A triumph in the market
‘A re you adventurous with food?” the voice at the end of the phone asked. “I’d have to be, in this job,” I thought smartly. “If there’s anything you don’t like, we can work around it.” This is a very agreeable and wise approach, with a no-choice menu. I was speaking to Andrew Heron, the front-of-house half of the new Heron & Grey duo, who have taken over James Sheridan and Soizic Humbert’s former Can[email protected] the Market in Blackrock — James and Soizic will shortly be opening Canteen Celbridge.
It’s brilliant now that finely executed food doesn’t just fall into starchy ‘white tablecloth’ territory. So many exciting young chefs are pushing themselves with challenging food in the simplest and sometimes oddest of settings, but with overheads that make their operations feasible. It proves that if the food is good enough, the customers will come.
Damien Grey, an Australian-born chef, has been here a dozen-plus years, working in top restaurants, the most recent being Chapter One; while Andrew Heron has also been in the restaurant industry, most recently at Luna. On reviewing Canteen two years ago, I said it felt a little like being invited into TV chef Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen, and it still has that great intimate feel. This is added to by the fact that they only do one sitting on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, with a five-course menu costing €48, which they serve at 7.30pm. They also do a 2/3-course lunch on Friday and Saturday at €23/€26. Heron & Grey, however, have revamped the interior for the better, putting in a long, comfortable banquette and a slightly screened-off nook, which is perfect for six to eight people.
The menu is written in the current staccato style, so while you know the ingredients, you have no idea how they are being presented. “Bread, garlic & chive butter”, was straightforward, but “hare, pheasant, guinea fowl” — to what seemed like unanimous delight — was a fat, fabulous, f lavourful boudin with richly braised leeks, shreds of soft, greeny-white leeks, and a quenelle of cool, creamy deliciousness, all combining the sweet, sour, salty and umami f lavours. A raspberry and dehydrated-milk palate cleanser was followed by a stunning dish of cod, cockles and oyster: one of the best things I’ve tasted this year. It was served in a Japanesestyle black bowl — the pearly whiteness of the fish, and the dual tones of the cockles, were set off by vibrant seaweeds, with a creamy soup added at the table. “Duck, old berries, green cabbage”, was equally stunning, delivering on the sweet, sour, bitter, umami f lavours, in a palate of ruby-richreds, set around two, almost fearsome, blood-red tranches of duck breast, the skin of which had a deep Japanese-lacquer finish. It was topped with dehydrated raspberries, nestling beside clusters of rich cherries and cranberries and star anise sauce, all sitting on a carpet of green Savoy cabbage, on a bronze plate.
The final plate was perfectly measured to cut through the previous richness, being a crisp apple arrangement; contrasting apple textures with nuts. That was it, we thought, until the most amazingly indulgent chocolate petit fours plate arrived.
We were very abstemious when it came to vino, and our bill, with two glasses of Ribero del Duero Proyecto Garnachas de Espana Moncayo 2012 (€8.50 each), two bottles of water (€4 each) and optional service, came to €135.
Damien Grey’s food shines, not only with his pairings and presentations, but his depth of f lavour — something that is not always a given. This is one of Dublin’s absolute hidden gems. Heron & Grey Blackrock Market, 19A Main Street, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Tel: (01) 212-3676/(087) 608-3140 heronandgrey.com