They say that a market economy thrives on confidence as much as on the selling of goods and services, and the next time the IMF and the ECB are in town, they should be brought to Fade Street to witness the buzz of happy, confident Irish people enjoying themselves in the packed restaurants and bars.
A demonstration of this confidence is the enormous 8,000 square-foot restaurant space over three floors that has recently been opened by chef Dylan McGrath, which seats 350 people. The restaurant section opens in a few weeks but in the meantime we have the Gastro Bar, which offers sophisticated tapas prepared in an open kitchen under the watchful eye of McGrath, who is wired with a headphone set so he can quietly give instructions right into the ears of his chefs.
The menu is designed for snacking with a large range of interesting bites, including lobster hotdog, bacon and cabbage burgers and fried cod cheeks to mention some of the more interesting dishes we didn't order. The wine menu runs to 36 pages and the beer list is comprehensive, with dozens of excellent craft beers from Ireland -- other restaurateurs please take note. My Galway Hooker ale was as tasty as ever and the carafe of fragrant yet crisp Cotes de Gascogne Colombard was probably the best I have encountered.
There are many complicated things on the menu, but our favourite dishes were the simplest -- beef carpaccio with celeriac and apple remoulade, battered tempura vegetables with miso mayonnaise (for extra umami flavour) and the hollandaise- topped beef dripping fried potatoes.
Pata negra Iberico pork poached with fennel had lovely delicate flavours and the char-grilled skate with caramelised onions and a slice of lardo (cured meat) was perhaps too charred, but good all the same.
On the negative side the tapioca fried chicken with truffled popcorn might have worked better as a bar snack, but I wouldn't order it again. The crispy chiffon squid I disliked, as the squid head pieces were hard and chewy and tasted only of batter.
Our desserts of basil sugar doughnuts and roast pear with pear mousse ensured we finished on a high note.
Staff were very busy but coped reasonably well and seemed to care whether diners were enjoying their meal. I was honest about the squid and it was immediately removed from our bill, despite my insistence that this was unnecessary.
While we waited for our bill I asked for the views of the four lovely twentysomething girls-about-town at the next table. These are exactly the type of customers every restaurant is trying to attract and not only had they loved their meal, they had decided what to order next time.
Not all the food here is perfect yet but given the creativity and enormous verve about this restaurant, it was difficult not to be impressed. The press release I received called Fade Street Social "the largest and most exciting project to open in recent years" -- time will tell, but you know what, they might be right.