I feel like should preface this post by saying that I’m not a food critic, nor am I a trained chef. Like many of you though, I like good food. A lot.
So when I was invited by Ireland’s Blue Book to come have lunch at Chapter One, I jumped at the opportunity!
Chapter One is situated north of the Liffey on Parnell Square, which is about a fifteen minute walk away from the nearest tourist.
If you’re sensing a strong literary vibe, you’re not crazy. The restaurant is located just under the Writer’s Museum, and features a stained glass portraits of some of Ireland’s greatest writers as well as some cocktail homages.
We first headed in at the bar for a quick drink, where we settled in with a Ginger Rogers and a Bertha’s Revenge. It was about ten minutes past noon, so drinking cocktails was totally socially acceptable, right?
If you’re after something a bit simpler, they also have an extensive selection of spirits and wines to choose from.
After a few sips at the bar, we headed over to the Chef’s Table. In addition to nibbling on truffle balls, we also got to see the workings of the kitchen and meet Ross Lewis, the head chef and founder of Chapter One.
He opened the restaurant in what was then a gritty part of town when he was in his twenties just to be able to afford to pursue his vision, and had to work doubly as hard to attract people to venture over. It evidently paid off, as Chapter One has held a loyal clientele and Michelin star for over a decade. This grit, determination, and inspiration is evident just standing in his kitchen – and indeed some of his former young chefs have gone on to open their own restaurants in the same vein (most notably The Mews in Baltimore and Heron & Grey in Blackrock).
After chatting with Ross for a bit, we moved back into the main dining room to begin our decadent seven course lunch paired with their reserve wines, each of which is carefully selected for each dish by head sommelier Ed Jolliffe.
First on the tasting menu were mushrooms from the Ballyhoura mountains and fennel. They were kind enough to accommodate my mushroom allergy, so instead I got the ox tongue with white radish, hazlenuts, and brown butter.
My friend tried a little bite of mine, and immediately concluded that I had definitely lucked out. The mushrooms were delicious, but my ox tongue was one of the most decadent things either of us has ever tasted.
Mackerel tartare topped with pickled red dulse, which is a type of smoky seaweed pulled fresh from the Atlantic. Terry and I agreed that this was probably our favourite dish.
This was followed by a Jerusalem artichoke drizzled with Cuinneog butter, alongside guanciale and warm goats cheese.
Next we had a a little piece of tender cod with grilled broccoli and Atlantic mussels. This was followed by a hearty portion of salt marsh duck with madiera with pureed carrot and salted grape.
We finished with the “flavours and textures of Irish milk and honey”, with the wine pairing chosen as a further play on textures.. My friend and I both loved this. It felt really creative, and was actually so much fun to eat!
One of the things I loved most about Chapter One is that while it holds a Michelin star, it doesn’t have any pretension. We were two twentysomethings who came in jeans and were just as looked after as the businessmen at the table on the other end.
I also loved the interior. Every nook and corner was sleek, stylish, and modern – without being try hard.
As I wandered around after dinner checking it all out, I was constantly taking mental notes for inspiration back home.
There are also a couple of semi-private dining spaces available for larger groups, the coolest of which was the former coal bunker, tucked away in the furthest corner of the restaurant. It’s been decorated in sleek leather and moody lighting.
If I was having a party, that’s where I’d book!
Going to Chapter One made me truly appreciate Irish cuisine is a new way – because honestly, when you think of Irish food, what comes to mind? Potatoes? Maybe seafood chowder and Guinness stew?
Chapter One is a total celebration of Irish ingredients. They source as much of the produce they can locally, through producers who take pride in what they’re doing. This same pride is reflected in their kitchens, where the ingredients are creatively combined into unexpected (but always delicious) dishes.
Everyone I met who works at Chapter One – from the kitchens to the barman – is friendly, knowledgable, and passionate about what they do. And that’s exactly the spark that makes a restaurant so much more memorable than just good food.
That being said, lunch at Chapter One was genuinely one of the best dining experiences of my life, and I can’t wait to go back again!
And if you’re still planning your travels, Ireland’s Blue Book is a great resource for finding hidden gems like this. They’ve curated fantastic selection little restaurants and hotels, including quite more a few in Dublin itself. They vary in terms of size and aesthetic style, but all have an unfailing commitment to quality and heritage, so you know you can’t go wrong with any of their picks.