SPECULATION is growing that exclusive Michelin-star restaurant Mint has been forced to shut its doors as the recession takes a bite out of diner's appetites for fine food.
Dylan McGrath's restaurant in Ranelagh failed to open as usual yesterday evening on what would normally be a busy night's trade.
The fine-dining eatery is normally open between Tuesday and Saturday, but yesterday evening there were no signs of life. The lights were off inside the dining room and the doors remained closed.
Locals said that the restaurant was also closed last week, but believed that this was due to holidays. Shopkeepers in the locality are at a loss as to why it remained shut and said that customers have been constantly enquiring about Mint.
There was no sign on the window stating that it was closed and the website showed no details to hint that it was shut down -- and even advertised a special dinner, which is due to take place on Tuesday.
But there have been reports that McGrath has confirmed that Mint was closed due to the economic downturn. When asked if there were plans to re-open, the Carlow-born, Belfast-raised chef said: "It is hard for me to say right now."
Earlier this month, the notoriously expensive restaurant had introduced a mid-week tapas menu for a bargain €55 to tempt budget conscious foodies.
The traditional a la carte menu could €150 or more, and the chef (32) assured diners that they would receive just as delicious food on the tapas menu.
"This isn't what the work-experience guy gets up to while I'm having the afternoon off," he said. "It's the same cook, ingredients, attention to detail, same everything -- except for the bill."
The chef said that he had long-term plans for opening a second "mid-range restaurant that does simple things incredibly well", but noted that his number-one priority is moving Mint to larger premises.
"You can't sustain the staff levels we have with just 37 chairs," McGrath said. "I don't want us to be one of the restaurants that's successful and then stagnates. The best way to beat the recession is to keep on evolving."
Having travelled to Britain to pursue his career, Dylan returned to Ireland in May 2006 to take up the position of head chef in Mint.