Down the Hatch
Hatch and Sons celebrates everything about Irish ingredients and confident cooking
Restaurant Title: Hatch and Sons, Irish Kitchen
Proprietor: Domini and Peaches Kemp, Hugo Arnold
Address: Basement, 15 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
Phone: (01) 661 0075
Those who can do and those who can’t write about it. It’s an old insult about teachers you could lob at critics and food writers. So what happens when some food writers open a restaurant in a museum run by a guy who used to write about restaurants? Hugo Arnold, Domini Kemp and her sister Peaches are behind Hatch and Sons in the basement of Trevor White’s Little Museum of Dublin on Stephen’s Green.
I’m more comfortable eating the food of people I’ve never met. If an author gushes about a stablemate’s novel can you take the opinion seriously? So let’s get that all on the table and move on. I’m here to find out if words can translate into something good to eat.
The first thing that hits you in the eye is the original huge hearth in this handsome basement, where a cook must have sweated over a coal-fired range to feed the occupants above. The granite back stairs, for the servants to ferry the food to the dining rooms, are still there. The walls have been painted in a silvery grey with a darker grey on the painted timber counters. One of these has a large timber top, and it’s crammed with treats, jams, sweets in jars and impulse down-with-January buys you can grab while you wait to pay the bill.
Some zinc-topped tables swerve the whole look off the one-way track to Avocaville. And there’s nothing ye-olde about the stainless steel kitchen just visible beyond the open wooden shelves.
At lunchtime the place looks busy but my friend has arrived and bagged us a table, and there’s a second room which still has plenty of space. Menus are pasted on to cardboard and read like who’s-who of Irish food producers. This is a restaurant with a subtitle (see, that’s writers for you). In this case it’s Irish Kitchen. They do breakfast and lunch at the moment and are hosting “supper clubs” with food producer talks in the evening. Hot mains, cold boards, salads and the “blaa” are the main food offerings.
We’re sharing a smoked fish board to start and order a glass of French Sauvignon Blanc and a Howling Gale beer from the Eight Degrees Brewing Company. There’s plenty on the board, soda bread, a pat of Glenilen butter, softly draped slices of Burren Smokehouse smoked salmon and a honey and mustard dressed tangle of fresh leaves. A pot of pickled cucumber and some densely creamy cheese add texture and tang. The smoked mackerel is a bit hardcore, chip-sized shards of chewy, strong fish. I’d have liked this finessed into a pate, maybe with some horseradish mayo just to win over a crowd. Mackerel needs all the spin it can get.
Jeanne’s going with a Wicklow cheddar and Kettyle ham blaa. Brace yourself Waterford but I’ve never really rated the blaa. I’ve always found it a bit, well, blah really. But not here. The trick is in the toasting. Take one just-baked blaa lightly toasted so the cut-side is slightly crisp making the pillowy dough inside taste even lighter. Then eat your heart out ciabatta and brioche.
I get a large plate of an Irish stew that I go to sleep that night thinking about. The stewing liquor has thickened to a potato and gelatinous soup of meatiness. There are ribbons of dark leek, flecks of thyme, chunky carrots and potatoes and soft satisfying lumps of lamb. The magic twist is barley, firm white nuggets of it that add risotto-like flavour pockets.
I get a small but decadent peanut butter brownie for dessert. This must be eaten in tiny mouthfuls in order not to miss its hidden depths, salty chocolate layers and the occasional whole nut hidden under the swirly caramel and darker-brown crisp top. So good we bought two more to take home.
What a twist to the story if the people who write about food couldn’t hack it in the real world. But the truth is they’ve nailed it. Hatch and Sons is simply great.
Food provenance: Chapter and verse
Facilities: Small but well-designed
Wheelchair access: No
Price: Lunch for two with drinks, coffees and take-out brownies came to €54.50
Goose on the Loose might sound like a children’s book (in fact it’s a kids’ movie), but it’s also a small new cafe on Dublin’s Kevin Street, where Fafie’s Creperie used to be. I had a good butternut squash soup there, which came in a large bowl with nice brown soda bread and an orange juice for €6.70. According to the menu they organise “secret parties” to which you can bring your own wine, for a corkage fee.
Goose on the Loose, 2 Lower Kevin Street, Dublin 2