definitely not limited to the best Sunday roast we've eaten out, in a Deptford wine bar, and a lot of housemade charcuterie), and he'd been named by London food guide Hot Dinners as part of their 'Murphia' list for 2019, of Irish people making an impact in food and drink in London.
At the start of last year he decided he'd had enough of London life and wanted to slow things down. He moved home, unsure of what his next move would be, but when Bistro One lost a chef last summer he found himself stepping into the kitchen to save the day. It must be somewhat painstaking for an ambitious young chef to step into a restaurant with such a loyal, local clientele and try to shake things up, so changes have been slow and considered, but we'd seen enough on his Instagram feed recently (like this and this) to convince us it was time for a visit.
Where should we go for a drink first?
There's not a lot around, but you could grab a glass of wine in The Gables or Kerb across the road. Otherwise we hear that Byrne's pub on the Stillorgan Road is great for a pint, but you'll need to drive or hop in a cab.
Where should we sit?
The dining room is in need of an refresh, but it's bright and comfortable. You can either sit in the main room, or around the corner where there's a more secluded area - perfect for (semi) private conversations or those early dates when you spend the whole night holding hands and trying to eat with the other one.
What's good to eat?
We really struggled to choose as we wanted everything on the menu - usually a very good sign - and Sunday lunch is exceptional value (considering the quality of produce they're using) at two courses for €24 or three for €29. It starts with bread, as all good meals do - housemade sourdough and brown, both excellent. Then the kitchen brought a taster of a dish we hadn't ordered - Mooncoin beetroot, buttered hazelnuts and St Tola goat's curd, a beautiful combination of colour, flavour and crunch.
Our first starter was one we had to have from the minute we saw the robata grill on social media - barbecued line caught mackerel with pickled cucumber and horseradish. Mackerel gets a bad (fishy) rep, and this is the spin doctor to change public opinion. Tender, fatty, smoky flesh was cut through with cucumber and pushed into flavour overload with freshly made horseradish. One of the most perfect plates of food this year and one we wish we could eat daily.
Another of Kilkeel crab on chargrilled sourdough (€5 supplement) with endive, radish and apple was everything you could want from crab on toast, with the sensible mix of white and brown crab meat.
Another starter of burrata, olives and focaccia was a plate of very clever assembly, with creamy burrata, warm focaccia, sun-soaked olives and a caponata like element with sweet and sour raisins and black olives that were more like prunes. The family's own grassy olive oil from Tuscany in a puddle on the plate made it a home run.
For mains we'd been dreaming of the curried pheasant pie for weeks, so that was a non-negotiable. Lucky for us it was on for one that day (some weeks it's for two), and it was everything we wanted it to be. Crispy, buttery pastry, very generous amounts of game, and a savoury, mildly spicy curry sauce. It came with colcannon (great) and a pear chutney (inspired) and was the kind of wholesome Sunday lunch we'd like to make for guests at home.
Our other main of slow cooked Fui Bui venison, turnip gratin & walnut salsa verde was akin to a shin of beef, cooked until you could eat it with a spoon. The turnip gratin was such a refreshing change from potato, with the turnip flavour very subtle (if you have memories of your mother over-boiling it as a child, this is like a different vegetable). The whole dish was very rich and filling, but the walnut salsa verde did a good job of lifting the deep flavours and providing a nice, sharp contrast.
A side of chips were the only bum-note, not crispy or fluffy enough, and it struck us that having chips on the menu is likely to be more of a box-ticking exercise than a labour of love. Another of buttered hispi cabbage was enjoyable if not exciting.
For dessert, again social media had dictated both in advance of us even arriving. We'd seen them perfect the salted caramel tart with creme fraiche over the course of a few days, and it lived up to the images in the wobbly flesh. Getting the salt/sweet balance right is key with salted caramel anything and they nailed it, the biscuity pastry and smooth, sharp crème fraîche the perfect accompaniments.
The other of a buttermilk doughnut with rhubarb and custard was the stuff of our dessert dreams. Alone the doughnut would have stood up against the best, but with the sharp, stringy (seasonal) rhubarb above and the vanilla-scented custard below we were going out on a high with possibly the most fitting dessert for a cold Sunday in January.
What about the drinks?
The wine list here is compact but impressive, with a nice mix of classics like Burgundy and Bordeaux (at non city centre Dublin prices), and a lovely smattering of the new and the natural. Specials on the blackboard included Austrian Claus Preisinger's juicy Putza Libre and Meyer-Fonne's Riesling, and there were 17 wines available by the glass and the carafe. We had a rich, creamy Rully (chardonnay from Burgundy) from Phillipe Milan and a Mercurey (Pinor Noir from Burgundy) from the same producer, and both were excellent examples of the region.
And the service?
One of the loveliest things about family-run, neighbourhood restaurants tends to be the service, and Bistro One is a case in point. They obviously know a lot of their regulars, make it very clear that families are welcome (straight over with colouring pencils and paper for children, and kids even eat free on Saturdays), and nothing you might be after is too much trouble. Owner Mark is still on the floor and is warm and welcoming, but so was everyone who served us.
The return home of Rory Shannon has made Bistro One relevant for more than Foxrock locals. He's dragged it into 2020 and made it into a restaurant worth crossing the city for - not something we say lightly. They already had the produce, he's given them the panache. The type of kitchen talent and dynamism here is found only in Dublin's best restaurants, so the sight of so many other tables only eating Sunday roasts and fish and chips while we feasted on mackerel, game pie and rhubarb doughnuts was depressing to watch - we can't imagine how much more depressing it is from the kitchen's viewpoint.
We don't know how long Rory's going to be in the kitchen here, or what's next for the Shannon family, but our advice is to get to Bistro One and try his food as soon as you can, and if he goes elsewhere, follow him. We'll be right behind you.
3a Brighton Road, Foxrock, County Dublin