Forest & Marcy review: a great new place on Leeson St

You won’t love the shenanigans involved in getting a seat but you will love the food

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Forest and Marcy

  • 126 Leeson St Upper
  • (01) 6602480
  • Irish

So here’s a place that’s been well and truly discovered. They might need some Tokyo style subway pushers to shove us in. We’re outside Forest & Marcy on Dublin’s Upper Leeson Street. But first it’s going to be a half hour wait for a table. This is a joint that doesn’t take bookings.

An amble up to O’Brien’s for a drink on their smoking bench ends somewhat alarmingly in a brisk voicemail. Our table will be ready in 10 minutes, is the gist. To secure it, we need to ring them back immediately. Crumbs. A side order of stress before dinner.

“Is it your first time here?” I’m asked by a punter who’s sitting close by (closeness is a given here) when we finally squeeze in to eat. He’s a local, a fan and on first name terms with the chef, Ciaran Sweeney, who comes down from his kitchen to deliver dishes, Noma style.

Forest & Marcy is an offshoot of John and Sandy Wyer’s Forest Avenue, a stone’s throw from this small venue, which was previously Rigby’s. It’s now a wine bar, sorry “wine room”, in a space as tight as a rock star’s jeans. They’ve solved the problem of how to seat people by lining twosomes such as ourselves up at the bar. Larger groups get to look at each other at small tables for four.

There are clever things done with mirrors to liven up the wall you’re sat looking at. The window seat for two is the best in the house. Back at the bar, our sourdough arrives with “matured” butter and a scorched black crust. So in front of me now is some burnt bread and beyond that a sink full of glasses, a dish cloth and a bottle of hand soap. “Really?” says the exasperated thought bubble over my head, quickly replaced by a word that rhymes with Marcy.

But then the first “snack” and with it the kind of giddy glee that banishes black clouds. It’s two airy puffs of Jerusalem artichoke powdered and reborn as an extruded snack like a giant Ranchero.

Dotted on top are a treat palette of lovely things: sweet baby onions, a few delicate ceps, dots of mushroom puree with toasted hazelnuts in their centres like brown Super Mario mushrooms, finished with some red-veined green baby leaves I’m guessing are sorrel. And it costs €4. My only concern is that it’s a bit wintry for mid-summer, but I’ve checked and Sweeney has since moved on to sunnier things.

Mojo well and truly restored, the place calms down, and our grins widen with almost every dish, which are all the more amazing at these prices. There’s a bowl of whipped brandade cod, a fluffy fish smoothie dotted with an orange red pepper sauce like the multiple yolks of a well-fed hen.

Cod skins fried to puffy wispy crackers as light as wafer cones are the edible scoops for getting this to our mouths. There are chunks of cod under the fishy creaminess and sweet red onions at the bottom to stop it all tipping over into brackishness.

The fermented potato bread dish deserves its own plaque on the wall outside, saying “Here lives the perfect plate of Irish food”. Sweeney cooks, blends, salts and then ferments the potatoes for 10 days before whipping them into a thick wedge of potato bread and frying in butter.

The result is a yoghurt tang as if sourdough and potato bread met and had a baby called potato sour bread. And if that’s not tasty enough there’s a foamy bacon soup in a cup to go with it and crinkly slivers of Savoy cabbage dotted with crisp bacon shards, which if I have to find fault are a smidgeon too salty.

Suckling pig with gnocchi and fried Baby Gem is another riff on the pig and greens theme but a marvellous one. The meat collapses in silken sweet shards and the pillowy wild garlic gnocchi is another eye-closingly good party trick with a potato.

The only thing that’s a bit underwhelming is a tomato salad with fresh goats’ curd and house cured guanciale. But that’s just because everything else has been so jaw-droppingly good.

To finish, a wedge of perfect room temperature Fourme d’Ambert, the gentle, creamy French blue cheese from the Auvergne, spread on house-made crackers. I have a lime leaf custard tart which tastes so brightly of lime leaves that I’m guessing it’s a posset made without gelatin. Its barely solid wobble is held together with a gossamer burnt sugar crust and served on a chocolate brown biscuit base with a mouth-filling foam of coconut alongside. It is a stellar standard of pastry cheffing from this busy young kitchen.

So I’m over my nark about the faff of getting a bar seat in Forest & Marcy. If that’s what they need to do to serve this level of food at these kinds of prices in the city centre, then so be it. I’d stand in the rain to eat here again and by the looks of the happy eaters crammed in beside us, I wouldn’t be alone.

Dinner for two with water and three glasses of wine came to €80.

Forest & Marcy, 126 Leeson St Upper, Dublin 4; (01) 6602480
Food provenance: None.
Music: Too shouty to hear at first then nice low key funk.
Facilities: Spacious (unlike the restaurant).
Vegetarian options: Limited.
Wheelchair access: Fully accessible toilets but tables are too high and very restricted on space.
THE VERDICT: 8.5/10 - A new star is born.