We Used to Meet on Baggot Street Beside the Old Hotel
A Michelin starred restaurant named after the French word for ‘The Writer’ is an appropriate choice to hook up with a widely published philosopher. Excuse us! This isn’t a mere tête-à-tête à Terre à Terre. More like the geniuses of the place as a widely acclaimed architect joins us for lunch. Trois grand fromages. l’Écrivain has been on the go for 26 years which in hospitality terms isn’t so much a lifetime as multigenerational (pop ups are so last decade). We enter through an arch, darkly, past a mews bush, and into an oasis of light tranquillity off Baggot Street Lower.
The 16A would pull away and leave that diesel smell | And you’d be standing there by that Baggot Street hotel
This street is a glorious survival of 18th century Dublin. It has a special architectural coherence. It is not a planned façade, yet is an architectural entity. It is not merely one damned house after another. Rhythm, proportion, balance, joy. These erections aren’t dripping in pearl necklace string courses; they’re grounded by crown jewel doorcases. Shorn of extravagance, the calm brick elevations contrast with the vitality exploding around each panelled entrance door. The grid is only broken by these regular interruptions of semi rotundity on the piano nobile above the areas. Georgian architecture. Has it been surpassed? No. Does it stand the developer’s value engineering test? Yes. Are we being didactic? Never.
And then that day we made our way down by the Liffeyside | In a bar we had a jar and watched the rain outside
Like London’s Chez Bruce, chef Derry Clarke is still the patron managing a team of chefs rather than a chain figurehead. That hasn’t stopped him penning two bestselling cookbooks and becoming a judge on Irish reality TV series Fáilte Towers (no, seriously). His wife Sallyanne manages front of house. After a sparkling (wine, conversation and sequins) reception in the ground floor bar we ascend to the first floor dining room. It’s a barn-like space for uncluttered minds to while away languid afternoons on banquettes and soft chairs. A Knuttel painting fills the gable end. Geometric glass panels – Mackintosh, Mondrian, Modigliani, Moholy-Nagy mash – diffuse the lavender glow of an early Celtic twilight.
We finished up our pints and we paid the barman’s bill | Walked back up the Liffey in the silence and the chill
Two pan seared scallops with smoked celeriac and pickled samphire (€11.50). Hake with glazed parsnips, velouté of cep mushrooms and salted grapes (€22.50). St Tola goat’s cheese mousse with rye crostini, figs, candied macadamia nuts, aged red wine vinegar and honey dressing (€8.75). Dark chocolate violet and blueberry macaroons (prodigal). Form and content at one: looks good, tastes good. Franco Irish feel good factor on a plate. l’Écrivain – it’s somewhere to write home about.
But still at times when I lie down I’ll dream and start to dance | With the long-gone ghost of Baggot Street | And an echo of romance