This restaurant is run by Andrew Heron (front of house) and Damien Grey (head chef) and opened in December 2015. It is located in the Blacklock market, a few miles from central Dublin, and seats just two dozen diners at a service. Incidentally, to find the restaurant you enter the market from the street, head past another restaurant and take an alley to the right. Heron and Grey is behind a discreet door further down on the right. Despite the out of the way location, this is currently the toughest reservation to snag in Dublin.
Diners are seated in two overlapping times in the evening in order for the tiny kitchen (with just three chefs that I could see) to avoid having to try and serve everyone at once. It was awarded a Michelin star in both the 2017 and 2018 guides. Mr Grey is Australian, and worked in the now closed Venu Brasserie in Dublin before becoming head chef at Sage restaurant in Canberra from 2011 to 2014, also working for six months at Chapter One prior to opening here. The restaurant only opens on three nights and two lunches per week. The menu is a no-choice tasting menu format, with no substitutions for pesky vegetarians or people with allergies. Presumably diners with a genuine allergy are free to dine with an anesthetist if they so choose. The eleven course menu was priced at €74 (£66) per person. The room has banquette seating and bare tables, with the kitchen open to view at the far end. The seasonality of the menu, which changes every two weeks, is supported by the kitchen’s own allotment, which apparently provides about a third of all the ingredients used here.
The wine list started at €40, with almost all bottles priced below €100. It featured labels such as Peter Jakob Kuhn Quarzit Riesling 2016 at €50 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for €18, Arianna Ochipinti Il Frappato 2017 at €70 compared to its retail price of €30, and Domaine Parigot Meursault Le Limizon 2012 at €90 for a bottle that will set you back €36 in a shop. If you want to splurge then you could indulge in Dom Perignon 2009 at €210 compared to its shop price of €167.
The meal began with a dish of charred broccoli and broad beans with a bean and broccoli puree, pear vinegar with honey, smoked almonds and Crozier blue sheep milk cheese that had been lightly blowtorched. This was a pleasant start to the meal, the vegetables carefully cooked, the almonds providing an interesting extra flavour note and the vinegar cutting through the richness of the cheese (15/20). This was followed by tomatoes that had been lightly burnt and served with tomato jelly, a dust made from a consommé of the tomatoes, horseradish cream, marjoram flower, a lava bread (seaweed) cracker, lovage puree, wild rice and olive oil. This dish also worked nicely, having a slight touch of bitterness, the horseradish subtle and the tomatoes having good flavour (15/20).
The next dish featured green beans flavoured with calamansi (a cross between a mandarin and a kumquat) vinegar, charred peach, roasted peach puree, rapeseed oil, and an Ethiopian pepper called timiz, It is unusual to see fruit at this stage of a meal, but it worked well enough, the beans tender and the vinegar and fruit bringing quite a lot of sharpness to the dish. The use of the timiz, though was, well, rather timid, and it would have been interesting to taste a version of this where it was more obviously present (14/20). There was then a dish that in years gone by might have been described as a palate cleanser. A little bowl contained lilac water that was frozen along with rhubarb, along with pickled chives and rhubarb tea. I am not usually convinced by the need for palate cleansers, but this dish was enjoyable and certainly refreshing (15/20).
This was followed by crab, which came with raw spring onions, green almonds, crab beignet, burnt hay, sorrel, lemon juice, and a topping of sliced kohlrabi. This was nicely balanced, with the earthy kohlrabi contrasting with the crab, the onions bringing a little bite to the dish (15/20). Next was a dish featuring a vegetable called cucurbit that is related to gourds and squash. This came with pickled gherkin, cucumber that was shaved and also pressed into a juice, nasturtium, fried tempura of cucumber skin, kimchi reduced to a salt, dill mayonnaise, borage, fermented cucumber and cubes of burnt cucumber. The overall effect was quite sharp, and the tempura was a bit soggy and would not pass muster in Japan, so although pleasant enough this dish was perhaps the least successful of the evening (13/20).
The meal recovered its poise with the next dish, a dumpling of celtuce (stem lettuce), which resembles bak choi in flavour. This was flavoured with ginger and Japanese parsley, fermented mushroom puree and came with shiitake mushrooms cooked with soy, sesame oil and chilli. This was a lovely combination, the dumpling having good texture and the mushrooms and spices working really well with it (16/20). This was followed by the final savoury dish: beetroot with summer truffle from Italy, fried rye bread, fermented walnuts, caramelised beetroot and salt baked beetroot with a hint of coffee, cherry vinaigrette, chiffonade of beetroot and candied orange, and finally some blackcurrants from the kitchen allotment. The beetroot had very good flavour and the bread and walnuts added interesting contrasting textures (15/20).
In place of a cheese board was Coolattin, an Irish cheddar from west Wicklow with a nutty flavour. This came with girolles, white peacock kale, cavolo nero (kale) fried with the girolles, hazelnuts, wild garlic and rocket. This was a lovely dish, the cheese excellent and combining nicely with the mushrooms and vegetable elements (16/20).
A first dessert involved strawberries from Castleruddery in County Wicklow, served with pickled strawberries, candied macadamia nuts, meringue, pepper jelly, kaffir lime, vinegar of white rose petals, marscapone and woodruff. The strawberries themselves had excellent flavour and the other elements combined nicely with the fruit (16/20). Finally there was chocolate praline with chocolate ganache, a cookie, praline crunch and white chocolate bonbon with preserved raspberry, along with some superfluous gold leaf for decoration. This was a good finish to the meal, the combination of fruit and chocolate a classic one, the ganache having good texture (16\20). Coffee was from a company called Imbibe, and was from Ethiopian beans, producing a very light and mild coffee.
Service was friendly, and the dishes arrived at a steady pace, the atmosphere in the kitchen seeming very calm. The bill came to €204 (£183) a head, albeit with a one of the better wines. If you shared a modest bottle, then an all-in cost per person, with water, coffee and service would come to about £110. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Heron and Grey. It is tricky to pull off a lengthy tasting menu without the fallback of luxury ingredients, but the dishes here, despite often using many elements, were all carefully balanced. The cooking was skilful, the flow of the dishes seemed natural and the desserts were shrubbery-free. It deserves its Michelin star.
Great to see you back in Dublin - you haven't been seen I became a regular reader of your reviews. Interesting to read your review of Heron & Grey. I've been twice. Absolutely loved it the first time but not so sure the second (the folksy charm grates a little when the same seemingly spur of the moment one-liners are repeated!). 15/20 seems fair. I've heard they're going to stop changing the menu every fortnight which I hope brings a bit more consistency to the dishes. In fairness, it is a triumph to get a Michelin star in such an out-of-the-way stripped down place. Really looking forward to the opening of Aimsir in the Autumn with Jordan Bailey bringing his 3-star pedigree to (almost) the middle of nowhere in Kildare. Guibauld is the only starred place on the island I haven't been to - been putting it off til I'm forty. But you're making me re-think that! Will you get to the newest star in Ireland this trip, the Wild Honey Inn? I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts.