For many of us there are certain things in life that one is willing to delegate to the apprentice rank, things that need to be done for us, where an elite level of expertise and experience would be ideal, but is perhaps not absolutely requisite or indeed, achievable. Who is to say that a particular novice might not have the skills to get the job done, and at an attractive price? What’s the worst that could happen? By way of example, I understand that it is common practice in tonsorial tuition to offer ‘learning by doing’ on the job. This makes some sense, but the phrase ‘free haircut’ always gave me pause. Ditto ‘cheap sushi’ and ‘all natural girls’. On the other hand, if you’re in a jam you might not want to secure the services of a troubled teen ‘known to dabble in the law’. Junior Hobbyist Heart Surgeon has but three entries on LinkedIn, all of them Albanian. Nevertheless, I’m going somewhere with this, bear with me. It’s not really what I do for a living.
In my college days I was aware that there was a school of dentistry ‘down the science end’ where impoverished or merely adventurous masochists could avail of cut-rate root canals and fair enough fillings performed by students who had presumably been press-ganged into the trade by dentist parents. Having spent interminable months in barely tolerable pain I convinced myself on one occasion to bite the bullet and issue a come-all-ye to my personal oral orgy. Mercifully, as that weekend’s melange of controlled substances began to leave my bloodstream, I thought the better of it and persisted with the agony. Better to leave certain things to hardened professionals. Dinner, it appears, need not be one of them.
As I walked the polished parquet corridors of Cathal Brugha Street TU Dublin with high grade nostalgia now surging through my veins, I was dimly reminded of explicably popular 80s TV show, Fame, which successfully managed to replace the smack, poverty and exploitation of early eighties’ New York depicted in Alan Parker’s original film with a message of sticktoitiveness and a surfeit of increasingly lachrymose ballads. Get up on Spotify right now and search for Starmaker, the opening cut from 1982’s The Kids from Fame. As an only boy, I was subjected to this tune with murderous regularity by my (much) older sisters, Regan and Goneril. Behind these classroom doors however, the kids are not bowing cellos, bawling pentameter or prancing like tits. Theirs is a higher calling – they are learning to feed us.
Not to be confused with The Greenhouse – as seems to be the case on Tripadvisor – (many thanks to my research assistant for this), the Green Room is one of two teaching restaurants within Dublin’s preeminent Institute of Culinary Arts, offering lunch and dinner with some regularity. As we enter the (admittedly ordinary) room Insert Name Here is celebrating his Birthday. I say insert name here not to protect the innocent but because none of the floorstaff appears to have inquired as to the moniker of the celebrant before beginning to sing. This requirement may be covered in a later semester. There is a loop of a crackling fire projected onto a screen at the back of the room and we are already smiling.
From a concise menu, Leak (sic) and Potato Soup tastes a lot better than that typo would suggest. It probably didn’t require the deployment of a Thermomix either. Based on a decent stock, it is smooth and warming on a November night and the ‘bacon cream’ finishes the bowl nicely. I miss soup sometimes. The other starters on offer exceed expectations too. Smoked salmon with brown crab is joined by an apple and radish salad and they get along swimmingly. Beef Carpaccio is joined by some pickled vegetables and a Black Pepper Créme Frache (sic) in another successful assemblage.
From the mains a dish of (perfectly pink) Duck with ‘game sauce’ is most enjoyable although the beetroot purée is sweet enough to qualify as confiture, but I’m really just picking holes at this point. This is what I’m here for. Baked Fillet(s) of Seabass with Clams is probably the dish of the evening. The clams are annointed with a textbook buerre blanc and next to the (perfectly cooked) fish is a sprightly slick of spinach ‘sauce’ spicked up with anchovy and black olive. Top marks. It is immediately apparent that none of us is willing to take one for the team by ordering the Goats Cheese Tartlet. I’m sure it’s perfectly fine. I apologise for my dereliction. When I pass on the sole dessert ‘option’ I’m offered an off-menu cheese plate. It is more than adequate.
This is hospitality in real time. The wine ‘list’ may be a recitation of Kingsley Amis’ least favourite question – ‘Red or White’ – but you’re not here for the cellar, or the Zalto stemware. Both are perfectly serviceable and neither should offend your palate, certainly not at four bucks for a generous pour. Service is bright-eyed and attentive throughout, marshalled by a charming young woman named Lynsey who, as one of the instructors on the course, leads the front of house (and her students) by example. Similar tutelage and oversight is carried out in the kitchen. If you would like to rinse a recent Press-Up joint experience from your memory I would highly recommend a visit. Your parents would likely love it too. it is a welcome respite from the enervating modishness that can afflict Dublin dining.
Turns out honest endeavour and a hunger to learn can be more appetising than eye-rolls and fancy fit-outs. At the top of your menu is a disclaimer reminding you that ‘the Greenroom is a classroom environment and our primary objective is to facilitate student learning.’ In terms of service and execution many of Dublin’s professional restaurants could learn a lot from a visit. Kudos to the first-year hospitality students of TU Dublin in Cathal Brugha St. The kids are alright.
Words: Conor Stevens
Photos: Killian Broderick
The Green Room/The Blue Room
@ TU Dublin Cathal Brugha St