Paul Flynn: ‘We gave the place one last clean and turned off the lights’

Kitchen Cabinet: Our food writer on closing his restaurant, and the start of a series of simple recipes written by chefs

Today we launch a new series of simple, cook-at-home recipes, written by chefs, that could be ideal to try during the coronavirus outbreak, when fuss-free food is especially important. To kick it off our food columnist Paul Flynn reflects on temporarily closing his restaurant, and shares the recipe for one of his family’s favourite meals

I’m cracking up already and I’m only home a week. We made the decision to close the Tannery restaurant last Sunday. There seemed to be no other option. Turning off the fridges and making sure everything was shipshape for whenever we come back was horrible. The key staff were in. We reassured them as best we could, gave the place one last clean, sorted out the food and turned off the lights.

I toyed with the idea of doing takeaway, like many others. I’m still toying. But for now we’re in the office sorting things out and going through bookings. Ironically this weekend was looking quite strong. I had a full cookery course booked too.

I have spent way too much time on the couch. For all my talk about work, I can fuse into it with surprising ease

My wife and business partner Máire had to ring people to tell them we were closing. Most people were brilliant, offering kind words and promised to come again.


I have spent way too much time on the couch. For all my talk about work, I can fuse into it with surprising ease. Larry David kept my spirits up. Leo’s speech was statesmanlike. I was moved. There was a real and scary sense that we are passing through a momentous time in history. Politics is polarising, but I got a comforting sense that this was about us and our country.

Once Paddy’s Day had passed, we were determined to put some structure into our lives, for us as well as the children. Schoolwork helped, but we still started the first new day with a row. One of the offspring went on strike; we had to nip it in the bud.

I thundered into town and went for a walk, newly determined not to end up like one of the people on that TV show, My 600lb life. The temptation to kick into the wine is ever-present. When this is all over, I have to make sure I’m not an obese , destitute alcoholic .

I want to play my part. It’s all about pulling together and the 24,000 people offering to help would make your heart soar. Do I put together a CV? What would I put on it for God’s sake? Fifty-four years of age, gammy legs , loves festivals and a bit of carousing, but can throw a good omelette together.

I’m going to send it off to see who’ll have me. Not that this is a time to be joking, I certainly am not.

I’m impulsive and that has got me into some interesting situations over the years. I saw a yoga mat on the floor and decided to post on social media a photograph of my breasts caressing my belly as I huffed through five sit-ups. I don’t mind, it’s important to be able to see the bright side of things. Keep a keen eye out for more on Twitter as I may just get another urge to humiliate myself.

We just have to get through this together and come out fighting on the other side

I took the bike out for the first time this year. We live at the top of a very big hill. I think it’s my Mont Blanc. I enjoy writing. I miss people. I miss working. I miss the pub.

People on the streets are for the most part keeping their distance, but I’m sensing a new warmth, hailing people that were formerly only nodded at with a “Mind yourself and see you soon”.

I’m a creature of habit, but I also love doing new things. There was so much planned for this year, a cooking trip to Newfoundland, a camino to Spain again. However, what matter now. Suddenly there’s a new perspective. We just have to get through this together and come out fighting on the other side.


Serves four
You might be surprised at how plain this recipe is. It's our most frequently eaten dinner at home. Firstly it has very few ingredients but the depth of flavour is deep and comforting.

It’s all about cooking lots of garlic low and slow thereby transforming it. The chilli flakes are essential for piquancy, use more if you like more heat. The Parmesan should be generous and the parsley is optional. (I have some today that I took from the restaurant. Sniff.)

We eat it at home with garlic bread, because I’m a great man for double carbing, and sometimes with a drape of Parma ham. It looks plain, but tastes mighty.

When you think about it, if you added white wine and clams to the spaghetti you’d have spaghetti alle vongole, my favourite pasta dish (but without the Parmesan of course, I don’t want to get in trouble with the purists). Maybe that’s why I love it so much. It’s a dish for now and a dish from better times.

50ml olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, (yes that's right), very thinly sliced
80g butter
Small pinch of chilli flakes
500g spaghetti
Shredded flat parsley (optional)
80g Parmesan, grated

1. Cook the garlic very gently in the olive oil until lightly golden.

2. Add the butter into the oil and garlic and remove from the heat, then add the chilli flakes and parsley.

3. Put your pasta on to cook as per packet instructions. Drain the pasta once it is cooked but reserve half a cup of cooking water.

4. Mix the spaghetti and the excess water into the garlic, olive oil, butter mixture.

5. Season and serve with lots of Parmesan on top.