It’s 5pm, shortly before service starts at 777 Restaurant on South Great Georges Street, and waiting outside the black nondescript entrance I feel like I’m about to enter an illicit, secretive speakeasy. Head chef Adam Dunn soon arrives to smuggle me inside the door, and before I know it there’s a frosty salt rimmed margarita sitting on the bar in front of me. “Welcome to the wonderful world of 777,” says the bartender.
In 2012, Dublin’s coolest restaurateur, John Farrell, (Super Miss Sue, Luna, Dillinger’s, and The Butchers Grill) established Ireland’s only contemporary Mexican restaurant, 777. Inspired by the bold flavours of Mexico and modern techniques used by chef Rene Ortiz at La Esquina in New York, John carefully researched the venture, and worked closely with Ortiz himself, to make his vision a reality.
Like the others in the John Farrell family, no detail of design is left unconsidered. A boldly designed bar unashamedly dominates the dark room; Siete Leguas tequila bottles line the walls; and decorative tile murals depict couples embracing as if they after a few of 777’s notoriously strong margaritas. Retro ceiling fans, chequered floor tiles, wax dribbled candles, and loud pumping music give the final impression that you are in Mexico City’s edgiest taqueria.
Of the 5 siblings, 777 is the rogue middle child: vivacious, flirtatious, and more than a little bit mischievous.
Of course 777’s sex appeal is nothing without its sensational Mexican comida, which is about to get a whole lot more alluring explains chef Adam; who together with John is behind the design of an innovative new menu and state of the art kitchen.
Adam says the new menu, which launches mid September after a week-long closure, is a chance to reinvent themselves in Dublin’s competitive, fast-moving restaurant scene. “I’ve been in Ireland for 16 years,” says Aussie Adam, who trained under chef Neil Perry in three Michelin star Rockpool in Sydney. “The food culture has moved so fast in that time and seeing what the restaurateurs are doing is great. So I think if you don’t evolve, you get left behind.”
“Everyone is our competition, be it casual dining or upmarket. With the amount of new restaurant openings in the last month I actually don’t think we have the population to sustain all these restaurants. So everyone is fighting to keep people coming back.”
Head-hunted by John, Adam started at 777 3 years ago and has since become wholly immersed in John’s vision: “The the idea is that is modern contemporary Mexican food. We take inspiration from China, Japan, Spain, France; taking elements from those cuisines but emphasising the Mexican ingredients.”
Each dish is a combination of research and hours of experimenting with presentation and authentic Mexican ingredients, like masa flours, ancho chilies, chipotle negra, adobo, arbol chilies, and tomatillos. 777’s unique breed of fusion means you might find tacos that sample the flavours of international dishes like the famous Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich, or Cantonese BBQ Char Siu Pork; and tostadas served with the finest Japanese yellowfin tuna sashimi.
The new menu promises to push the boundaries of what can be defined as ‘Mexican’ food even further. A fresh menu layout encourages you to choose a number of smaller dishes, ‘three plates make a meal’, with options like crispy soft-shelled crab taquitos, served with guacamole and chipotle aoili, and oyster shots with tequila, that take inspiration from the Mexican seafood cocktail Vuelve a la Vida, a popular Mexican hangover cure that literally means “return to life”.
Seasonality continues to be a priority, and Adam is particularly excited about the Achill Island Blackface Lamb that’s coming into season, which will be served with fava beans and an ancho tomato fondue.
Creative vegetarian dishes include stuffed courgette flowers with goat’s curd, honey, and pasilla, and sauteed wild mushroom taquitos. While any carnivore will be satisfied by the half pig’s head carnitas, 24oz Rib-eye asada, or barbarcoa lamb shoulder wrapped in banana leaf on offer.
“I want a menu that people look at and want ten things, that every time they come back they can try something new. That’s the idea,” says Adam. “We’re also changing the layout of the menu so that every 2 or 3 weeks we can change bits and pieces and keep things evolving.”
Adam is just as excited about the new streamlined kitchen, which will not only look aesthetically striking, but will make the jobs of the three chefs who serve up to 150 people a night a lot easier. For it’s design, Adam worked with John, who is known for his meticulous eye for detail; the type of collaboration which he says is ingrained in the culture across all of John’s restaurants.
“Each restaurant is unique in its identity but we are all like one big happy family, and that’s how John wants his restaurants run. I’ve worked some shifts in Luna, and their chefs have helped out here too.”
John Farrell clearly gives Adam, and the rest of the chefs in the ‘family’, a sense of ownership, and the freedom to express themselves creatively on the menus. Though Adam is keen to praise the source of the restaurant’s innovation: “It’s John’s vision. The style of food, concept, loud music, dark lights. He designs it and has the vision of how to run the restaurant and serve the customers.”
“John could do anything anywhere in the world. He could open this (777) in London, New York, anywhere,” says Adam. “I see 777 as a triple threat; people come here for the food, people come here for drinks, and people come here just for the atmosphere.”
Aside from 777, it’s John’s steakhouse The Butchers Grill in Ranelagh, under the helm of chef Atish Bhuruth, that tickles Adam fancy. “The meat that Atish gets up there no one else gets, how he cooks it is amazing, and it’s a beautifully designed 28 seat restaurant. I think it’s the most underrated restaurant in Dublin.”
777 will be closed from 6-11th Sept, and will reopen all guns blazing on September 12th – ready to sweep the people of Dublin off their feet once again with a new menu that’s hotter than a Habanero Chile.
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after a brief dalliance with law, she completed a Masters degree in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.