As I step out of the service lift into a kitchen on the first floor of the Fitzwilliam Hotel, stainless steel and a coffee machine aren't exactly what I expected my first peek of this restaurant to be.
When I’m led out of the kitchen and onto the restaurant floor however, I’m grateful for the suspense-filled glance at what is arguably Dublin’s hottest restaurant right now – despite its opening date still one week away.
I've seen the photos on social media and sneak peek teaser videos of the interior, but the real thing is even more impressive.
I’m at Glovers Alley, the newest restaurant in town that’s already fully booked for its first night and has been the main topic of conversation among Dublin foodies all month. It’s where the v swanky Thornton’s once was, and it's had a millennial makeover.
Dubliner Andy McFadden is the executive chef leading the way, having moved from London where he lived for 12 years, working in the prestigious Pied à Terre restaurant. Fun fact: At age 25, Andy was the youngest chef in London to hold a Michelin star, so you know he means business. Now 32, he’s chuffed to be home, telling me that while he didn’t ask for an opportunity like this he couldn’t turn it down.
“I made a life in London - I wouldn’t say I made a home - but I made a life,” he says. “But my friends and family are back here.”
Leaving London to come back to Dublin - teenchy, tiny Dublin - might sound nuts to some, but Andy reckons our city has a lot to offer.
Calling Dublin’s current dining scene “incredible”, Andy has been catching up on all the places he’s been recommended to eat at now he’s back in town. He knows that once Glovers Alley is up and running he won’t have much time for anything else.
On his list is Hang Dai, Klaw and Romano, a tiny place on Capel Street, and he quickly takes notes on his phone when I mention my own love for Assassination Custard and Terra Madre. Andy talks a million miles a minute and his excitement for Glovers Alley is making me almost giddy.
Not only is Glovers Alley by far the prettiest place in the city right now, it’s filled with tiny careful details that give it an extra touch of class
Seating 70 people, the restaurant is all curves and waves, soft pale pinks and rich green leather and I can just tell there’s gonna be an Instagram bonanza when people finally get inside for a peek. A 1930s Art Deco style is their inspo and it works.
“Everyone who walks in here, their eyes kind of light up,” Andy says, spot on. “When people see it and they love it, that makes me happy.” I for one want to move in.
Scallop details around the bar run right through into scalloped ends on the silver cutlery (I could tell you how much it cost but trust me, you’d have a heart attack) and delicate silver scallop-patterned frosting on plates and espresso cups.
If Wes Anderson ever needs a dinner reservation in Dublin, this would be right up his street.
The restaurant menu will have French influences, using local ingredients as much as possible but with a devilishly creative flair
They get everything – from the cream to the mussels, the venison to the cheese – from individual specialist producers, farmers, fishermen and there will be an á la carte menu for lunch and dinner (€45 for three courses at lunch and €80 for dinner), as well as an eight course tasting menu (€105) with a surprise chef’s menu to come later on.
The menu, which currently includes dishes such as Smoked Eel with Piglet Belly, Apple, Cucumber and Dashi; Skeaghanore Duck with Beetroot, Leeks and Watercress; Goat with Black Pearl Curry, Anchovy and Gremolata, and Manjari Chocolate with Clementine, Stem Ginger and Honeycomb, has already changed twice this week.
When I arrived Andy was still scribbling out items on the menu. He says that they’ll trial new dishes gradually and it’s up to the customers as to what become menu staples and what don’t. “I don’t say like oh, ‘this is the signature dish’, I find that a bit… arrogant,” Andy says. “I kinda like when people say ‘oh they do that really well’ and then that becomes your signature dish.”
Inspiration for the food at Glovers Alley comes from all over, with even the beloved Grogan’s Pub on South William Street getting a shout out
Grogan’s has unknowingly made its own stamp on the tasting menu thanks to their famous toasties. Seriously.
Andy laughs when he tells me the suss: “I’m not even joking… Myself and Phily (the head chef in Glovers Alley and Andy’s right-hand man) were out in Grogan’s a few weeks ago with our friends, a real old man’s pub with good Guinness and they do REALLY good toasties.
“We got ham and cheese toasties, right, and they put a whole thing of mustard on the table. So for Glovers Alley we’re doing these cheese dumplings and we think, why don’t we do something with ham, cheese and mustard?”
Smoked cheddar from Knockanore is the base of these “melt in your mouth” dumplings, with a wholegrain mustard emulsion and slow-cooked, fried shreds of ham hock. We’ll settle for a glass of vino with these instead.
A complete lack of ego, pure passion and determination to never settle makes Andy’s go at Glover Alley well worth backing
“I hired the ‘Dream Team’, that’s what I call them,” Andy says. The Dream Team is Aoife Noonan as executive pastry chef, Philip Roe as head chef, Ed Jolliffe as general manager, Laura Becker as assistant manager, James Brooke as head sommelier and Scott White as assistant sommelier.
“I worked with Phily before and I’m that kind of person I need someone who knows how I work and knows what I want, and I’m so glad he came back. I earmarked these other people that I wanted.”
Whatever notion you may have of chefs having crazy egos doesn’t apply to Andy. He’s a team player who knows that to be the very best you have to surround yourself with the very best and work together.
“A lot of restaurants, and I’m not saying this in a bad way, but it’s always about ‘the chef’ or just one person, and I want it to be about ‘us’, the team. Don’t be worrying about celebrity chefs or getting your name in the newspapers and all that. Just put your head down and that will come in time.”
As for the future? Considering Andy’s Michelin background, a buzz for a star is sure to start simmering soon
Taking it day by day is more Andy’s style, however. “I know it sounds weird but I never really look that far ahead. I know people make these five and 10 year plans, and I know maybe I should do that, but I just really love life and I love my work.
“I just want us to be the best that we can be, hopefully still all together, and just have a good busy restaurant. People will keep coming in because we’re always trying to strive to get even better.”
He does throw out the idea of spending some time in Japan in the future, learning and eating his way along, but for now he’s got Glovers Alley to run and a menu to finalise. “My names on the door and I’m proud of that,” he states.
Don’t head off anywhere just yet, Andy. You’re finally home.
Glovers Alley is located at 128 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2 and is open five days a week from Tuesday-Saturday for Dinner and Thursday-Saturday for Lunch and Dinner, starting Friday February 2.