As I write this, restaurants are gearing up to open their (out)doors to what should be a ravenous appetite for food ferried to tables by people paid to do just that. Moreover, our poor, put-upon Gen Z types will no longer be required to stage dirty protests on South William Street. All to the good then. As I’m working from within a dining interregnum of sorts, I’ll be delivering a more mixed bag than usual, although much of the observations will be Baste-based. This is your critic clearing his throat before bursting into song for his return to actual restaurant reviewing next month. It’s all happening. So, take a hike Summer of George, first and second Summers of Love – you can both kiss my narrow ass too, because The Summer of Outdoors® is upon us!
I’m actually unsure as to whether The Summer of Outdoors® should be regarded as official government IP or whether it’s something they’re hanging a campaign upon at all, but if so, I hope they didn’t pay too much for it. It’s not a very snappy line and, well, a bit on the nose. The more targeted and festive ‘Christmas of Indoors’ had much more cut-through with the target audience and immediately measurable impacts too. Our condolences go out to Mrs Claus and indeed to all touched at one time or another by her husband’s boundless generosity.
Speaking of Summer, I am just returned from a week in the sublime surrounds of West Cork where people have been respecting the growing and cooking of foods for some time now. My current editor, hailing from less frequently instagrammed North Cork (and probably harbouring some kind of intra-county resentment), instantly eighty-sixed my pitch for a Totally Dublin x West Cork ‘thing’ so I’ll keep my comments brief and germane. Sitting by the water outside Sullivan’s bar in beautiful Crookhaven – we ate crab sandwiches, sluiced pints of cold stout and felt sun upon our faces. Bliss it was that very day to be alive etc… Should you ever find yourself within fifty clicks, it’s worth the detour.
Also, the click and collect menu that we enjoyed from Rob Krawczyk’s Restaurant Chestnut in Ballydehob was perhaps the best of the pandemic. On our return leg we stopped off at Skibb market, renowned for its, allegedly, killer pizza and a general surfeit of Brits both West and actual. Our number one goal though was to provision ourselves from the Gubbeen stall with some of their peerless charcuterie and pretty much anything else from the famed smokehouse. Lading the car down with our prizes almost took the sting out of the trip home.
Imagine my delight then, just one week later, to spot a release flagging a collaboration between Fingal Ferguson, Mr Gubbeen himself, and Baste, the folks who have educated Dublin into the meaning of true barbecue. Not just any collaboration neither – a meeting of Ferguson’s almost mythical frankfurters (he doesn’t make them very often) with Baste’s own free-range pulled pork chilli.
Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before, but I really have a thing for hot dogs. Tube-steaks, redhots, foot-longs, dirty water dogs, even dogs ‘dragged through the garden’ (it’s a Chicago thing) – if you’re puttin’ it down, I’m pickin’ it up. These chilli cheese dogs were nothing less than hounds of love, the beechwood franks had all of the snap of my beloved Hebrew Nationals, the chilli constructed with pork shoulder rather than minced pig was sensational. It was, in the best possible way, a sausage-fest for the ages.
I got to thinking about Baste and how far the venture has come over the course of the plague, from that first taste of barbecue almost 18 months ago, to the oysters enjoyed with friends last Summer, to the thrilling, get your hands dirty seafood of Sharkbait Shelby’s by the endlessly innnovating Thom Lawson (Lucky Tortoise, Sprezzatura).
We need more of these spaces where rough traders can light fires and play with their food, where unseasoned feeders can learn to educate palates. Baste seemed to be becoming just that sort of incubator, slow-cooking up ideas for the fast crowd. My heart sank then to discover that the site currently bustling with energy and endeavour is to be ‘developed’ as “a new urban mews scheme…inspired by the lane’s (sic) of London’s Knightsbridge and Chelsea.” Truly, words to retch by. How can this be deemed progress?
Baste’s guerrilla repurposing of a decrepit car dealership is an example of the growing gulf between our usages of progress and progressive – the former talks (in developer’s decks) and the latter walks in ways that you can touch and taste. I don’t know when Knightsbridge is slated to come to town, but I’ll be sure to stroll down Dublin’s Clanbrassil Street a couple of times before eviction day to get that superlative barbecue, or maybe the Onglet, with triple cooked chips for only fifteen bucks from the all-day menu.
No, I have not succumbed to the magical thinking of Marxism over the last 18 months, I understand that places like Baste must be as much about making bread as barbecue. I don’t want to end on a hand-wringing note either, as there are things to look forward to on the food horizon.
Karl Whelan seems to be getting up to some piscine mischief at his new venture Saltwater and excuse me for saying this, but chef Grainne O’Keefe is set to have one of the most hotly anticipated openings in town with Mae, following her departure from Clanbrassil House. I look forward to getting properly acquainted with Amy Austin too. It seemed like we had just attended the launch when the dark times struck. One minute you’re chewing the fat with Leo about refurbishing typewriters and swilling cava, the next you’re wiping down the groceries in a gas-mask. I should leave this sort of stuff to the bloggers and the aggregators.
One can only hope that Andy Noonan and Co. can find another site for Baste. I can only lament that it probably won’t be in my neighbourhood. Not at these London prices.
Words: Conor Stevens
39 Clanbrassil St