Working as Head Chef for one of Ireland’s most renowned chefs one might wonder if you were to open your own restaurant what could you possibly offer that sets you apart from your previous boss? Just how do you shake the reputation of the Nevin Maguire’s MacNean Restaurant and become a respected name in your own right? Well Glen Wheeler has done just that with his restaurant, 28 Darling Street.
The name Darling Street paints a picture of a quaint, quintessential establishment – alas it’s anything but; when you walk in you could mistake the restaurant for a plush cocktail bar with the modern black and silver colour scheme, huge ornate mirrors hanging from the wall, and large, gravity defying chandeliers hanging from the ceiling but that’s where the comparison ends.
From the get go the welcoming is very warm and relaxed. At the time of sitting, the restaurant was busy but not overly packed and noisy. Easy listening music such as Coldplay and Ben Howard were playing at a nice level in the background with a lovely hum of conversation going on around us as people unwound from their week gone by.
Our waiting staff arrived with menus and a wine list, along with an appetiser of sweet potato, carrot and parsnip crisps which were a delightful treat – not overly salty, with a lovely bite to them.
At first glance the menu might appear quite simplistic but don’t be fooled. All of the dishes we sampled were an absolute perfect balance of flavour and texture, every element elevated to the highest standard of culinary skill.
To start I ordered a duck pithier while my companion ordered salt baked beetroot and goats cheese, with a glass of perfectly chilled Sauvignon Blanc and a glass of prosecco respectively. A further appetiser of two sumptuously soft bread rolls were served with garlic and herb butter. A gorgeous flaky crust with a brilliantly soft and slight chewiness on the inside – stunning! There was a sprinkling of herbs on the outside, hugely reminiscent of stuffing with the aroma of rosemary but it set the tone good for what was to follow.
A short wait later our starters were served. The pastry in the duck pithier was as flaky and buttery as you’d wish for, with the buttered leeks adding a beautiful depth of flavour. Compulsory tasting from the company’s plate left me wondering what the chef had done to the goats cheese to get it that creamy and smooth. The balance of the tang of the cheese, and the earthiness of the beetroot demonstrated that this menu was anything but simple.
Satisfied and looking forward to the mains we were treated to a palate cleanser between courses – a lemon and passionfruit granita. It did exactly what it said on the tin – cleansed the palate leaving us primed and ready for the mains!
Pork and black pudding with apple was one dish of choice for mains. Again, you might say the flavour combination is not ground breaking but I’ll tell you, hats off to the chef – it was executed with sheer class.
A fish lover myself I ordered Halibut with fregola and cauliflower. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten fregola before and I fear if I tried to imitate what I had I’d be sorely disappointed. Much more subtle flavours than the pork dish but not lacking in anyway whatsoever. And as an absolute devil for a properly cooked vegetable I am delighted to report that the steamed greens did indeed have that classic al dente bite!
Were we having dessert? Absolutely! And to make absolute pigs of ourselves we ordered a cheese board to share. As a keen baker I am constantly disappointed by desserts but I can honestly say that the chocolate pavé I ordered was by far one of the nicest desserts I have ever eaten. Classic combination of chocolate, caramel and hazelnut. Bliss! The company ordered a meringue which in modern style came in deconstructed format. I personally prefer my meringue to have that classic crunch-v-chew element but her praise was flowing.
The cheeseboard was the crowning glory. A selection of award winning Irish cheeses including Cashel Blue and Ballylisk, married with oat crackers and a fig chutney – it was everything you want from a cheese board and the perfect way to round off our dining.
Saddest face to say that we had eaten our way through 28 Darling Street. A total serving time of under 2 ½ hours on a busy Saturday evening and a cost of under £60 per head, I’m massively impressed.
It’s the smaller attention to details like the stylish glassware, quality of the serveware and the unannounced courses like the bread and granita that reaffirm the decadence of 28 Darling Street. I had heard great reports about Glen and his crew – I can fully appreciate now why.
As I drive home, reflecting on my experience at 28 Darling Street, the maxim ‘the student has become the master’ springs to mind.
Review By: Imelda Rose
28 Darling Street
Phone: 028 6632 8224