In praise of James Kavanagh's eclectic kitchen

A peek at the room where Currabinny chefs prepare their organic goodies


A giant monkey puzzle tree – so fine a specimen that Japanese tourists have been known to pile off their tour bus to admire it – growing right outside the front door of James Kavanagh’s terraced house in Phibsboro sets the tone for an elegant home that is a showcase for its owner’s eclectic mix of antiques and collectables.

It’s also the HQ of Currabinny, the catering and food company that Kavanagh and his boyfriend William Murray, a Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate, set up a year ago. As well as running Currabinny, Kavanagh is a social media consultant and Snapchat star (he has more than 30,000 followers), and Murray works as a barman at Le Gueuleton restaurant.

The pair have lived there, with flatmate Kyle Cheldon Barnett, for the past 18 months. “We were just about to move into a tiny redbrick house – which I was depressed about – and then this popped up on about a day before we were due to sign the lease on the other place.

“I came in and there were about 20 other couples viewing, so I literally dragged the estate agent into the dining room and said, ‘I have cash on me, please give it to me. He said he admired my ballsiness, and so we got it straight away,” Kavanagh says.

The open-plan kitchen dining room serves as their office, photographic studio, storage space for their props and merchandising materials, and also functions as a prep space for smaller events and functions (for bigger jobs they use a food business incubation kitchen in Churchtown).

It’s a calm and bright space, flooded with light from the huge dual-aspect windows that run from the front to the back of the period property. Open shelving units from Ikea are used as storage in the dining area, displaying stacks of chunky Moroccan serving bowls alongside antique plates and an impressive collection of cake slices.

“Space is so important and we’re lucky enough to have a lot here,” Kavanagh says. “Me and William used to murder each other in our last place because the kitchen was so small. If you’re in the business of being a cook and working together, you need space, and this is big enough for us to both work in and not take the head off each other.”

Dry goods stored in neatly labelled jars line the shelves nearest the kitchen. “I like open storage, then we can be inspired by what’s on the shelves. Everything is easily accessible,” Kavanagh says. Piles of tablecloths from The Irish Linen House in Smithfield, which supplies Barneys in New York with napkins, are neatly folded away in drawers.

Gather, the new cookery book from Gill Mellor, is prominently displayed, but the couple have not fully adopted the River Cottage chef’s wild food ethos. “We forage in Fallon & Byrne, you can find it all in there.”

The dining space is dominated by a large canvas, depicting a rabbit about to be prepped for the pot. It, like much of Kavanagh’s extensive collection of candelabras, ecclesiastical paraphenalia and antique china, was sourced in Vintage Shop in Phibsboro.

“It’s the dream, it’s where I get nearly everything,” Kavanagh says. “It’s run by a Polish couple and they go to France once a month and fill a shipping container and bring it back. They know what I like at this stage. The owner called me and said, ‘I have a food painting if you want it’ and I literally ran down the road and bought it.”

The couple’s catering company, Currabinny, has become a favourite of fashion and design brands in search of something a bit different. Recently, they have done the catering for events for jewellery designer Chupi, fashion designer Natalie B Coleman, design retailer Brothers & Makers and for the launch of food stylish Jette Virdi’s Created + Found range of home accessories.

Kavanagh describes Currabinny’s food as being about organic, local produce. “We’re very traditional in a sense; we’re all about butter, cream, full fat milk.” There’s one proviso though: “When we cook, we’re thinking, what will look good on Instagram? Everything we cook, we want to post on social [media] because that’s how we get business.”

The next Currabinny event is a harvest supper on November 18th, at the Teeling Whiskey Distillery (tickets, €60). “There’ll be a harpist, a sea of candles, autumnal foliage and a feast of Irish food and drink.” When it’s time for dessert, Kavanagh and Murray “will push two, gold dessert trolleys around the room, offering a variety of cakes and cream”.

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