Elaine Murphy, the restaurateur behind The Woollen Mills, The Winding Stair and The Washerwoman in Glasnevin, is a seriously hands-on businesswoman. When I visit her latest spot The Yarn for the first time, she’s serving pizza and cocktails alongside her staff, over-seeing this latest venture. The Woollen Mills opened its doors and rooftop terrace on Liffey Street in 2014, and was the second in a trilogy of great Northside restaurants that Murphy helped bring to life.
A few months back, Murphy noticed that there was a room in The Woollen Mills, towards the back of the upstairs outdoor terrace, that wasn’t getting much love from customers. A second room off the terrace, facing the Ha’Penny Bridge and over-looking The Liffey, was more popular, rendering this smaller back room an under-used space in this busy restaurant.
In a bid to maximise the room, Murphy decided to give it its own identity and entrance. If you’re walking past the statue of the ladies chatting in front of their Arnotts bags, heading straight for The Grand Social, you’ll see an oversized neon arrow pointing towards an understated doorway. The sign says “pizza + booze”. It’s a clever reinvention of the space, and they’ve essentially created an idea of a new restaurant in an existing space. They opened their doors in August, welcoming boozers and pizza lovers to their previously underused space.
They’ve added a beautiful cocktail bar to the room, with their chief bartender Nicki mixing, shaking and pouring cocktails. There are cocktail classics such as Negroni and Bellinis, alongside a section for Cocktail Heroes which boasts some creative flavour combinations, like the gin, roasted strawberry and tarragon (€9), given a firm thumbs up by my dinner date. For those of us not indulging in the booze, there are four fruit-based cocktails to choose from, such as the strawberry and basil soda (€4), a refreshing and not over-sweet treat for the drivers and non-drinkers in your gang. There are craft beers in the fridge and on draft.
The pizza is what I’m most interested in, and Murphy tells me they decided to go for an Italiano-style base, which is somewhere between the Roman-style base and the more ubiquitous Neapolitan-style. It’s the dough that sets these pizzas apart, and the key difference between the two is the addition of olive oil to the Roman dough, which tends to give the crust more weight and crunch. I inhale one of the Bianco pizzas, where the absence of a tomato sauce gives the pizza its pale hue. The light yet sturdy base makes a great platform for hunks of black pudding, deliciously sweet caramelised onions, melted goat’s cheese and fresh rocket (€15).
From the Woolley Specialties menu, we go for Gargano’s Lasagne Pizza (€15). How could we resist? A lasagne pizza is something you might expect to see on a Buzzfeed round-up of the world’s most outrageous artery cloggers, but The Yarn’s version is actually beautifully restrained and thoroughly comforting. The base is topped with tomato sauce, béchamel and beef mince, essentially the ingredients of a lasagne without the pasta sheets. It’s begging to be eaten by delicate hungover heads, in need of a food-based cure.
Before the pizza, we get a plate of milky, creamy burrata (€10), akin to a very soft mozzarella cheese, which The Yarn serve lightly drizzled in good quality truffle oil, and some excellent homemade bread on the side. The earthy depth of the truffle oil combined with the lightness of the burrata works for me. On the side of our pizzas, we get a bowl of the Parmesan eggplant fries (€9) with a really super tomato and basil ketchup, made in-house.
We also get treated to a bowl of the Woollen Mills’ new chicken wings (€9), which are coated in a dry rub and served with Bob Gilson’s white Alabama-style BBQ sauce, a creamy sauce with a hint of tarragon. They are really tasty. Dessert comes from The Woollen Mills kitchen, and is their plate of treats (€9), a selection of bite-sized desserts from their bakery. For our starters, sides, pizzas and dessert, plus a cocktail, a cocktail and a sparkling water, our tally came to €80.
1 Liffey Street, Dublin 1
Open 7 days a week 5pm to 10pm (No reservations)
Words: Aoife McElwain
Photos: Killian Broderick