First Look: A new small-plates Dublin wine bar
Sleek open-plan space from owner of Michael’s in Mount Merrion seats 30 for seafood and charcuterie
Little Mike’s: Gaz Smith’s new wine bar has been designed by Kate Hartley of KHD. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The four big squishy bar stools at the striking green-and-grey Italian-marble chef’s counter in the photograph above are set to be among the most sought-after seats in the Dublin dining scene.
Little Mike’s, the new wine bar with seafood, small plates, Irish cheese and charcuterie, from the chef-proprietor Gareth Smith, opens its doors officially on Wednesday, May 15th, with a series of soft-opening family-and-friends nights between now and then.
The new place is just a couple of doors down from Smith’s flagship, Michael’s, a seafood and steak restaurant in the south Dublin suburb of Mount Merrion, but Kate Hartley of the Dublin design firm KHD has transformed a neighbourhood coffee shop into a sleek, cleverly conceived open-plan eating and drinking space with 15 seats at three bar counters and a separate dining room – the snug – seating a further 15 at tables.
The wine list will be a big draw here – it is very on point. There will be big, bold classics, as well as low-intervention and skin-contact wines
“The theme is the inside of an oyster,” Smith – aka Gaz – says of the design inspiration. He financed the project with cash saved for a family house purchase. “It’s not just the house deposit. We sold the car and everything. We’ve laid it on the line here.”
He was not actively looking for a second premises, but when the former Rocket Foods cafe became available it was too good an opportunity to overlook. “My biggest concern was splitting my time between two places, so this is ideal, as I can have a presence in both rooms,” says Smith, who has hired Keith Hallissey, formerly of Farmhill in Churchtown, to manage Little Mike’s.
“The plan is to offer a place that’s a bit different to Michael’s, more drinks-led and less structured – the kind of place to come and share a bottle of wine over a plate of seafood and charcuterie with friends, maybe have a second bottle and a few more plates.
“The wine list will be a big draw here – it is very on point. There will be big, bold classics, as well as low-intervention and skin-contact wines, with a sharp emphasis on rooting out hidden gems and sourcing from world-class vineyards. There will be plenty available by the glass, and staff picks that will rotate with the seasons and with the food we will be serving,” Smith says.
As with Michael’s, seafood will be sourced from Irish dayboats and the crab and lobster fishermen Smith has established a great partnership with. Seafood platters will include lobster, Dublin Bay prawns, Lambay crab, mussels and clams (€40 a head).
There are whelks on the menu, too, with the promise that if the customer does not enjoy the sea snails cooked in ginger, garlic and lemon butter, they won’t have to pay for them.
Small plates will also include blue-fin-tuna carpaccio (€12), monkfish fritti (€11), lobster, prawn and smoked-salmon fishcakes (€10/€18) and grilled Dublin Bay prawns (€11). Meat options include ham croquettes (€6.90), Inch House black-pudding Scotch egg (€10) and Angus beef tartare (€12).
The vibe will be good service and simple food, a mix of nibbles, small plates and main courses, but not necessarily with a fixed, formal structure
Not all of the menu dishes will be available at the start, however. “The first few weeks there will be just a few dishes, done well, to allow us to systemise the place and find our feet. I would prefer to deal with gripes over a small menu, and explain that it will expand.”
Smith expects that the new addition will attract the same loyal clientele that has made Michael’s one of the busiest neighbourhood restaurants in Dublin, but that they will move between the two venues, depending on their requirements.
“The vibe will be good service and simple food, a mix of nibbles, small plates and main courses, but not necessarily with a fixed, formal structure. Michael’s will always be just up the road for those who want that vibe, or customers booked in there for dinner can grab a drink here before their meal.”
Little Mike’s will open Thursday to Sunday, noon to 10pm. Reservations will be taken for the snug, and “probably for the chef counter seats”, Smith says; the other counter seating will be for walk-ins. Reservations open on Monday, May 13th.