First Look: Stella Diner brings a taste of the US to Rathmines
A former banking hall has had €900,000 spent on it to recreate the American diner experience
The Stella Diner, which opens on Monday, recreates the feel of a traditional US diner – without the jukebox
The wraps come off the Stella Diner in Rathmines on Monday, and this latest addition to Paddy McKillen junior and Matt Ryan’s Press Up Entertainment group has had €900,00 poured into its fit-out, recreating a high-end American diner. But without the jukebox – it’s high-end, remember.
The interior of the listed building at 211 Rathmines Road is by ODonnell ONeill Design, who were also responsible for the Stella Theatre, which is next door.
The space “has a symbiotic relationship with its theatrical cinematic neighbour”, according to Ann-Marie O’Neill, who also points to the “quintessential details you would expect in a diner, with its laminate table tops with steel edges, casual coat hooks at the end of each booth, peg board menu board and decorative steel panels to the back of the open kitchen”.
The long room, a former banking hall as evidenced by the Bank of Ireland name above the front door, is dominated on one side by red leather banquette seating, and on the other by a 17-metre pewter counter, behind which a team of chefs will cook an all-day menu.
In the true spirit of the American diner, servers won’t just be delivering ham and eggs and endless cups of coffee – there may be a touch of sardonic humour on the side.
Dave O’Keefe, general manager, says: “We have taken a huge interest in finding the right personalities while recruiting the team for Stella Diner. It’s very important that the characters we have on the team create the spirit and feel of the true American diner experience. We hired for personality and character mixed with experience.”
So, you’ve had your cheery greeting and an all-America smile, now what’s on the menu?
The breakfast offering is keenly priced, and like everything on the extensive menu it will be available all day, so you can have hand carved glazed ham, two eggs, home fries and toast (€7.95) for dinner, or a buttermilk pancake stack (€6.95) for lunch.
There is a whole section devoted to egg sandwiches (from €4.50), served on English muffins, and organic three-egg omelettes can be made with any three ingredients from a list of 10 (€9.95).
The diner theme is carried through to a sizeable starter and main course line-up, and there’s yet another section listing soups, burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches. Something for everyone, seems to be the theme, and there is a children’s menu too.
The menu was devised by head chef Gabor Molnar, who was previously at Press Up’s Union Cafe, and Darren Matthews, executive chef for the Stella cinema and cocktail club as well as the diner, along with group executive chef Ryan Bell.
Bell is a Dorset man who came to Ireland to work for Shanahans on the Green, where he spent seven years in the kitchen. Breakfasts, hot dogs and burgers won’t be a hard sell in these surroundings, and the sandwich selection is really strong – there is a smoked brisket, Cheddar and beer onions combo that sounds delicious. But a couple of his menu additions may be slower to shift.
Liver and onions (€16.95), grilled gammon steak with roast pineapple (€14.50) and meatloaf (€14.50), may be diner classics, but they’ll likely take a bit of reinventing to sell well here.
However Bell has been on the case, and reckons that the meatloaf, his favourite dish on the menu, will be a winner with diners.
“We’re using 70 per cent beef and 30 per cent pork. We bake it in the oven first then let it cool, slice it into portions and then caramelise it with tomato ketchup and brown sugar on the griddle and serve it with fried onions, home made gravy and butter mash.”
He says that the inspiration for the food is that it is “based on those American diners where there are lots of ingredients and you make your own combinations, and nothing is a problem”. There are no fewer than 18 items on the sides menu to facilitate this pick and mix approach.
For dessert, customers can order a slice of pie (€4.50) from a selection of appple, blueberry, Key lime and Mississippi mud, served with cream of ice-cream, or an ice-cream sundae (€5.95).
There is a full bar list, including craft beers, and wines from Paddy McKillen senior’s Château La Coste in Provence. The movie-themed cocktail menu devised by Fergus O’Leary, beverage operations manager for the group, includes one called There’s Something About Mary (€9), made with Ketel One vodka, tomato juice and “Mary Mix”.
O’Leary won’t divulge exactly what’s in this blend of seasonings, but you can tick Bovril, oyster sauce, sriracha and Frank’s Hot Sauce, as well as 12 dry ingredients. The garnish is a slice of crisp fried bacon, a slice of celery and an olive and pickle skewer.
The diner has 70 seats in total, at booths and bar counter seats, and will open seven days a week, from 8am until 10pm, with last orders at 9.30pm. Reservations are not taken, except for groups of six or more. See stelladiner.ie.