Many people will already know about Delahunt, on Camden Street, Dublin 2.
Their story has been told many times at this stage: the narrative about how the premises has been painstakingly restored into a beautiful dining space, by a plucky restaurateur named Darren Free who bought the building from NAMA.
And you will know already that, in a previous life, the building was a famous old off-licence called Carville’s and, going further back, that the original Delahunt was an opulent food emporium mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Chances are that you also have picked up the fact that the Guinness bread that is the restaurant's signature is outstanding, and we all know that they smoke their own salmon. All of this has become common knowledge since they got the doors opened late in 2014.
Less well known, however, is the story of the people behind the restaurant. Darren Free spent years working in restaurants with some of the best operators in town: he can count the O’Regan family – Declan and the late Hugh O'Regan – among his mentors and he worked with them for years before setting out on his own. He bought the building and spent two years tastefully restoring it while also cheffing full time in L’Gueleton on Fade Street and, at the same time, starting a family.
Dermot Staunton, who heads up the kitchen, has also put in the hard yards, working in several celebrated city kitchen including Locks, Town Bar and Grill and Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.
The menu is short and bereft of flourish: four starters, four mains and four desserts with the menu changing every six weeks to keep it interesting. They slide some gorgeous Young Buck blue cheese into celery and Bramley apple soup; make a fine salt cod croquette to go with roast hake; go all retro with whitebait with Marie Rose sauce; offer horseradish butter with that Guinness bread and their smoked salmon; serve dark chocolate tart with salted caramel ice cream.Wines are well sourced and there is a better than average selection of Irish craft beers.
The discipline of the food, and the aesthetic of the room, has meant that Delahunt has nailed it, without hype, without a fancy launch, without any public relations. Delahunt is just understated Irish food and hospitality, at its finest.
A restaurant like Delahunt doesn’t happen by chance. It happens when hardworking hospitality professionals like Free and Staunton work for years to learn their trade, learn about food and drinks, develop an eye for design, and then they find the right building, and invest in that building and work even harder until they create a restaurant that they can be proud of. Delahunt is elegant without any hint of being precious and, despite being such a young business, it has made an impact from the word go. So, go.