A Spotlight on Suppliers: Chef Daniel Hannigan on the opening of Orwell Road

Apr 8
5 mins

It’s midday, and the team at Orwell Road are in the middle of prep for another fully booked evening.

As the zoom video connects, Head Chef Daniel Hannigan can already be heard calling to the back room, ‘order another fifteen kilos. Yep, that’s right’.

‘Sorry about that’, he says as the noises of the kitchen hum away in the background, ‘where were we?’

We are in Rathgar, a well-to-do suburb on the Southside of Dublin - one of many villages that have been absorbed into the city as it has grown over the years. The restaurant itself is an old red brick building, much like the rest of the Georgian and Victorian houses that the area is known for.

‘It’s a pleasure to be a part of to be honest’. For someone who is only two weeks into the opening of a new restaurant, Daniel seems remarkably cheerful and at ease. ‘We’ve been working 80 or 90 hour weeks, and there’s not been a peep out of anybody’ he says, ‘Kitchen. Front of house. Everybody is just smashing it’.

Like a Broadway director after the first round of gushing reviews have come in, Hannigan’s gratitude for the ensemble around him is immediately clear. But this feeling is amplified, in part, because Daniel is no stranger to the drama that a restaurant opening can (and usually does) come with.

‘I wouldn’t say I was worried beforehand’, Daniel states, ‘but I was preparing for, potentially, some lack of experience. And I couldn’t have been more wrong’.

Daniel had been the head Chef at Mister S, another Dublin based restaurant that shut down during the pandemic, and went on to start a food truck business that was, amongst other things, vandalized, sabotaged and threatened by various malcontents in the area.

However, Daniel has learnt from his first attempts at starting a restaurant, and was quick to point out the mistakes he will be avoiding at Orwell Road.

‘When we opened Mister. S, I was almost prepping too much of the food - partly down to a lack of trust, which wasn’t fair’, he says, ‘The team would struggle when I wasn’t there’ meaning he was called on at all hours to keep the kitchen going.

But this time around, Daniel has made sure everyone knows the script by heart, ‘taking the time to train the staff was the biggest difference’, Daniel says, ‘everyone has their own section, but we help each other through the day, and the guys know everything on the menu and the reviews are showing that’.

He’s not exaggerating either, and with a menu that reads like pure theatre, you can see why the critics are giving Chef Hannigan his flowers.

‘Scallops. Chicken Wing. Shallot’

‘Cais na Tire tortellini, burnt onion broth’

‘Dry aged halibut, smoked mussel and roe sauce’

As is in vogue at the moment, Daniel’s dish names are written out like sparse haiku’s, letting his customers fill in the blanks - dreaming up plates that could only ever be outdone by the meal itself.

‘Our scallop dish and our tortellini dish could end up becoming a signature’ he says, ‘you don't really choose [the dishes that stay] yourself, those dishes kind of pick themselves once you see how people are ordering’.

Yet, the whim of the customer is not the only thing that will dictate the shape of Hannigan’s menu, ‘We’ll change with the seasons because I want to keep it exciting, and for every dish to be interesting and fun’.

Daniel then goes into how his changing troupe of players will be facilitated by Orwell Road’s network of local Irish producers, ‘We just work so closely with our suppliers, he says, ‘so it all really comes down to what we can get’.

It is at this point in the conversation that something in his tone changes.

As is the case with many chefs of Daniel Hannigan’s level, their description of their own creative process is always somewhat muted. Years of studying, practicing and testing means the final product is almost second nature to them, borne out of a sixth sense for what will and won’t work.

However, once Daniel starts talking about the suppliers he works with in Ireland, his eyes light up.

‘We drove around the country before we opened and went and met each of our suppliers’, he says, ‘these people are growing, let’s say, cabbages, and they are dedicating their lives to making sure it’s the best vegetable it can possibly be’.

Almost as if he’s clutching an award trying to remember family members to thank, Hannigan begins reciting the names of the suppliers he works with:

Maria’s Pink Fir potatoes from Ballymakenny. Joe’s Hen of the Wood mushrooms from Garryhinch. Dave’s Velvet Pork from Andarl Farm.

‘When you deliver a dish, it’s really just a chance to showcase what these people are doing’

It’s clear to see who Daniel believes are the real stars at Orwell Road, and while the 26 seater has only been open for less than a month, the first few weeks have been a statement of intent for the young chef.

His focus on seasonal dishes, taking inspiration from the natural larder of Ireland, and paying homage to the local artisans and farmers is clearly a winning formula - but this doesn’t mean that Daniel is any less grounded.

When asked about his thoughts on a possible star (Michelin, not walk of fame) Daniel answered very plainly, ‘we’re not cooking for stars - I’m my own harshest critic anyway. All we want is a busy restaurant’.

And for the time being, that’s exactly what he’s got.

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