Will Monaghan talks to us about the values underlying the deceptively simple menu at the heart of One Society, his new culinary venture, in Dublin’s North inner city.
Tell us a little about your background and what prompted you to open One Society.
I started working in my Uncle’s bar in a tiny village in Meath back in the ’90’s and continued to work in various bars, clubs and restaurants in Ireland and Paris while doing a business degree. From there, I worked in retail and sales for 14 years while plotting to set up a restaurant. It was always a question of when, and what style, I would develop. I was close to setting up a farm-to-fork burger and wing joint just off Nassau St in 2016 but the week I was to sign and get the keys the landlord sold the entire Georgian building. Hard to argue with the decision on her part, but I was devastated, and with rising rents and the re-introduction of high key money, my lifelong dream was in limbo.
Then in June 2018, I started looking at potential premises and decided to revisit an earlier menu I had designed for an all-day breakfast, brunch and lunch place. One Society was born.
Your menu runs the gamut from wholesome breakfasts to hand-made pizzas. What’s the philosophy behind your approach?
We’ve designed a menu built on taste, quality and health. Our food is simple in many ways, but every component is used in a way that enhances the flavour or texture of the dish. We focus on great flavours, wholesome ingredients and combine them in a way that gets the most out of what we plate. If you choose the right suppliers and use the best ingredients you are almost there. Our bread is from Le Levain Bakery just down the road, our Smoked Black Pudding comes from (Rick) Higgins’s butchers and coffee is from Roasted Brown in Wicklow. We also get our beef from my brother-in-law’s abattoir and small farm (Coogan Meats) in Trim. You eat with your eyes so presentation is also important but should never come before great quality and taste.
We bring the same philosophy to our pizza menu which runs from 4-9pm. We brought in a pizza oven all the way from Naples and it has fast become the centrepiece of the restaurant. We also focused on finding the right chef to work with it so that the dough is perfect each time. Again, we’ve considered carefully where we source our ingredients, so our Chorizo is from Embutidos Alejandro Logroño in Spain, our fresh fruit & veg comes from Vernon Catering and our Mozzarella is from Toonsbridge in Cork. We have Italian customers that have become regulars for our pizzas which is incredible considering we are only four weeks into our evening menu. We must be doing something right!
What led you to locate in Gardiner Street?
We wanted to become part of a community in Dublin, somewhere that needed our kind of restaurant. We were blessed to find such a central location, just two minutes’ walk to O’Connell Street. This is a great time for the area. There is a lot of diversity and it has huge potential to become a destination for people from all over the city. We are lucky to be so close to Temple Street Children’s Hospital which is only just up the road. It’s important to give something back too and that’s why we donate 10c of every hot drink sold to Temple Street for the great work they do. It’s not much but we want to do our part.
You describe One Society as a place where people can ‘escape from the over-complicated and fast world outside’. Tell us about the environment you’re fostering there.
Life has become busier than ever. There are endless distractions and pressures that we face each day. Deep down, at our core, I believe most of us are the same regardless of our backgrounds, jobs or beliefs. We all want life to run smoothly and be happy.
One Society is a place where everyone is welcome, and anyone can come to enjoy tasty coffee and food or to just escape the outside world.
What have been the main challenges/successes for One Society to date?
It’s such a challenging time for the industry especially for a new business like One Society. Being a startup, it’s very hard to get considered for most opportunities that become available. I have less funding and less experience compared to many options landlords are faced with. Having a great idea and passion doesn’t matter to most. I was lucky that my design and restaurant suited. Getting the right staff is tough. We want people who believe in our core values and we are extremely lucky with all our staff. Word of mouth is crucial, so we are delighted to see so many people recommending us and spreading the word. We have so many great regulars who keep coming back and bringing their friends which is incredible, and we love seeing new faces smile after their first bite.
What else do you have planned for 2019?
Consistency is key so our focus is on delivering great food and coffee and establishing One Society as a destination for great food and a chilled ambience. It’s important to keep things fresh so we will have plenty of fun playing around and bringing in new ideas and tastes to see how they do. Reservations are not needed unless you are more than 4/5 but it’s no harm to ring ahead at weekends as it can get quite hectic.
1 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 1