First Look: The Grayson – Dublin’s newest dining venue
Beautiful design has revamped the former Residence into a splendid place to eat and party
The Grayson, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin: no expense spared.
Dublin city centre is about to get a new party pad, with late-night music, DJs and dancing, and it is located where you might least expect to find it. The Grayson is about to burst on to the scene in the genteel environs of St Stephen’s Green. It is due to open on August 23rd, and it is making a very strong statement.
This is the third major opening of the year and the 34th outlet, spread across 25 brands, from hospitality group Press Up Entertainment. The new business stretches across four levels, with several bars, casual dining, corporate events spaces and a more formal restaurant on the upper floors.
Everything this conglomerate puts its hand to is stylish, carefully considered and high on the wow factor, in terms of design. But with this one, it has pushed the boat out. “He doesn’t want to put a number on it,” a spokesperson for Press Up chief Paddy McKillen jnr says when asked about the cost of renovating the listed building at 41 St Stephen’s Green.
“It is high. It was an extensive renovation which was costly, and it did go above budget, but we’re delighted with the finished product,” says Laura Arnold, head of marketing and PR for the group.
The genteel furnishings of the former Residence private members club and Restaurant Forty One were swept from the building when the deal went through in January, and sold as a job lot at auction in March – carpets, curtains and 3,000 wine and spirits glasses among the lots.
In its place is a sophisticated revamp, courtesy of O’Donnell O’Neill Design, collaborators on the group’s landmark properties including the Stella Theatre and Diner, Dollard & Co and The Dean hotel. “It was an amazing project to work on,” says Ann-Marie O’Donnell. “We’ve just opened it up, working with the space that was there and adding the atrium. The stairs and circulation spaces are really bright and then you go into each of the rooms and you get a different feel from them.
Contemporary and chic
“We were very much guided by the original Georgian features in the existing building when developing the interior design concept. We saw it as a priority to show off the beautifully retained features of the original house in the interior design. Yet at the same time it was also important that the interior was glamorous, contemporary and chic.”
The new look begins at the entrance, where the window frames and surrounds and the front door have been painted an edgy matt-grey, dark enough to pass for black, and a hint at the drama within. The ivy has been removed from the lower part of the building, to remedy a poison ivy invasion, leaving two gnarly denuded vines clambering up the newly exposed red-brick facade.
The reception desk at the door, where members had to present their credentials in the Residence club days, has been done away with. “We want to banish the word membership,” says general manager James Gibbons, who has returned to Ireland after 2½ years with Hawksmoor in London, where he ran the Seven Dials branch of the steakhouse chain.
“If people are coming in to the bar, they can just walk in. This level is not bookable, it will always be open to the public. We want to be as open and welcoming as we possibly can,” he says, keen to dispel the reputation for exclusivity that the former owners originally fostered.
Little has changed with the layout of the rooms, apart from the conversion of the former courtyard into a dramatic atrium. But the space is totally unrecognisable from its previous incarnation. The colour palette is mostly monochrome, with dusky pink accents in some of the marble – of which there is a lot, on the floors, the walls and table tops – as well as in the gleaming bronze of some of the bar counters.
The ground-floor bar will serve casual lunches and snacks, seven days a week, in a series of small, compartmentalised spaces, each adorned with a stunning array of light fittings and artwork. “We sourced loads of mid-century light fittings. There is a lovely eclectic mix. We went to Italy, Germany, England and Australia for them,” says O’Donnell. Artworks are by Phillip Allen, Mark Francis, David Godbold, Callum Innes and Liliane Tomasko.
Drinks will also be served at another bar in the dramatic glass-ceilinged atrium, with a raised smokers’ terrace and open-air seating beyond. The cocktail list is the work of bar manager Marius Nitu, who came to Press Up from Drury Buildings, and before that worked at Opium for the Mercantile Group. “The menu is mainly designed with classics in mind, but we have taken them forward with modern new twists.”
He predicts the crowd favourite will be the Rose’s Thorn, made with Gordon’s pink gin, raspberry, lemon, cranberry, rose water and whites (€11). The entry level wines are from Paddy McKillen senior’s Chateau La Coste, the Frigousse red, white and rosé at €7 a glass or €28 a bottle, after which prices climb steeply.
It is a design statement that will most likely polarise diners
At basement level there is a self-contained space with its own bar, restrooms and another small smokers’ terrace. This will be a private events space during the daytime, transforming into an extension of the ground floor late-night music venue on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
The original staircase has been extensively restored – though it is still a steep and winding climb on the final flight – and the two floors it leads to will be the building’s main dining areas. The first has the same muted-grey painted panelling as the ground floor, but when you reach the top, there’s a surprise. “A bright punch of colour; it’s different,” is how O’Donnell describes the vivid turquoise paint that covers all of the walls and ceiling.
It is a design statement that will most likely polarise diners. But hopefully it will get the thumbs-up from the first customer – a bride who placed blind faith in the management and design team when, at the transfer of ownership, she asked Press Up to honour her August 17th reservation for a wedding party for 40 guests.
Brazilian head chef Jacson Reboli is relocating from Sophie’s at The Dean to take command of the kitchen, where he will lead a brigade of 12-14 chefs. “Something for everyone” is how the food offering is being pitched. Dinner menu dishes include lamb rump carpaccio, pickled egg yolk, manchego cheese, burnt-shallot-and-caper mayo, and duck breast, confit leg bon bon, crushed sweet potato, charred broccoli and duck jus.
But Reboli also intends to project some of his identity on to the menu, with the addition of what he describes as “some more quirky dishes”, such as halibut with okra. “My mother cooked it, and it is very traditional back home.”
In a departure for the group, The Grayson will not serve brunch at the weekend, but will instead offer what it is pitching as “long leisurely lunches” between noon and 4pm.
“We felt that was more representative of the building. We want people to come for the afternoon, as opposed to coming in for eggs for an hour and then going. We want people to kick back for the afternoon and be spoilt,” James Gibbons says. “It’s a new chapter for Press Up, it’s very different to any of the other venues.”