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Q&A: Nick Lentini, The Ivy, Dublin

When it opened in July 2018 The Ivy, on Dawson Street in Dublin, was the first international brasserie to be opened for the business outside London. Glamorous and modern, the bright interior brings the 100 year history of the brand to Ireland, featuring a large menu comprised of classics and locally inspired dishes, from breakfast till dinner seven days a week, as well as cocktails and drinks till late.

To date, The Ivy Dawson Street has been a successful representation of the brand, with a very positive response from Dublin customers and a high focus on the quality of the menu. Featuring a healthy amount of locally sourced produce, particularly prawns and scallops, the menu has a slightly different twist for the Irish customer. We spoke to Chef Nick Lentini at The Ivy Dawson Street about his background, the menu, and what the future holds for the restaurant.

Food for Thought – FFT.ie: Could you tell us a little about your background?
Nick Lentini: I grew up in the industry pretty much. My family on both sides had hotels and restaurants and I was always in the kitchen watching the chefs cook or helping out or answering the phones. Weddings were always fun in the hotels when growing up and doing flambé service in the restaurants was a highlight to be honest. Dublin Bay prawns and Irish crab claws hitting those pans in front of the customers was always a highlight. Seeing the flame come from the pan amazed me.

I travelled a lot working in countries from America, France, Italy, Scotland, England and Australia. Italy and France were Michelin starred restaurants. I love food but it has to be packed full of flavour and from the heart.

How much free reign do you have with the menu?
An awful lot to be honest. I’ve been tasked with sourcing some of the best Irish produce that Ireland has to offer. The menu, specials and set menu is based around what we believe the Irish consumer wants and we cater to this belief. We’ve sourced amazing beef, used local bakeries, a local potato farmer, and bring all this local produce to the menu.

How is The Ivy Dawson Street different to other places that you’ve worked?
At The Ivy Dawson Street, you have to bring the best you possibly have to the job every day. We do big volumes and with that comes massive responsibility from 6am to 1am everyday as these are the hours we are operating. This requires quite a large management team back and front of house to provide the customer with the best experience we can offer, starting with breakfast commencing at 7am, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner service. Back of house, we have nearly 50 employees and this requires high levels of management. It’s a pleasure to work there.

How important is the sourcing of the produce for your menu to work?
It’s everything. We really try to source the best. We have John Stone as our main meat supplier. We use organic salmon from Galway, Bretzel Bakery make bespoke bread daily for us, and we use Irish cheeses and dairy, fish and shellfish.

What are your favourite dishes on the menu and why?
To start either the scallops or the creamed truffle potato. The scallops because of the quality of the product, and the truffle potato because of the wild mushroom and fermented black garlic. From the mains, the sea bass or black cod. The sea bass for the quality of the fish with smoked aubergine and salsa, or the black cod mixed with yuzu mayo. For dessert, everybody loves our chocolate bombe. My favourite is the raspberry and pistachio sundae – when you eat it, you actually feel young again.

How often does the menu change?
We change our menu 3 times a year with the seasons. February, June and November. We also have specials which are updated fortnightly.

What is the inspiration behind the menu?
I suppose you’d have to say classic food with a lot of influences mainly from Ireland but also from France, Asia and Italy. Although our core ingredients are always centred around the best Irish produce we can source.

Do you have any other exiting plans for the menu in the works?
Yes, I already have ideas for February regarding our next menu change. Red mullet and wagyu are two items I’ve recently sourced in Ireland of extremely high quality and hopefully they will find their way into people’s lives that come to dine in The Ivy next year.

How is your relationship with staff and how important is it to work effectively as a team?
My relationship with our staff is good. They know me and an awful lot of them opened the restaurant with me back in July 2018, which made the opening very smooth for me due to their focus and hard work.

Encircle 360 Ltd T/A Food for Thought - FFT.ie, 59 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, Ireland.

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