Chef Daniel Hannigan talks to us about the opening of Orwell Road
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’.