In the former home of the great John Jameson of whiskey fame, and one of the leading Dublin restaurants, Chapter One was our Restaurant of the Year way back in 2001 when everybody thought southside was the place to be.
Since then many others have discovered that one of Ireland's finest restaurants resides in this arched basement beneath the Irish Writers Museum and - despite being the darling of the media these days - it remains a favourite with the Guide when dining out in Dublin.
Together with an exceptional team including restaurant manager Declan Maxwell and sommelier Edward Jolliffe, who joined the team in 2010, the proprietors - chef-patron Ross Lewis and front of house manager Martin Corbett - have earned an enviable reputation here, for outstanding modern Irish cooking and superb service from friendly, enthusiastic and well-informed staff.
It's an atmospheric room with original granite walls and old brickwork contrasting with elegant modern décor. The comfy reception area is a smart place for an aperitif, but arrive in good time as service is prompt and you are likely to be taken to your immaculately presented table without delay.
The cooking at Chapter One is classic French, lightly tempered by modern influences, but it showcases specialist Irish produce whenever possible. Credited suppliers include many of Ireland’s finest producers, including Maurice Kettyle of Fermanagh (beef), Jack McCarthy of Kanturk (black pudding), and Mark Winterbotham and Alan Pierce of Gold River Farm, Co Wicklow (organic vegetables). A notable speciality is a magnificent charcuterie trolley, which highlights West Cork producer Fingal Ferguson, among others, and is a treat not to be missed.
Other specialities include slow cooked meat, with rare breed pork among the favourites – middle neck of Tamworth pork, for example, served with braised cheek, fricassée of puy lentils, lettuce purée, bay turnip cooked in sherry and roast endive. Then, of course, there is the cheese menu, which not only offers a lovely range of handmade Irish and continental cheeses in peak condition, but also tasting notes for each one.
But many guests will stall at dessert, as an utterly irresistible choice of half a dozen delectable dishes is offered – especially recommended is the warm chocolate mousse, a divine creation combining caramel jelly, espresso mousse, lime ice cream and honeycomb.
An excellent wine list leans towards the classics and offers many fairly priced treats for the wine buff, and also carefully selected house wines and wines by the glass, including a range of dessert wines. The outstanding service which is so much a part of Chapter One applies to the wine too, with knowledgeable assistance always at hand to guide each table to the best choice for their food choices and budget.
Another special treat is the perfectly timed pre-theatre menu, for which Chapter One is rightly renowned: the food is delectable - and you can be sure of perfect timing, every time, so no need to fret about getting to the performance while enjoying your meal. And, like the lunch menu, early dinner offers outstanding value.
For more leisurely occasions, why not consider an evening of culinary theatre at the Chef’s Table? Offering a unique dining experience, the table – which is made of glazed volcanic rock, with sleek chocolate brown leather banquettes – is safely ensconced in a sleek glass box, allowing full view of everything that’s going on in the kitchen without interrupting the smooth flow of work (and allowing guests to enjoy their own party too).The special 6 course menu includes a glass of champagne, in association with Laurent Perrier Gilbeys of Ireland.
In recognition of his skill and dedication to promoting Irish food culture, Ross Lewis - a Euro-Toques commissioner (and former Commissioner General) - was invited to cook the State Banquet given on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s historic visit to Ireland in 2011; a hymn to quality Irish produce, it was received with acclaim.