“You are a hospitalitarian”, chef-patron Ross Lewis of Dublin’s Chapter One restaurant, tells all his new staff. It may be a term you have never heard before, but when you eat at Chapter One it quickly becomes obvious that all the Chapter One staff have memorised it, for they offer a mosaic of hospitality which combines intimacy and spontaneity, with a staggering efficiency. Every team member in Chapter One is chilled, and they need to be: on an average day, the restaurant hosts 200 guests for lunch, pre-theatre, and dinner.
Chapter One cooking has a simple rule: nothing is overstated, and so the food looks simple, all the better to hide the complexity of what the kitchen has gotten up to. Mr Lewis is no ideologue, and one senses that, for him, the height of bad manners would be to show off. He cooks to make people happy, not to show what a smart guy he is. The effect of such modesty is to magnify the experience of the restaurant: eating here is one of the greatest experiences you can enjoy in any restaurant anywhere in the world.
The food is supremely seasonal, logical, and intuitive: Japanese pearl tapioca with St Tola goat’s cheese and organic spinach, mushroom juice and Irish shiitake; charred cured mackerel and poached Clarenbridge oysters; pig’s tail stuffed with Gubbeen bacon and lobster – a tour de force, and one of the restaurant’s best-known signature dishes; sika vension with parsnip and poached quince, with sweet heart cabbage and a sauce of blackberries and elderberries; the incredible dessert that is listed simply as Milk and Honey.
Mr Lewis and his team deliver one of the great cultural experiences of modern Ireland, an experience that “is all energy.” They also do so at extraordinary prices: even eating at the Chef’s Table which seats six people adjacent to the main kitchen, costs only €100. If you had this experience in Copenhagen or Paris, you could expect to pay €600, and you wouldn’t enjoy it half as much, because you wouldn’t be looked after by Hospitalitarians.
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