A bastible is a cast iron pot that was used to bake bread over Irish hearths in the 19th and 20th centuries, and is considered to have been one of the most common kitchen appliances in Irish homes at that time, perhaps the equivalent of today’s toaster.
Bastible is the name of the first solo restaurant from Head Chef Barry Fitzgerald, whose food you may know from Etto on Merrion Row, and whose work at the Michelin-starred Harwood Arms in London you may have read about. Bastible is a completely independent enterprise, with no outside investors, and just Fitzgerald and his partner Claremarie Thomas holding the reins. ‘There is Claremarie and I, and our two year old son Finn. He is the boss really! Seriously though, it’s very satisfying to know we own 100% of the business, but obviously that comes with a lot of new and scary responsibilities.’
It’s certainly a family, and a neighbourhood, affair. Thomas designed Bastible’s logo, and the interiors are by local design duo Designgoat (www.wearedesigngoat.com). Fitzgerald has pulled in young chefs Paul Brogan and Barry O’Neill. ‘There is a good mix of hard work, creativity and good laughs in the Bastible kitchen,’ says Fitzgerald. ‘It’s vital you get on well when you work 60 hours a week together.’
The kitchen team at Bastible push themselves to make as much in house as they can manage, from crème fraiche and ricotta to curd cheese and sour cream. Their homemade fluffy sourdough bread with a crunchy crust is served with their own butter, though I dare say they’re not baking the bread in actual bastible pots. Their suppliers include Higgins Butchers in Sutton, fish from Mulloys of Howth, Artisan Foods for Irish organic vegetables, wine by Wine Mason, Le Caveau and La Rousse, and coffee from Cloudpicker.
A main of fallow deer feels like a tribute to our forests, with pink deer served with sweet roasted beets, barley and pine oil. The slip sole is a stand out dish; I wish I knew how to cook fish like this. It has developed a buttery skin in the frying pan yet its flesh is silky and soft. Resting atop it are plump, buttery bites of mussels and shrimps, with caramelised parsnips on the side. It’s transcendent.
For starters, the familiar combo of squash and sage is given new life by the addition of a silky, just-set homemade milk dumpling. The dish I fall for head over heels is our other starter, a blackened cauliflower and Bastible smoked trout salad with a sauce gribiche and thin slices of pickled pink beets and cauliflower. I’m so happy that Fitzgerald moved back home to Dublin from London, bringing his culinary talents with him, and you should be, too. He has a gift for showcasing our ingredients, without fuss but with great impact.
Within a couple of weeks of opening, a glowing Irish Times review by the brilliant Catherine Cleary urged folks to book while they still could. It was taken to heart by Ireland’s food enthusiasts, and the bookings flooded in. In fact, over 1,000 reservations – yes, *one thousand* – were received in just three days. On the Wednesday night we visit, the place is jammers. They have been having so many problems with excess bookings through their online system, they’ve had to put a temporary extra table on the floor on some evenings, squished between the open pass and the bar. Unfortunately we draw the short straws and are seated at this emergency table on our visit. We end up feeling like we’re a nuisance, because we are completely in the way of the front of house staff.
In general, the waiting team seem overwhelmed, and I feel for them, being victims of Bastible’s success. A lack of engagement by our servers clouds our experience and overshadows the food, particularly the desserts. We rush through our plates of dark chocolate cream with clementine sorbet and cacao, and a pain perdu, brown butter ice cream and caramelised pineapple just so we can get out of the staff’s way. It’s a real shame but it’s an issue that can be fixed, once the team has a chance to breathe after the initial excitement around this restaurant calms down.
At Bastible, two courses are €32 and three are €38. Our total bill, which included a large sparkling water (€4.50), a glass of Prosecco (€7), an elderflower spritz and a glass of Picpoul (€8.25) came to €99.25. Once their service settles and catches up with the food, we have the makings of a seriously special neighbourhood restaurant.
111 South Circular Road, Leonard’s Corner, Dublin 8
Words: Aoife McElwain