All restaurant tips go to staff, and food start-ups get support: Is this the way forward?

Veteran restaurateur Alan O’Reilly leads the way on new tipping legislation, and Fable Bakery gets a three-year jump on its plan to open in Dublin city centre

Two new food businesses opened their doors in Dublin this week, with Fable Bakery taking up residence in the Dawson Street branch of the healthy fast-food restaurant Sprout & Co and the restaurateur and chef Alan O’Reilly launching Laurel, a 30-seater on Main Street in Blackrock.

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Fable Bakery, whose residency is for an initial 12 months, is moving into a food-business incubator space offered by Jack and Theo Kirwan, founders of Sprout, in recognition of the challenges faced by food start-ups in the current economic climate.

O’Reilly, an experienced restaurateur whose career has seen him open a string of Dublin restaurants, including Clarets, Morels, Alexis and Wildside, is offering a choice of five starters, five main courses and four desserts on a menu that will change regularly.

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In the week before the new tipping legislation comes into play, the menu at Laurel clearly states: “No service charge: All gratuities go directly to staff.” O’Reilly says his policy is to have one dedicated staff member in control of the tips, and once the system is transparent he has no involvement, preferring to let the staff manage it themselves.

The Kirwans invited expressions of interest from new food businesses to take up a space at the front of their Dawson Street branch, and Fable Bakery, run by Kate O’Sullivan and Elyse Clarke, was successful from more than 60 applicants. The pair will sell a range of sweet and savoury pastries, and coffee from the artisan roastery Imbibe, in Dublin 8.

“Kate and Elyse are doing something special. It’s early days for Fable, but it’s clear that they really understand food and how it can bring people together. The buns they make are phenomenal, and I’m proud to have them prepping in Sprout kitchens and serving from our Dawson Street restaurant,” says Jack Kirwan. The bakers will use the Sprout kitchen in Dawson Street from 3am to 7am, before the day staff arrive.

O’Sullivan and Clarke both retrained at Ballymaloe Cookery School, in Co Cork, after careers in finance and social-media marketing. They met while working at No Messin’ Bakery, in Dublin 7, which they left to set up Fable Bakery in July of this year. They had until now been selling only at the Herbert Park and Phibsborough food markets; O’Sullivan says the opportunity at Sprout brought forward their plans to open a bricks-and-mortar shop by about three years.

They specialise in baked goods with “a Scandinavian influence and Irish provenance”. As well as a range of brioche buns, they will have a seasonally changing galette and tart menu, and an always-on dark-chocolate sea-salt cookie. Fable Bakery will open at Sprout on Dawson Street between 7.30am and 4pm from Monday to Friday and between 9am and 4.30pm on Saturday.

In Blackrock, in south Co Dublin, chef-patron Alan O’Reilly has opened Laurel on the first floor of Kelly & Coopers pub, at 39 Main Street. O’Reilly describes it as “a neighbourhood restaurant serving modern Irish cuisine with a classical French heart”. The restaurant’s head chef is Paula Patz, who has worked at Pichet and Forest & Marcy.

“Our objective is to offer quality cooking at fair prices, in a warm, friendly atmosphere,” O’Reilly says. “We are conscious that value for money is likely to become more important than ever for diners, so we have worked hard to put together a menu and wine list which offer both elements of value: price and quality. We aim to make Laurel feel special enough to celebrate big occasions yet accessible enough for a last-minute midweek dinner.”

Starters run from €10.50 to €15, main courses are €21-€28, and desserts are listed at €10. Laurel will open between 5.30pm and 9.30pm from Wednesday to Saturday.

Marie Claire Digby

Marie Claire Digby

Marie Claire Digby is Senior Food Writer at The Irish Times