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Michelin-starred Heron & Grey to close in January

Co-owner Andrew Heron leaves partnership that won Michelin star 10 months after opening

Damien Grey (left) and Andrew Heron, at Heron & Grey restaurant in Blackrock market, which is to close in January. Photograph: Eric Luke

Heron & Grey, the restaurant in Blackrock Market in Co Dublin that won a Michelin star within 10 months of opening in 2016, is to close at the end of January.

Co-owner and general manager Andrew Heron, who opened the 22-seat restaurant with chef Damien Grey, is leaving the business in order to spend more time with his family. In April of this year, his wife Jessica gave birth to their first child, Mabel.

Heron has sold his interest in the restaurant to Grey, who will become sole owner and plans to re-open the premises as Liath restaurant on March 1st. Liath will follow the Heron & Grey template of a no-choice tasting menu, with 10 courses costing €78. The name, meaning “grey” in Irish, was chosen by his daughters, who had to explain the word to their Australian father.

Niall O’Connor, who has worked at Etto and at Richmond, both in Dublin, has been recruited to fill the general manager and sommelier role being vacated by Heron, and the existing front of house and kitchen team will transfer to the new restaurant.

In October, the restaurant retained its Michelin star, and is included in the 2019 edition of the guide. However, as Liath, it will be assessed as a new business. Rebecca Burr, director of the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland, said: “We are aware of the situation at Heron & Grey, and we will take into account name and personnel changes as we develop our inspection timetable.”

Andrew Heron and Damien Grey with their wives Claudia and Jessica and chef Roisin Gillen celebrating being awarded a Michelin star in 2016.

The split is amicable and the business partnership will be dissolved after the final Heron & Grey dinner service on January 26th. “We are mates and great business partners, and none of that has changed,” Heron said.

The pair had agreed an exit strategy between themselves at the outset. “If one of us wanted to finish up, that was it, there would be no resistance,” said Grey. “We always knew the market value of it, so it was going to be one of two things, either I bought him out, or we went to the market with it, and then we both walked away from it.”

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Grey decided to buy out his partner’s share. “I like this space. I’ve always said that there is good energy in this room.” The pair purchased the business from James Sheridan and Soizic Humbert, who operated it as Canteen @ The Market and went on to open Canteen Celbridge.

Heron & Grey is fully booked until January 26th, after which the shutters will come down for a month for staff holidays. Online reservations will open on February 1st for March bookings for Liath, which will continue in the same vein as Heron & Grey, serving a seasonal, no-choice menu. “We’ve built a system for this space that works, and that won’t change,” said Grey.

There will be one significant change to the way the restaurant operates, however. “Liath will be the next phase of what Andrew and I intended Heron & Grey to be,” Grey explained. “We are going to stop testing and experimenting, stop changing menus every two weeks.”

Instead of offering a completely new 10-course menu every two weeks, with no dish ever being repeated, individual dishes will be phased in and out as the seasons dictate. The menus will be constructed from the 698 individual dishes the team has created over the past three years.

“The best of the best,” is how Heron described the new menu plan, which he helped put in place before deciding to move on. “We made some belter dishes that we never got to go back to,” Grey added.

The pair have not ruled out working together again in the future and the contract the two signed to facilitate the change of ownership grants them equal rights to the name Heron & Grey. “He could come back to me in five years and say, ‘Hey, want to do this?’, and it would be a no-brainer,” Grey said.

Last Saturday, the final tranche of reservations for Heron & Grey went on sale online, for reservations in January, and sold out in minutes. Photograph: Eric Luke

In the meantime, Heron is contemplating his next move. “We finish up on January 26th and from that point forward, I will be searching for my next challenge, something that will allow me time to spend with my family. Everyone always told me that life changes when you have kids and I would never really believed them, until I had one. Over time, I realised I was missing things and I started looking at what I want in a very different way.”

For the now sole owner of the restaurant, it is full steam ahead with Liath, although plans for a revamp of the kitchen and dining room at the Blackrock premises have been put on hold. “I will be doing something eventually. I have it all drawn up and ready to rock ’n’ roll, but I’m going to wait,” Grey said.

However, from March, diners at the restaurant will be greeted with new white tablecloths on the previously bare wooden tables. “It’s not because we want to look posh,” Grey said, explaining that the move is to facilitate diners who take photographs of their food, so that the images that reach social media are improved.

“It’s a clear backdrop, so when people take photos, they will get a cleaner shot.”

For Grey and his team, the focus now will be on retaining the Michelin star. “To be honest with you, yes, having the star is amazing, but I’ll just have to go through the system again, and that’s fine. I’m happy to try, and we will see what happens.”

“What you’re not going to see is the bickering of an old married couple on the floor anymore,” Heron said, and they both laughed heartily. “That’s exactly what it had become.”

As double acts go, it was one of a kind.