Chapter One Restaurant opened 13 years ago in the somewhat disadvantaged area of Dublin's North Inner City. Akin to a Left Bank, it has taken determined effort to bring the restaurant to it's current standing of as one of Dublin's top restaurants. Enjoy innovative & delicious food with friendly service provided by the expert hands of Ross Lewis and Martin Corbett who have been business partners for 13 years. Paolo tries to make a pilgramage as often as possible,
Back in the dim recesses of 1999 I reviewed Chapter One and finished with these words: 'I left Chapter One feeling that I'd had a truly great meal, one in which every element had been just right. I found myself wondering why I hadn't been there before and why no one had been recommending it to me.' Well, here we are five years on and Chapter One - at this very moment probably the best restaurant in Dublin - still gets overlooked. Here's Ross Golden-Bannon of the Sunday Business Post on the subject: 'Ross Lewis and the team at Chapter One are proof that the Michelin guide is far from infallible. Where are their Michelin stars? Chapter One's innovative menu is combined with unstuffy service to deliver the finest dining with genuine Irish hospitality.' To gild the lily here's Ernie Whalley in 'Food and Wine' magazine: 'The food was impressive without being pretentious, the service was spot-on and the setting as elegant as ever. Chapter One is really a story that needs no glowing tyre company twinkler to extol its merits - the quality speaks for itself.'
And here's the Independent's Alan Stanford on the subject: 'Truly great cooking, a wine list to match any in the city and superb service. Astounding that it hasn't achieved a major award.' Without being boring you can find similar sentiments expressed by Tom Doorley of the Irish Times; 'Frankly it's a great relief to me that Chapter One has yet to get stellar recognition. The brilliant team can concentrate on producing some of the finest grub in the country without worrying about losing a star or trying to gain a second.' In truth I don't think we can all be wrong and this week's meal merely confirmed all that I believed about this restaurant. I was there with Neven McGuire of McNean Bistro, a very fine chef himself. Our purpose was to watch Declan Maxwell as part of our roles as judges in Rosemount's Young Restaurant Manager of the Year Award. Throughout the evening Neven turned to me and said 'My God, this is amazing.' If he said it once he said it ten times and praise from fellow chefs is harder earned than it is from journos.
One of Chapter One's many strong suits is its sourcing of raw materials. The menu lists the suppliers, so I can tell you that we started with the charcuterie trolley with various pork products from Fingal Ferguson. This is a fine piece of restaurant theatre; the trolley is wheeled over and carefully slivers of salamis and chorizos, West Cork ham, a slice of wild boar terrine, slips of lamb's tongue and a boudin of pig trotter are placed onto your plate with a selection of delicious breads. All this for €16.
I fear I'm running out of space to say all the things I want to, so I'll be brief now. We had a starter each, which were wonderful and then a main course each, which were equally wonderful. To give you an idea of the price, the starters are clustered around €12, some less, some more. The main courses are all less than €30, except for the lobster, so as great restaurants go it's not expensive. Before you write and tell me that €40 for two courses is exorbitant, you should know that Chapter One has a pre-theatre dinner menu which costs €30. I'd venture that this menu is probably the best value in Dublin for food of this quality. Even students that I know spend €30 on a night's clubbing, so it's available and affordable to anyone who wants to try great food.
I've often written that the most important factor in a restaurant is the chef. It follows from this that if a chef leaves or has a night off, the food won't be the same. Chapter One has done something very clever this year, it now has not only Ross Lewis in the kitchen, but Garret Byrne (ex of Bruno's of Kildare Street) as well. This means that no matter who has a night off, the food will be excellent.
So why isn't this restaurant the first choice on everyone's list? The answer it would seem is embedded in ancient prejudices. Southsiders won't cross the Liffey to try it. Maybe that's as well. Already this place is booked to the gills. We were there on a Tuesday night and there were over 100 covers served. If it gets any busier than this I may never be able to get a table again. Now that I come to think of it, maybe Tom Doorley's right: if this restaurant gets stellar recognition and southsiders start to cross the Liffey, this visit may end up being the last time I ever get into Chapter One.