"You got to keep it fresh."
-Chef Derry Clarke
When Derry Clarke started working in a kitchen in 1972 Dublin wasn't close to the food city it is today. Back then he says, "It used to be rare to get a good meal, now people expect it." Clarke and his staff at the Michelin-starred L'Ecrivain have been serving up great meals in the heart of Dublin for over twenty-seven years.
We're sitting in the upstairs dining area on a Friday one of the only two days a week the restaurant is open for lunch. "Lunch is gone, people don't eat lunch like this anymore," Clarke says pointing to the tasting menu I'm about to indulge in.
Though Clarke is at the restaurant often he's passed on the reigns of the kitchen to his head chef Tom Doyle. "We all have our time in life," he says grinning "the restaurants who don't evolve are the ones with owners who are too controlling." With an attitude towards building and training his staff and an ever adapting menu keeping it fresh has become the heart of the philosophy of the restaurant, "we try and keep as seasonal and local as possible" he tells me. The restaurant has a foundation in classical French cuisine which Clarke was trained in. However, they continue to add their own local flair to the dishes.
Derry and his wife Sallyanne run the restaurant together. Their presence seemed to me to be like a host and hostess inviting their friends into their home for a good meal. They walked around chatting and laughing with all the regulars. I suppose that's one of the reasons they've been successful all these years. What struck me most about the place was their inviting Irish hospitality and charm. Of course, the food is phenomenal as you'd expect from a classical French restaurant with a Michelin star.
As more restaurants pop up around Dublin and the city continues to grow into a center of culinary excellence I can't help but imagine Derry and his staff will still be at the center of it.
If you find yourself hungry in Dublin head down to lower Baggot street for Irish hospitality and cuisine your taste buds will thank you for.
All photos courtesy of L'Ecrivain