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Chef takes inspiration from parterre to plate

 Graham Neville, head chef at Restaurant FortyOne, collecting produce from the kitchen garden in Killiney

Graham Neville, head chef at Restaurant FortyOne, collecting produce from the kitchen garden in Killiney

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 01:00

“You think differently when you have a kitchen garden to work with; your inspiration comes from there.” Graham Neville, head chef at Restaurant FortyOne on Dublin’s Stephen’s Green is referring to the meticulously planned and abundantly planted half acre at Kenah Hill, at the top of Killiney Hill, that is given over to growing organic produce for the restaurant.

The house belongs to Olivia Gaynor Long, owner of Residence, the private members’ club in which Restaurant FortyOne is located. “It’s high and sheltered, and everything grows so quickly in this microclimate,” says Neville, who motorbikes in from his Portmarnock home at least once a week to see what’s ready to eat and to plan the twice weekly harvests with the gardener, Kieron Lacey. “We pick on Monday mornings and Wednesday evenings and it takes three of us two-and-a-half hours,” says Lacey, who planned and planted the garden, which is now in its third growing season, in conjunction with Neville and Gaynor Long. “We deliver to the restaurant by 10.30am Monday morning, and again on Wednesday evening.”

The raised beds are packed with rows of kale, cavalo nero, leeks, sorrel, lettuces, radishes, herbs and other greens and the pathways surrounding them are planted with fruit bushes.

“From parterre to plate, rather than farm to fork” is how the garden’s relationship with the restaurant is described. Visiting it on a gloriously sunny afternoon this week, a raw food buffet of pretty and delicious things picked just 20 minutes before our arrival is laid out on the terrace. Beyond, a sparkling azure blue Dublin bay competes for our attention. But the tiny kale sprouts, crisp radishes, pretty fennel stalks and fronds, borage and nasturtium flowers, and wasabi- strength mustard leaves win out, each more zingy than the next. “I’m taking things off the plate rather than adding to it, because the produce is just so good,” says the chef.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. “The first summer, it just rained and rained and the soft fruits and a lot of the leaves were obliterated; then last year the rabbits were a problem.” But, more often than not, it’s over abundance that has to be dealt with. “It make you think about how to use it all, how to get the most out of it.”

In the restaurant, which is open to non-members, Neville gets to showcase his secret weapon in a garden- driven, rather than market-driven, tasting menu.

Vibrant garden leaves with chlorophyll still pumping through their veins swim in a pea coulis. Radishes, and pickled chive buds are draped in summer truffle and sit on a puddle of truffle and port reduction that nobody can resist wiping clean. The showstopper is a courgette flower stuffed with prawn and scallop, in a lovage sauce. Red mullet comes with cavolo nero and chanterelles in beurre blanc.

A glass teapot filled with marjoram is filled with a deep, glossy dark jus to be poured over lamb tenderloin sitting on onion puree, with charred spring onions alongside. Woodruff ice-cream, and a strawberry plate dotted with fennel cream are intriguing and delightful. It’s classic, accomplished cooking and each dish sings of its association with the Killiney garden.


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