First Look: Last minute name change for new D’Olier Street restaurant

‘We knew we could do something really nice here’: 1891 landmark building ready for high-end fine dining with new eatery

When Anthony Smith, James Moore and Jane Frye open their restaurant in the landmark D’Olier Chambers building in Dublin 2 on Thursday, it won’t be called Church and Chambers as originally planned and as advertised on social media, but will instead be named D’Olier Street.

The change comes as a result of objections raised by publican Brendan Flynn, owner of The Church Cafe Bar Restaurant on Jervis Street and Mary Street in Dublin 1, to the use of the word Church in the new restaurant’s title.

“A solicitor’s letter arrived two months ago,” says Smith, who as well as being a partner in this venture also owns Mr Fox restaurant in Dublin 1. “Then we went back and forth because we really like the name, and we really wanted to keep it. We thought if we just explained ourselves it would appease the situation, but it didn’t,” Smith says. “It got to the point where it was like, do we want to keep pursuing this?”

Mr Flynn says he wanted to avoid “confusion in the marketplace”. “We have been trading as The Church since September 2007 and we have built a very strong brand and reputation in Dublin, the rest of Ireland and internationally. A lot of our business comes through the internet. There are concerns that there could be confusion if there was a Church and Chambers brand operating in the restaurant space.”

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‘I wanted a diningroom that was really warm and welcoming to match the service’

A week ago the partners in what was to be Church and Chambers, who are financing the new venture themselves, decided to backtrack and change the name of the restaurant to D’Olier Street, and they plan to open under that name on Thursday.

The reservations book is now open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday; for a set menu of three snacks, two fish courses, a bread course, a beef course, two desserts and petits fours with an €82 price tag. Wine and non-alcoholic beverage pairings will be available, as well as a full wine list. They describe the menu as “a set offering of contemporary dishes that change seasonally”.

The restaurant is on the ground floor of the 19th-century listed building on D’Olier Street, which has been remodelled by Pure Fitout to include an open kitchen, 30 seats at spacious wooden tables, a chef’s counter seating a further eight, and a cocktail bar for pre- and post-dinner drinks, also seating eight. There is a prep kitchen downstairs, but the cooking and plating will be done in the main restaurant space.

‘The food matches the space. We always said, when we walk into a building we’ll know what kind of style we will aim to do’

The room’s high ceilings, ornate plasterwork and arched windows have been retained, and the finished look is one of pared-back elegance. Original artwork from Dublin artist Chanelle Walshe, winner of the Arts Council’s 2022 Next Generation Award, is on the walls. “I wanted a diningroom that was really warm and welcoming to match the service,” says Frye, who will work front of house.

“The food matches the space,” Smith says. “We always said, when we walk into a building we’ll know what kind of style we will aim to do. If it was bigger, we’d probably do an a la carte. But it’s 38 seats so we said, let’s do a set menu, with high-end fine dining. The space dictated the food.” With two sittings, they hope to do 60 covers a night.

Smith, who is from Dublin, and Moore, who is Australian, met when they worked as chefs in One Pico restaurant in Dublin 2, 16 years ago. Moore moved to New York soon after and worked there for 15 years; before embarking on this project, he was head chef at Michelin two-star, Atera. Smith joined him in New York from Mint when the Ranelagh restaurant closed in 2009. The pair ended up sharing an apartment in Tribeca, on an intersection between Church Street and Chambers Street, which inspired their first choice of name for their Dublin collaboration.

Frye, who is from Ohio, met Moore and Smith in New York, where she was pursuing a career in food media. She and Moore are now married. “I was hired by Tina Brown when she set up The Daily Beast, I was part of that first digital wave, which was really exciting. Then I went to work for a food website, Tasting Table, it was my dream job.”

After a spell in New York, Smith returned to Ireland and opened Mr Fox restaurant on Parnell Square in Dublin 1, initially in partnership with Stephen McAllister and Andrea Hussey, and three and a half years ago he took over as sole proprietor. At this stage Moore was looking to open his own restaurant. “Jimmy rang me and said can you send me your business plan you did for Mr Fox?” Instead, Smith proposed a partnership in Dublin between himself, Moore and Frye. “So, they sold their apartment packed up all their stuff and came here,” Smith says.

Within days of arriving in Dublin last September, Moore was covering for Smith’s paternity leave. “He had two days’ training; ‘here’s the menu, these are all the purveyors, you have to put 01 in front of everything’.” Frye joined Moore in Dublin just over a year ago, kick-starting a hospitality career in restaurant front of house. “I’m the newbie here, but I’ve had hospitality boot camp at Mr Fox for the past year,” she says.

They are joined in the venture by executive pastry chef Mina Pizarro, whose CV includes a roll call of Michelin-starred restaurants in New York, including Le Cirque, Per Se, Veritas, and more recently Juni, Betony and L’Appart. “She’s a very good friend and she was looking for something new and exciting. I think I just caught her on a very good day,” Moore says of his star hire.

After a nine-month search, the trio found the space they had been looking for to set up a restaurant. “The rent was really high here, we thought it was probably out of our league, and then we came and looked at it and oh wow. We knew we could do something really nice here,” Smith says of the 1891 landmark building that was once the Gallagher cigarette company’s head office in Dublin.