When Paul Flynn took a punt on buying a disused tannery people thought he was mad, but the gamble has paid off by becoming a sensational dining experience, writes Vickie Maye.
Paul Flynn has an anecdote he likes to tell. Years ago, as a child in Dungarvan, he would have to hold his breath as he cycled down the laneway where his famous restaurant now stands.
It was, as the name evidently suggests, a tannery back in the day. His grandfather even worked there.
Flynn had made his name, in London’s finest eateries, later in Dublin’s La Stampa.
But he yearned for home, and had an ambition to transform his birthplace. With its waterfront position, why couldn’t, he figured, Dungarvan be as big a food destination as Kinsale?
And so, 21 years ago, he bought the old disused tannery. People thought, he admits, that it was a mad move.
But how it paid off.
First, in 1997 came the restaurant. Accommodation, across the road from the restaurant, followed — today they are (relatively new) members to the Blue Book — and a cookery school was an obvious next step.
Two decades ago Paul and his wife Maire didn’t want to create another fusty fine dining experience. This would be local, serving the people of the town, but it would strive for bigger and better: City ambition, but with a country feel.
This would be a place where people would come to enjoy food, to celebrate it.
And how they’ve succeeded.
First, the restaurant. We dined there on a Friday evening. Downstairs there’s a candlelit room, a snug effect where people can enjoy prosecco, maybe wine and nibbles — tapas and sharing plates starting for as little as €5.
We were seated upstairs, white washed walls, high ceilings, beautiful art on the walls. Our servers were all local, welcoming and knowledgeable about the food they were presenting.
And the food. Oh the food.
My starter, crab creed brûlée with Asian cucumber and cornerstone toast, €12.50, was sublime. I sampled my fellow diners’ battered Harty’s oysters — just magnificent.
My main course was halibut and each of us chose different main courses to truly sample the menu — melt in the mouth glazed beef rib; smoked cod. A side of garlic and pepper skinny fries, crispy and delicious, were the perfect accompaniment.
And then, the dessert. It was hands down, the best I have ever eaten — chocolate mousse with honeycomb. Sensational.
Across the road the accommodation felt intimate, special, unique. Large original Georgian windows with shutters, soothing palettes of greens and browns, stunning leather seats in keeping with the Tannery’s name.
Breakfast the next morning was served back in the restaurant. It felt like very different space — white and airy by day.
I couldn’t resist the full Irish, but I’m still regretting not sampling the avocado on toast, with chilli and ginger salt. Sweet goats cheese with honey and almonds on toasted brioche was a close third. A breakfast menu like that captures the essence of the Tannery. Everything is out of the ordinary. It’s the ultimate food focused getaway.
The cookery courses seal the deal. We sat in on Entertaining in Style, a mixed demo and practical full day from 10am to 4pm (€150).
Light hearted, with Paul’s trademark wit, it was practical and informative too — think risotto, frittatas, ragu.
Next up? On June 23 Paul presents his Masterclass from 10am-4pm (€180). Not to be missed.