Review: Theatre Lane in Greystones

A smart new restaurant where chicken takes centre stage

   
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Theatre Lane

‘Now that’s better,” the woman walking up ahead says. “Walk in a civilised manner.” It’s not clear whether she’s talking to her husband or the dog. We’re in Greystones, where the often snarling grey sea is all glass blue civility and snowy foam.

This being January, there’s a queue outside the Happy Pear as people line up in the chilly light for redemption with a light sprinkling of chia seeds. But we’re headed somewhere a little less well-known on the separate urging of two people.

Theatre Lane is at the top of steps near a shopping centre and above a carpark. Inside they’ve taken the newness off the room with a set of distressed louvred green doors that look like they once saw service in a New Orleans speakeasy. There is bare brick, but it’s in a herringbone pattern, which is a new one on this veteran of the exposed-wall look.

Chairs are mismatched, but in a civilised way. There are several matching sets. We’re in the comfy padded Danish ones with curved wooden backs, at a round grey painted table. There’s a low wooden bench built into the window with stools that look like they were last used to milk a bonnet-wearing brown cow. Outside tables are empty, which is no surprise given the temperature.

They only serve brunch at weekends, but it could just as easily be called lunch without anyone complaining to the food descriptions police. The kids’ menu starts with a bowl of popcorn which is an easy way to quell hunger grumbles at the start of a meal. We wonder is it house-made, but the nine-year-old spots someone filling a bowl from a bag. What they do make here is free-range rotisserie chicken. It’s their thing, the audience-pleasing show that’s here five days a week.

My mother is having her first ever full Irish breakfast. When it arrives there is enough food on the plate to see her through to the following weekend: sausages, crisp bacon, two poached eggs, batch toast, chilli relish and a pyramid of great charcoal-coloured black pudding that’s rubbly and chunky rather than apologetically smooth.

The children’s mac and cheese is more often than not scoffed by the adults at the table, we’re told. It’s a bowl of buttery pasta elbows topped with a crunchy cheese crust. There are ample portions of the carrot and raisin salad for the two smaller diners, which has ribbons of coriander through it that they carefully avoid (sigh). It tastes like carrots that were chopped this morning. Around us, the place is filling up and everyone seems to know each other.

I’d be surprised if there is a table without at least one half chicken on it. A sizeable flock will have gone to the great chicken-run in the sky by the time the day is out. Mine comes on a board with a good, though slightly under-dressed lentil salad on the side.

The best things on the board are the rotisserie potatoes, not just crisp but crunchy on the outside and fluffy soft inside. These roasties are so good they don’t even need butter.

The chicken also goes to two happy texture places, crispy herbed skin with thyme and enough charred bits to tempt you to drop your cutlery and go palaeo in your table manners. The meat is brown, juicy and tastes like chicken. Not surprising you might think, given that it’s a chicken. But this is not always a given with miserable battery birds whose flesh ends up looking and tasting like builders’ filler.

We opt for two crunchy, buttery cookies to finish. A winter crumble is the only let-down. It’s so sweet as to sting the back of the throat: apples, prunes, figs and apricots stewed with sugar and then topped with a thin crust that I’d quibble with calling a crumble. A good coffee rebalances the final impression.

When I lived down the road in Wicklow, I had town envy for Greystones, which always seemed a more metropolitan place. Greystones is quite the food town. And Theatre Lane, with its simple idea of good chicken and crowd-pleasing cooking, is another impressive addition to this civilised ’hood.