There has been something of an Irish food renaissance in London.
Modern chefs, taking equal inspiration from traditional Irish food and innovative global trends, are making their presence felt. Many have emigrated to the capital in recent years, opting to seek new opportunities and stake their claims as culinary torchbearers overseas.
New cutting edge establishments run by Irish people are springing up across the boroughs and Michelin star restaurants are being helmed by Irish chefs.
There’s a general sense that Irish fingerprints are smudged all over the city’s food scene across a wide variety of pubs, gastropubs, restaurants, hotels and eateries. There is now a hotbed of exceptional Irish chefs and food entrepreneurs, who often go unheralded. Four years ago, a pair of London-Irish siblings in London decided it was high time there was some form of recognition of the city’s many Irish hospitality talents.
“We wanted to celebrate our own heritage through shining a light on all the passionate people from Ireland who work in London’s restaurants, pubs and bars,” says co-founder Catherine Hanly of food website Hot Dinners, who created the list with her brother Gavin.
The list has grown exponentially since then: they now feature food writers, front of house personnel, line workers in kitchens, and even restaurant world promoters.
In the run-up to St Patrick’s Day, they have presented the fourth annual Murphia List, a celebration of the most influential Irish people on London’s food and drink scene.
This year’s list covers everyone from chefs and restaurateurs to food producers and writers – 50 influential Irish people in total – whose work is key to the restaurant scene in London.
“As second-generation Irish, my brother Gavin and I decided a few years back to bring together in a single list all the Irish people we’d met over the years of covering this city’s hospitality industry,” Catherine says.
“It feels even more pertinent this year, as we approach the Brexit deadline, to be talking about the huge contribution our fellow Europeans make to the food and drink scene here in the UK.”
In 2018, a Co Antrim-born restaurateur working in London was judged the best female chef in the world. Clare Smyth, 39, who owns Core in Notting Hill, won the Elit Vodka World’s Best Female Chef Award.
She is listed among many other chefs this year. In the chefs category, the competition is stiff. They include Kevin Burke, Head Chef at Michelin Star-brandishing The Ninth; Kerryman Kenneth Culhane, Head Chef at The Dysart in Richmond, who has worked in Sydney, New York and Dublin; the 29-year-old Niall Davidson, the Chef Patron at Nuala, who uses and is inspired by Irish produce; and Shauna Froydenlund, Chef Patron at Marcus.
This year, Sinead Campbell, originally from Co Mayo, is among five new additions in the restaurateur category. Campbell and her partner Lee Johnson secured £350,000 funding from Charlie McVeigh of the Draft House pub group, to expand their BBQ Dreamz Filipino street food concept.
Mark and Alan Wogan, sons of the late BBC broadcaster Terry, together with Ry Jessup, run the Homeslice pizza group which has six London outlets. Mark was previously executive chef at The Groucho private members’ club, and his brother and co-director Alan runs the business side of their joint venture.
There are four new additions to the chefs’ listing, led by Anna Haugh from Tallaght, whose Myrtle restaurant, named in honour of Myrtle Allen, is due to open in Chelsea early next month. Haugh intends to import and showcase Irish produce in the restaurant – her first as an owner – and describes her cooking as “modern European, with a focus on French technique”.
There are two new additions from the drinks industry. Aaron Wall and Ciarán Smith opened their Irish cocktail bar, Homeboy, in Islington last December. Wall is a former Bacardi brand ambassador and Smith is a graduate of the hotel industry, having worked at the Shelbourne in Dublin, the Waldorf Astoria in New York and the Dorchester in London. Unusually, the pub contains not a hidden bar, but a smaller, hidden pub. London’s smallest Irish pub this – Liam’s Bar – is located within Homeboy and is said to boast one of the finest Guinnesses in the city.
Another innovator, Gearoid Devane, is one of only 220 Master Sommeliers in London and the only one who is Irish. The Belfast man is a wine importer, restaurateur and recently opened Trade Soho, a members’ club for hospitality industry.
There are three people named as “ones to watch” and they are Dave Ahern, a chef now working on a line of food products called Gastro Punk; Matthew Carter-Burwell, who is senior group press manager at Caprice Holdings, and Stephen McGonigle, a mixologist working at Head & Tails bar in West Hampstead.
Well-established names on the list include chef and restaurateur Richard Corrigan, whose PR executive daughter Jessica also makes the list in the media category; food writer Diana Henry, and Great British Menu judge Oliver Peyton, who is chief executive of Peyton & Byrne.