Is the traditional butcher in Dublin dying out?
Last autumn, I was beginning to worry, as three Dublin butchers that I frequented closed in the previous 12 months - Nolan’s in Rathmines (lamb breasts and shanks for c. €2.50 each) closed due to illness and enforced retirement, while both O’Tooles and Downeys in Terenure closed from what I’m guessing was a simple lack of business. So, Terenure went from having two excellent organic butchers to having zero.
However, on December 1st 2017, James and Stephen Kenny opened The Brown Pig, in the old O’Tooles premises, and I believe it has become a game changer for the village. Terenure has always been an odd place for foodies, with dozens of rather mediocre restaurants and takeaways and five supermarkets, but the arrival of the Brown Pig has given us new hope.
James trained initially with Lawlor’s butcher until he was poached by James Whelan for a number of years to run the butchers in the Avoca shops along with his brother Stephen. Elements of James’ previous employer is evident in the slabs of beef cheek, hunks of oxtail, elegant bavette and marbled ribeye steaks all attractively laid out, and all screaming Buy Me!
Inch-thick burgers made from brisket (lower breast) meat are rich with fat, so dry frying is particularly recommended. Beef is prime Hereford and comes from a selection of farms in Meath and Westmeath and while there is no dry-ageing room yet, it will be installed in the coming months. A recent rib-roast on the bone was excellent and I’ve had several thick cut and tender slabs of (inexpensive) rump for cooking extra rare.
You can get excellent free-range pork from Andarl Farm in Mayo along with their sausages and puddings; free-range chickens come from Feighcullen farm in Rathangan and organic chickens from Margaret McDonald, also from Co. Kildare. All the lamb meanwhile comes from Gary Hegarty in Baltinglass whilst some excellent Toulouse sausages, merguez and chorizo are brought in from a trusted supplier in France.
On the weekend there is a large selection of Firehouse Bakery breads and sometimes pies and fruit tarts from Elizabeth Ann and – of course – essentials like Achill Island sea salt, Graham’s mustards, Abernethy Butter and Ciara’s Pantry chutneys and jellies. The Brown Pig is the business.
Meanwhile at the other end of Terenure on Brighton Square John Bates is still driving up from Kilmore Quay every Thursday with his top notch (and fairly priced) fish and shellfish. Udo and Penny Lange retired their organic vegetable stall in December last after a couple of decades service so enter Gareth Marshall from Gorteen in Sligo. Gareth is based in Gorteen in Sligo and brands his stall Health is Your Wealth - you will also find him at Rathcormack and Manorhamilton markets. Obviously at this time of year he is a little light on Irish produce but his polytunnels will be kicking in just about now. Gareth’s wife Luna makes cakes, delicious chocolate swirls and excellent organic sourdough (almost fluffy in texture) and there is also a selection of cheese, eggs, olives etc.
If this isn’t enough there are a few other reasons to visit Terenure - Base still makes great pizza, the bento boxes and fresh-made maki rolls in Tani are a guilty pleasure, Corner Bakery has decent bread and excellent cakes, Mayfield is going strong and then there is the superlative Green Man Wines. Green Man is as much a wine bar as a wine shop and has become a social hub for the area with all my neighbours filling the place every weekend (and many weekdays) gossiping over glasses of biodynamic wine and charcuterie and cheese boards.