In Conversation With Ireland’s Only Female Michelin-starred Chef

DANNI BARRY, head chef of DEANE’S EIPIC in BELFAST on one of the few RESTAURANTS she returns to time and time again … 

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Danni Barry at work in Deanes

I’ve had my Michelin star since September 2015 and, to be honest, it still feels a bit unreal. Michael (Deane) was striving to build a really nice restaurant in Eipic with a small team – just three in the kitchen and three on the floor. To achieve a star in just over a year was certainly a team effort and everybody has ownership of it. I may be the head chef but there’s so much more to it than just me. Sadly, we can’t keep staff for anything anymore – they’re forever being poached away from us. It’s great though, one of my sous chefs has opened his own place. That’s what you want – good people going out and doing their own thing.

There are plenty of talented female head chefs in kitchens of this country, like Jess Murphy of Kai Café in Galway. I think the reason only one of us has a Michelin star is down to timing. I’m sure in five years I won’t be such a novelty. Lots of the producers who win awards are women too, like Birgitta Curtin of the Burren Smokehouse and Mag Kirwin of Goatsbridge Trout.

Before they opened The Clove Club, Isaac McHale, Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith used to do a supper club which I’d heard about and had always wanted to visit. These guys had worked in some of the best kitchens all over the world but restaurants are expensive to open, especially in London, so it was a genius way to get their names out there.

The Clove Club is in an old town hall in Shoreditch and it’s quite a chef-y restaurant in that it opens on Mondays and attracts a lot of industry people. They have their own charcuterie hanging just inside the front door, which sets the scene, and the service is friendly and informal. The bar is gorgeous but what really makes it special for me is that the open kitchen is right there in the restaurant. It’s so calming to watch the staff at work, especially in such a small space, and it’s always nice to be on the other side of the pass for a change.

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The Clove Club

It goes without saying that the food is unreal – creative and innovative. Every time I go there I’ve found something on the menu that I’ve never seen or tasted before. One of my favourite dishes is a raw scallop in brown butter dressing served with a really strong, intense truffle purèe and mushrooms, dusted with clementine powder. Everything is so raw and fresh, the flavours are incredible. I can genuinely say it’s one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten.

As a chef, I make it my business to try new places all the time. There are very few that I actually go back to, not because I don’t want to, but because there is always somewhere new and different opening. That I’ve been back to The Clove Club four times speaks volumes. It’s sometimes hard to switch off and enjoy the meal experience, because I’m always looking for inspiration. I totally stole their brown butter dressing. I changed the garnish and the dish around it but it’s that kind of flavour that sticks in your head. The Clove Club, Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London EC1; www.thecloveclub.com. www.deaneseipic.com

SARAH BREEN

This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this don’t miss our next issue, out Saturday, March 4.

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