Forest Avenue is Dublin’s most exciting new restaurant in years
John and Sandy Wyer have created a damn fine dining experience in Donnybrook that raises the bar
I’m nursing a serious dose of Nordic Envy Syndrome this weather brought on by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Scandimania series. Why can’t we have brilliant public services to go with our Nordic-level taxes? Where are our vibrant cities built around people? Our
TV dramas with rounded female characters?
Sitting in Copenhagen restaurant Manfreds and Vin last November eating small plates of beautiful food, I added another why-oh-why to the list. As people queued to buy takeaway portions of roasted Jerusalem artichokes with hollandaise we asked why we can’t have something like this in Dublin.
Well in your face Copenhagen. Now we do. The weather has rendered me bike-less, which is never a good mood enhancer. My car is being jostled outside by the last of the storms. But with each plate coming to the table I’m getting as giddy as a schoolgirl on her first night in Wes.
We’re in a cosy corner of Forest Avenue, the small restaurant of chefs John and Sandy Wyer. Next door to O’Brien’s pub on Leeson Street, it used to be a pizzeria, and is named after the street in Queens where Sandy grew up.
There are dark painted floors, plain wooden tables and simple wooden chairs. Minimalist white-on-white canvases hang around the walls and there’s an antlered head. We’re in a corner seat with lovely felt grey and teal velvet cusions. There’s a great view of the kitchen where John and his team are calmly working.
Creating a relaxed restaurant atmosphere sounds like a piece of cake, but it’s not. Too laid-back and you risk tipping towards indifference. Over-attentiveness exercises pelvic floor muscles. Diners don’t want to smile stiffly over an inventory of ingredients pointed out with a stiff pinkie finger.
Here they give you the food and let you ask. We fire some Honours Ingredients questions at the wait staff but mostly we’re happy to just roll it round out mouths and figure it out for ourselves.
And what mouthfuls they are. The “snacks” come on stones and little rounds of wood like offerings to the gods of flavour. You pick up these food wows and eat them before the €48 tasting menu (there are cheaper two- and three-course residents’ menus, €27 and €33, available on Wednesday and Thursday nights). This works. Because whether it’s a picnic on the beach or a bag of Doritos in front of a box set, eating with your hands sends your brain the cue to relax.
An oyster chantilly looks like a bit of cream cheese on thin toast but is a little culinary miracle, all the briny fleshy gritty flavour of an oyster only in a cream. Oyster without the gag factor.
There’s an aubergine paste that’s not smokey but has red wine vinegar and garam masala in it for a different take. There’s an onion bread and eggy brioche you could write a ballad about. A ham hock terrine the size of a liqourice allsort between two toasts with a bright green dot of parsley mayo. Snacks don’t get much snazzier.