First look: A vibrant new restaurant for a reopened Dublin

TV chef Adrian Martin brings his London restaurant, Wildflower, to Dublin

Adrian Martin will open Wildflower on Richmond Street South in Dublin 2 on February 2nd. Photographs: Alan Betson

Adrian Martin will open Wildflower on Richmond Street South in Dublin 2 on February 2nd. Photographs: Alan Betson

 

The vibrant Dublin restaurant scene is getting another new opening from a young Irish chef, who is self-financing the launch of an ambitious project in the city. Wildflower restaurant by Adrian Martin, a 30-year-old Cavan-born chef, is due to open next Tuesday, February 2nd on Richmond Street South, opposite the former site of the Bernard Shaw pub.

Wildflower is spread across four distinct and very differently appointed spaces over two floors of a formerly unoccupied Georgian building, which Martin took over the lease on last September. After significant building work and renovations, the restaurant was to open on New Year’s Eve, but the curtailment of hospitality opening hours delayed the project by a further month.

At the entrance, a small bar is flooded with light from a glazed wall looking out to the street and the colourful graffiti on the hoardings opposite. An ornate gilded sofa hints at the mood of the first of the three dining rooms, just beyond. In addition, there is a further dining space, with a more restrained design palette, and access to an outdoor space that will come into use in summer.

On the upper floor, it will seat 35 people for a three-course menu, with three choices at each course, plus petits fours and coffee, for €70. But the real fun will be had down the stone stairs, in the basement cellar. There are just 12 seats here at spacious round tables, where a 10-course tasting menu (€100) will be served.

The cellar dining room will seat 12 for a 10-course tasting menu
The cellar dining room will seat 12 for a 10-course tasting menu
Wildflower at 52 Richmond Street South, in Dublin 2
Wildflower at 52 Richmond Street South, in Dublin 2

“The idea of this restaurant is based on foraging and fermentation,” says Martin, though a look at the menu reveals that there are significant classical French influences at work too. The launch menu features dishes such as “Glazed Thornhill Duck Foie Gras, Onion Miso, Vetch, Sauce Grand Veneur”, and “Dexter Beef Chateaubriand, Fermented Cep Paste, Smoked Bone Marrow Sauce, Cep Mushrooms”.

Almost every dish has a wild or foraged element on the plate; yarrow, oak moss, meadow sweet, and sea aster are mentioned, and the restaurant has engaged professional foragers, Avery McGuire and Edward Blain of Thalli Foods in Co Clare. An acre of land in his home village of Bawnboy, Co Cavan will be planted and cultivated to provide for the restaurant all year round. A basement store room at the restaurant will be used to house fermented and preserved seasonal ingredients. There’s a strong sustainability strand too, right down to the plates made by potter Sally George, who will take back any that break and remake them, and the menu printed on compostable paper.

Although perhaps best known here for his appearances on daytime television cooking slots, his social media and promotions work for Irish food brands, and his two cookery books, Martin did his time in pro kitchens, and has a culinary arts degree. He spent six years working with Neven Maguire and then moved on to Bon Appétit in Malahide. He hasn’t worked fulltime in an Irish restaurant kitchen in seven years, but comes to this opening from the successful launch of his Wildflower brand in London in the spring of 2020.

Wildflower’s entrance area and Champagne bar
Wildflower’s entrance area and Champagne bar
Adrian Martin will open Wildflower on Richmond Street South in Dublin 2 on February 2nd. Photographs: Alan Betson
 Wildflower will open on February 2nd. 

Having failed to find a premises in Dublin: “It was too expensive to do it in Dublin with the budget I had,” Martin extended his search, and opened Wildflower in a block of converted shipping containers in Camden Market, with just 12 seats in his unit, that also housed the kitchen.

Despite being open for just seven days before the first lockdown of the pandemic, and having to re-open four times after subsequent lockdowns, the restaurant made the Telegraph newspaper’s best new openings of 2020, and was reviewed by UK restaurant critic heavyweights Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard and Grace Dent in the Guardian. Dent called it “peculiar”, though she praised “the chef’s courage in opening a fine dining restaurant in a shipping container.”

Maschler noted in her review that “Chef Adrian is not on the premises. It must have been something very important that called him away back to Ireland on the sixth day of trading at his life’s dream.” It was indeed something significant; the death of his grandmother.

Line caught salt cod, sea aster, razor clam, girolles and truffle at Wildflower restaurant.
Line caught salt cod, sea aster, razor clam, girolles and truffle at Wildflower restaurant.
The second of two dining rooms on the ground floor
The second of two dining rooms on the ground floor

Martin acknowledges the difficulties he faced opening in London during a pandemic. “It was difficult, cost me a fortune, and I borrowed an awful lot more than I should have to keep it going.” But he says he “wanted to create a space that was small and unique, to learn and grow in this area of food. So I thought it was a great opportunity to do it there. I suppose the best thing about having the restaurant in London was we were able to test and test and test [the dishes].”

The restaurant is currently closed for its seasonal break, and Martin, who was commuting between his home in Kilmainham and London on a weekly basis, is unsure if he will reopen it. “ I haven’t made the decision. I’m considering closing to totally focus on here, to perfect this.”

“This” has involved another sizeable chunk of personal investment - he reckons it will have cost in excess of €120,000 when the doors to Wildflower open on Tuesday. And that’s with all of the renovation work and the fitout being done by himself and his family - mum and dad Anne and John, three siblings, and retired uncle Henry. His girlfriend Hannal Corcoran, who works with AIB, also rowed in. “ She loves design,” he says.

Glazed Thornhill duck, foie gras, greengage, vetch, onion miso and sauce grand veneur.
Glazed Thornhill duck, foie gras, greengage, vetch, onion miso and sauce grand veneur.
A three-course menu will be served for lunch and dinner in the two upstairs dining rooms
A three-course menu will be served for lunch and dinner in the two upstairs dining rooms

He is still finalising his front and back of house teams, but will be joined in the kitchen by Sebastien Vlad, formerly of One Pico, as sous chef. “I want a team that wants to learn, and do things as a team effort.” In, London his multicultural kitchen team, from England, Portugal and Malaysia, as well as Ireland, created the menus together, as a collaborative process, and it is an approach he would like to continue in Dublin.

“It’s an awful lot of work to open a business. There’s a lot of stress involved. People don’t understand, behind the scenes, how much work goes into these. It’s just me. People think that oh, he’s on television, he’ll have loads of people working, doing all that work for him. No, I sit down at night and I do the finances. I sit down and I do the payroll.”

Wildflower by Adrian Martin will open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday (tasting menu Wednesday to Saturday), and for lunch Thursday to Saturday. See wildflowerrestaurant.ie.