I fell in love with this small, hard to find, restaurant, hidden within the market of Blackrock (15 km from Dublin) in September when I visited Andrew Heron and Damien Grey for the first time, but there was no chance to get a table:
And then a cancellation happened, ideally placed just on the day when I was returning from Food on the Edge (one of my favourite food events). I got a table for four, so I needed to find some dining companions. Knowing that “tickets” for Heron & Grey sell out faster than for a gig of U2 in Dublin, it didn’t seem hard. Indeed it wasn’t. I headed there in a great company.
Our dinner Autumn 2.5 was served:
This is the story of two guys – Damien Grey, in charge of the kitchen, and Andrew Heron, in charge of the front of the house (drinks included). Three years ago they found a small humble place within the market of Blackrock, a small coastal town south of Dublin, and created their own restaurant. It was opened on 21st January 2016. A place with a miniature kitchen, no bathroom, few tables, but with a great passion and determination. The magic they created awarded them already nine months after the opening with a Michelin star – a great example that shows how Michelin is really about cooking, not about bathrooms and fancy interiors. Their food inspired by their personalities was strong enough!
Who are they? Damien started working in Australia at a butcher’s shop during the weekends at age of ten. At the age of fourteen, he moved to work at a greengrocer and from there at age of 15 to a restaurant where he worked as a kitchen porter. From there, it just went up. His training has been heavily focused on the French cuisine for nearly 17 years, with some experience with Greek cuisine and, being from Australia, some Thai and Italian influence. He worked in different restaurants in Sydney, until moving to London where he worked at Admiralty under Oliver Peyton. After London, he went to Scotland for two years and then to Ireland, where over several years in Dublin he gained experience at many of the local Michelin starred restaurants. While working at Chapter One for Ross Lewis, he met Andrew Heron and the two started dreaming about their own restaurant and how would they make it different. After finding that small place within the Blackrock market, their dream became true. They created a cult restaurant in the East of Ireland. With minimum investment and no PR, they became a place where tables got booked up within 15 minutes after booking was opened. Their food is honest and intense like themselves – full of passion and genuine love for what they were doing. Dishes are bursting with beautiful balanced flavours, cooking is skilful and precise (they do miracles creating long tasting menu that is served in a steady rhythm for 22 people in such a small kitchen, with a small team in a calm, relaxed pace) and the menu changes very often. With their energy, they also created a very special, relaxed and communicative atmosphere. I was so lucky to have experienced this unique place just before they announced the closure. Heron and Grey are closing this month.
It was part of the plan. When they opened they decided to run it for three years and then see how it goes. Now, in the third year, after having a chat, Andrew Heron decided to spend more time with his family, having become a father in April last year, (still staying Damien’s good friend), while Damien Grey decided to continue, so he bought Andrew’s part and is starting his new chapter. In the place of Heron & Grey, will now be born Liath (Liath means grey in Irish).
What’s known about Liath, that is opening in March (bookings open on 1st of February!)? Damien plans to do a few improvements in the interior and organisation, following his experience with Heron & Grey, but he guaranteed that the place will not lose the soul. His cuisine will express his curiosity, love for discoveries and research. It may be a bit inspired by the new Nordic, Spanish and West American Coast cuisine (he sees these styles as very in tune with the terroir of Ireland and as groundbreaking in the development of commercial cooking in the 21st century), but he will continue his own way, featuring also the best of the 698 dishes developed at Heron and Grey. “For me its all about discovery, about what I leave behind when I finish cooking – then it will be for everyone else to decide what it was. Where will this take me, I don’t know, but one thing I am sure of is that I’m having the strongest creative burst in my life at the moment and it is showing no sign of slowing down. I have been given a real chance in life by getting this space and I am happy to spend the next ten years or so grafting away in my profession.”
After I tried Heron & Grey I am looking forward to Liath with great excitement!
All best with Liath, Damien! And to Andrew all best with his next challenge.