Firstly, this is not a review of Heron & Grey.
already did that and, although Heron & Grey had been in business for under a year, he left them a star for their troubles.
Secondly, the cool minimalist name refers simply to the owners, Andrew Heron (formerly at Luna - another favourite of mine!) and Damien Grey (formerly at Chapter One) who only met six months before Heron & Grey was launched.
I kept hearing about this tiny restaurant in Blackrock Market that everyone was raving about. Seasonal fine dining done brilliantly for those patrons lucky enough to get a table (it seats about 22 per evening or 66 per week according to its website) and it was apparently very reasonable at about €54 per person for the full dinner menu.
I stuck Heron & Grey on the long finger thinking I could swing by for a fancy date night at my leisure. Until last October, when I read about its newly starred status in the Irish Times. I was up early with the baby so I fired off a casual email looking for a table the following weekend (for my birthday) and feeling very smug about how far ahead of the pack I was.
It was pretty mortifying when they responded to tell me they were fully booked until February 2017! Cringe. My embarrassment was eased slightly by the lovely email itself, apologising for the delayed response and thanking me for my interest in their "little restaurant."
So I promptly responded requesting a table for any Saturday evening in February 2017. Their next email politely informed me that in the intervening hours, every table between then and May 2017 had been booked! They added that they'd love to accommodate us and essentially asked me how flexible I was on the day and date of the booking.
All pride out the window at this stage, I emailed back basically begging them for a table on any night of the week, any month and at any time that they could squeeze us in. Heron & Grey knew how to play hard to get!
Somehow they found space for us on Wednesday 16th March and I popped this inauspicious date in the diary only to realise the week beforehand that the following day was St Patrick's Day and a day off work for everyone* so it was ideal for a relaxing meal out and a couple of drinks.
Where to start?
Firstly, it is even tinier than you imagine. You wander down through Blackrock Market until you see one of only two places with any lights on (most shops and cafes there are long closed by 7.30 pm).
The open kitchen greets you upon entry. You can see every flourish and garnish and I wondered how the chefs don't fall over each other. Obviously a well oiled machine.
They have kindly built a toilet now (they didn't have one pre-star!) and the vibe is modern. Youthful even. There is definitely no hint of the stuffiness, pomp and ceremony other starred establishments in Dublin like to project.
Grey is the chef and Heron is front of house but they're both very much your hosts. At various points, one or both are at your table explaining the dishes and checking in with you throughout the meal.
As I mentioned, the food is a seasonal set menu - Heron & Grey offers vegetarian or meat based menus and that's it. There are no deviations and its website reinforces this. They flat out will not cater to lactose free or vegan diets. I get the impression from the website that with enough notice they would try to accommodate other dietary requirements (Coeliac for instance).
There are two half-sittings each evening. Half of the dining room will be served at 7.30 and half will be served at 8.30. You'll be told which sitting to arrive for and you'd better not be late because service ploughs on with or without you.
You'll see my half-hearted photos interspersed throughout this non-review.
Half-hearted because I felt silly photographing the creations in front of me right under the chef's nose...so I worked fast and took pretty basic snaps!
Chef Andrew Grey had also marked my card when I arrived...I'd been active on instagram in the preceding days gloating about our reservation and he had a good laugh at my date night selfie! "You're the instagrammer!" he'd roared from the kitchen in his Aussie accent. "Great, I love instagram!"
I've been at pains to point out that this is not a review of Heron & Grey.
Not only would that be obnoxious when Michelin had unequivocally already done so but I also can't adequately describe each dish. I was enjoying it too much to really take notes or try to remember the highlights of each.
The 5 courses are sparsely described on the menu but of course, there have to be some surprises thrown in too, making it essentially a seven course menu. See the pictures below.
It's obvious that the food was amazing. But a large portion of the magic at Heron & Grey is Heron & Grey. The welcome is genuine and they sound grateful that they've had such huge support locally as well as the obvious pulling power of the Michelin star.
Catherine Cleary spoke to them in the Irish Times back in December last year (at which point they don't appear to have had a toilet yet!) and that interview is telling. Here's a snippet:
Do they think other chefs resent their meteoric rise?
“I hope not. I doubt it,” Heron says.
Grey comes back to the table after checking his now fully working stove and answers the same question with, “Hell, yeah. I’d be pissed if I’d been out there for years trying to get a star.”
Heron explains with mock patience that he’s just given a more diplomatic answer.
Their whole approach to customers is friendly and welcoming. It's a pleasure to eat there and listen to these guys explain each dish they created. At times it feels like a good neighbourhood bistro you might pop into on a Thursday night but then the next course is placed down in front of you and you're reminded that this is seriously fine dining.
I'm only sorry I didn't pay more attention to all of the elements of each course! Next time though...
After all of that, it pains me to tell you that Heron & Grey is fully booked for the remainder of 2017. Its next scheduled release for future reservations will be on Wednesday, November 1st at 10 am for the period of January to March 2018. Of course, you can join their waitlist to snap up any cancelled reservations but I wouldn't want to give you false hope. I've been on it since March and I've only seen one reservation become available. It was gone in literally three minutes. I have the texts to prove it.
So for now, drool over my pictures and pop November 1st into your diaries!
*except me. I'm on maternity leave so I never stop. That baby wears me out! Having every day "off" means that there are no days off.