It’s nearly two and half years since restaurateur John Farrell opened a new restaurant. That’s long time in John Farrell’s world, who followed his first venture, Dillinger’s, in quick succession with four more exciting eateries; The Butcher Grill, 777, Super Miss Sue and Luna – all stamped with John’s trademark eye for detail and passion for design.
“I’ve been concentrating on the consultancy side of things, JCF Developments, and I collaborated with Karl (Whelan) and Will (Dempsey) on Hang Dai, just on the idea and the concept. It had been like bang, bang, bang – but I took a break. I decided to see my daughter Luna more, and I didn’t want to rush into anything,” says John, when I meet him downstairs in the glamorously gloomy surroundings of Luna – last year named RAI Restaurant of the Year.
But that inactive status is about to change, and, like all things John Farrell does, that change will be quite dramatic. “There are a few places I am working on this year – it’s kinda crazy.”
“A few sites popped up last year that are coming into fruition this year. There’s something on Camden Street, possibly something on Capel Street, and definitely something happening soon in Stoneybatter.”
Located near L.Mulligan Grocer gastropub, the Stoneybatter project is well underway. His partner in the project is chef Keelan Higgs, former part owner of Locks on Windsor Place. John says he’s excited to be collaborating with Keelan, who’s currently working at Luna following a stint in the States doing consultancy work.
The menu will be based around “refined, rustic cooking,” with old school cooking methods, like fire, smoking and BBQ, backed up by modern techniques such as a water bath to ensure a high level of consistency. Through this approach, they hope to elevate comforting food and simple flavours to a new level.
Diners can expect to see simple dishes on the menu like homemade sourdough, served with homemade cultured butter, crispy bacon and potato, as well more substantial dishes including bone marrow prepared with toast, braised oxtail, smoked onions, crispy shallots and truffle.
Served ‘family style’, there will be blackened flank steak, with burnt shallots, tomatoes, confit garlic, red-eye gravy, and homemade cornbread, along with fish dishes such as BBQ Monk tail, and more unusual cuts of meat like venison Loin, that will be accompanied by confit ceps, salt baked root vegetables, nuts and gravy.
Inspired by the “community oriented and democratic” feel of Stoneybatter, the style of service will incorporate that sharing and conviviality element. Seated at the bar or other countertops at the restaurant, diners will select from the choice of small plates and larger dishes that are designed to share, served on a mix of beaten copper dishes, vintage platters and antique sharing plates.
Taking over a long vacant building, John’s design plans include both restoring the character and features of the former fish shop as well as adding an old school Americana feel. “It’s going to have a big sunken bar, that has a 1970s, kind of deli vibe to it.”
An old chicken rotisserie, vintage signs and other materials found in the old shop in Stoneybatter were all taken to John’s city centre warehouse where he has taken his time to restore and customise them with love and care, and the original terrazzo marble flooring will be refurbished to its former glory.
The exterior of the restaurant, which will sit below two apartments, will take inspiration from the iconic Lenox Lounge, in Harlem, New York City – which closed in 2012 following a rich 73 years history.
As with all of John Farrell’s projects nothing is being bought in; every light fixture, table and chair has been up-cycled by John himself, or with the help of another crafts person. He admits this can add delays to projects, as he goes back and forth with drawings to different designers.
“But that way you actually make something that’s yours – that’s original. The challenge is to make it yourself or to customise it in some manner.”
While a name has yet to be nailed down yet, John says “the plans are done it’s just the nitty gritty of design elements left,” and hopes to open late Spring or early Summer this year.
On his partnership with Keelan John says: “It’s great to collaborate and bang ideas off each other.” “Obviously the design is my thing, but I trust Keelan when it comes to the food. The food is his forte and it’s great to work with someone who has a different expertise because you learn something new.”
The duo will travel to London in the coming weeks to meet with a company that’s customising the wood burning grill that along with a smoker will be at the heart of the large kitchen. “I’m really excited about this one. It’s the first one that’s coming up so I’m really excited about it.”
“The other one is on Camden Street, and it’s big – it’s 4,000 square feet,” he says his eyes widening. The plans are still largely under wraps, but he confirms they will involve a large outdoor area, and curiously makes reference to the inclusion of numerous “plastic palm trees” – part of retro tropical Los Angeles theme perhaps. But says he is under no pressure to rush the design process: “I have a year to do that.”
The third project on John Farrell’s agenda is a restaurant on Capel Street. “It will be Asian – like taking a trip around Asia. Two dishes from China; two dishes from Thailand; two dishes from Cambodia; two dishes from Vietnam. It will be small – maybe just those eight dishes. There will be cocktails, but very few, it will be very food orientated.”
“Capel Street is cool – the area suits the concept that I’m going for. It’s fun; it’s not precious. The place will be just good food, fun, and good music. I’ve had this idea in my head for a long time.”
Diners of Dublin: forks and knives at the ready, John Farrell’s back in action.
For more information on JCF Developments, John’s restaurant consultancy, visit www.jcfdevelopments.com.
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 completing a law degree, she went on to do a Masters 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.