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Pat Whelan

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Pat Whelan takes the long view.
A Dublin audience, who have thrilled to the charcuterie offer he has brought to the city under the Avoca umbrella in recent years, won't know that Mr Whelan's plans to expand from his family's butcher's shop and farm in Clonmel were first considered many, many years ago. They were then slowly, slowly put into action, beginning with the shop in Monkstown, followed by the shop in Rathcoole, and followed up at the end of 2014 with the revised Avoca at Kilmacanogue, in County Wicklow.
Pat Whelan knew he had something good, something valuable, in that farm and that shop in Clonmel. But he also knew that he had something that Irish people, for the most part, take for granted. Our butchers are amongst the crown jewels of the Irish food culture, but they don't make a song-and-dance about it.
Butchering is a conservative, and family-dominated, business in Ireland. Interestingly, whilst Mr Whelan has worked to change this, he has done so cautiously.
He hasn't made a song and dance about what he has done. He has simply asserted his right to our respect for his hard work, for his determination to innovate from the standard, from the norm. He knows that we want grass-fed beef from his farm, he knows we want to know where it all comes from, and he has clung tight to that chain of information, that old way of doing things. He has kept the best, and simply improved the rest.
More importantly, he has re-focused the very idea of the butcher's shop, so you suddenly find you can buy beef shortribs, or bavette, on your way home from work, when you only went in for a take-away quiche Lorraine and some salad. And the space in which you pick up your circle of oxtail is groovy, well-lit, friendly – a female space, rather than the more usual male space of the sawdust-and-butcher's-block shop. He has taken Irish beef out of the closet, and put it on stage.
Other butchers have quickly followed suit, fashioning bespoke shops that boast tactility and artisanship and service, so Pat Whelan keeps moving. He has an excellent on-line presence, and more importantly he has collected his ideas and motivations and recipes in a pair of books, an unheard of thing for an Irish butcher.
In The Irish Beef Book, written with Katy McGuinness, the text opens with Isaiah 40 : 6: “All flesh is grass.” In the pages of the bible, Pat Whelan found what he was looking for. He found his covenant.

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