Forest & Marcy chef Ciaran Sweeney

Hometown: Downings, County Donegal, Ireland
Occupation: Head Chef, Forest & Marcy
Years lived in Dublin: 10
Years in the kitchen: 16
Awards/Accolades: Michelin Bib Gourmand (2018)
Best Chef in Dublin, Best Newcomer, and Best Emerging Irish Cuisine, Restaurant Association of Ireland (2017)

Five Must-Try Restaurants

The Greenhouse is in a different league. The attention to detail, the cooking, the finesse. It’s just incredible. I respect [chef] Mickael [Viljanen], very good friends with Mickael. I think his food’s gone to a different level again from when I was there. It’s more refined, it’s more concentrated on the product. Definitely that’s my number one in Ireland—not even Dublin—in Ireland.

I love to go to Locks on a Sunday. I go there with my girlfriend and my baby and just have a lovely Sunday. Pastries are very good. They do a sharing côte de boeuf for two, it’s just incredible with all the trimmings. Locks is stunning.

I love China Sichuan. I live literally a 3-minutes’ walk from China Sichuan. It’s class, it’s just delicious every time. It’s so well–cooked . . . just very clean, very flavorful. I have to say because I go there at least once a month, I know [owner] Kevin [Hui] really well. We’re regulars there. They do lovely pork and chicken dumplings with a hot chili broth. You have to have it.

Bastible. Sunday is the day I normally go. They do a stunning Sunday lunch style concept with the big roast as the main, two small plates, and a dessert. It’s really, really nice.

On a night out, I really like to eat at Pickle. I have such a craving for Indian food. I love all those sort of flavors, I love Thai, Indian, Chinese. Intense hits of umami and acid and salt. But Pickle, I love it. My partner asked where I wanted to go for my birthday this year, and I said Pickle. I know Sunil [Ghai] who’s the head chef there, and he’s just an amazing chef.

Old Delhi-style chicken tikka makhni and butter chicken from Pickle in Dublin, Ireland
Old Delhi-style chicken tikka makhni, butter chicken, and naan from Pickle. Photo credit: Stephen Tang

Favorite Neighborhood to Dine in Dublin

Harold’s Cross, or Leonard’s Corner, where Bastible is. And if you go five minutes up the way, you have The Fumbally. Not for anything overly expensive . . . nice, casual eating, but eating really well. A lot of people doing some cool things.

Personal Favorite Dish at Forest & Marcy

Has to be the potato bread. Sometimes . . . it becomes so mundane and we do it every day and we’re selling 40 portions every day at least. But then there’s an odd occasion, we might cook an extra one or something and I’ll go, “Oh, I’ll try it,” like maybe once a month. And I’ll be like, “Shit, that’s really good.” I forget how good it is, do you know what I mean? I have that moment sometimes where I go, this is absolutely class. It’s not even gloating or bigging myself up. You actually just don’t have it for so long and you’re robotically doing it and doing it and doing it. And then sometimes you eat it and you go, “Wow, that’s actually really good.” (laughs) So yeah, this does that to me. Every time, it happens.

Fermented potato bread with cabbage and bacon mousse from Forest & Marcy in Dublin, Ireland
Fermented potato bread with cabbage and bacon mousse from Forest & Marcy

My Perfect Dining Out Day

We go to this place in Rathmines called Fia. They do a stunning breakfast/brunch. It’s class. Their buckwheat chocolate granola . . . stunning. So definitely would start there.

Lunch I’d probably go to The Greenhouse, 100%. Have the tasting menu and all the extras and cheese.

And dinner I’d probably go to 777. I love Mexican cuisine and I love their margaritas and I love all their small plates. Every time I go in there, I don’t know when to stop eating or drinking the margaritas. I’ll be there for hours. Sometimes they have a two-hour window, and every time they see me coming, they’re like “Oh, this table’s gone for the night.” (laughs) I remember going there one evening with a very good friend of mine. We sat there from 5 o’clock to 12 o’clock. It was a Margarita Monday and we must have maybe had a lot of margaritas and a lot of food. I love it. The food’s so flavorful and it’s fun food. The street corn there is ridiculous . . . grilled, spices, and butter. Great buzz in there.

The Best Guinness in Dublin

There’s a bar I used to live beside in Dublin, it was one of my favorites, Fallon’s by Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Best pint of Guinness, I’m telling you. People don’t know it that well because it’s a little further out.

My Guilty Pleasure Dish

I love a curry. I love ordering in Indian or going to Pickle. It’s not even a guilty pleasure. I love Indian cuisine. I love making it, I love eating it. There’s another great takeaway in Ranelagh we go to sometimes called Rasoi. They do really good curry.

The Dish That Blew Me Away

Mickael [at The Greenhouse] does this chocolate dish where it’s like a chocolate crémeux with coffee and a salted milk sorbet, and he’s had it on the menu all the time as a dessert and it’s just unbelievable. It’s like the best dessert. There’s coffee and milk and chocolate, some acidic puree with it, maybe yuzu or lemon. But it’s just out of this world. I could have that dessert every time. It’s very technical. It looks so simple, but the technique that goes into getting it, it’s like, “Whoa, how does he even do it?” It’s just every time I’ve had it, it’s like I want another one.

Or there’s another dish there, the foie gras royale. It’s just unbelievable. It’s been on there from my time, from day one, but it’s one of those dishes you can always have again. He doesn’t always give it to me because he knows how much I’ve had it, but every time I’ve had it, ah, it’s just class.

Go-Tos for Pastries

I like to go Queen of Tarts sometimes. It’s real old-school, it’s been there for years, but they do some good pastries. There’s another place, Le Petit Parisien . . . [and] Scéal Bakery that’s doing croissants and all the sourdoughs and different filled pastries.

Favorite Cheap Eats

I like a burger. There’s a Five Guys in Dundrum, I love it. It’s delicious.

I love a good coffee and something sweet with the coffee. There’s a really good coffee shop just on S. William Street, Clement & Pekoe. It’s a really good coffee shop, lovely vibe.

Go-To Watering Holes

I like O’Briens just around the corner. I love having a pint of Guinness, that’s one of my things. Or The Long Hall . . . beautiful bar.

Quintessential Irish Foods to Try

Tayto cheese and onion crisps is the bomb. Tayto cheese and onion crisps and bread and butter sandwiches are class. Have that.

The Pig’s Ear is very good. They have shepherd’s pie with minced lamb and mashed potato and they grill it and serve it. That’s beautiful.

The Best Thing About Dublin’s Food Scene

The casual aspect of it is so much better. There’s a lot of good people out there cooking a lot of good food. What I like about it most, I suppose, is the fact that is a lot of these places now popping up now are owned by chefs. The restaurants are owned by the certain person that’s running it. They’re concentrating more on the product aspect, and these places are thriving ‘cause they’re doing such a good product that their businesses are shining through . . . It’s really refreshed Dublin. It’s really given it that whole new lease on life these past three or four years.

The One Thing All Visitors to Dublin Should See

For me, I think just a walk around St Stephen’s Green. I think it’s unbelievable. I spend a lot of days walking up and down the park because I worked in Thornton’s, which was on St Stephen’s Green. It’s my little place where I like to walk around. There’s a lovely park in there that I take my daughter now to once a week. It’s somewhere I can always come back to. I love it. I think there’s a lot of character in there. Lot of good memories at St Stephen’s Green.

A walk out in Dún Laoghaire. A walk down to the Forty–Foot or a walk down the pier in Dún Laoghaire is another thing I like doing. It’s just beautiful.

Chef Ciaran’s Shortlist

Forest & Marcy, 126 Leeson Street Upper (Dublin 4); contemporary Irish, dinner only Wednesday–Sunday, closed Monday–Sunday.
Recommended dish: Fermented potato bread with bacon and cabbage.

The Greenhouse, Dawson Street (off St Stephen’s Green) (Dublin 2); contemporary Irish, lunch and dinner Tuesday–Saturday, closed Sunday–Monday.
Recommended: Tasting menu; foie gras royale; chocolate crémeux dessert

Locks, 1 Windsor Terrace (Dublin 8); contemporary Irish, lunch Friday–Sunday, dinner Tuesday–Saturday, closed Monday.
Recommended dish: Côte de boeuf for two.

China Sichuan, The Forum, Ballymoss Road, Sandyford Industrial Estate (Dublin 18); Chinese, lunch Sunday–Friday, dinner nightly.
Recommended dish: Pork and chicken dumplings with a hot chili broth.

Bastible, 111 South Circular Road (Dublin 8); contemporary Irish, lunch Friday–Sunday, dinner Wednesday–Saturday, closed Monday.
Recommended for Sunday roast lunch menu.

Pickle, 43 Camden Street (Dublin 2); Indian, lunch Wednesday–Friday, dinner nightly.
Recommended for curries.

The Fumbally, Fumbally Lane (Dublin 8); cafe, breakfast and lunch Tuesday–Saturday, dinner Wednesday.

Fia, 155B Rathgar Road (Dublin 6); cafe, breakfast and lunch daily.
Recommended dish: Chocolate buckwheat granola.

777, 7 Castle House, South Great George’s Street (Dublin 2); Mexican, dinner nightly, brunch Sunday.
Recommended items: Margaritas, elotes (street corn).

John Fallon’s, 129 The Coombe (Dublin 8); pub, lunch and dinner daily.
Recommended for Guinness.

Rasoi, 2 Field’s Terrace, The Triangle (Dublin 6); Indian, dinner only nightly.
Recommended for curries.

Queen of Tarts, Cows Lane, Dame Street (Dublin 2); bakery/cafe, open daily.
Second location: Cork Hill, Dame Street (Dublin 2); open daily.
Recommended for pastries.

Le Petit Parisien, 17 Wicklow Street (Dublin 2); bakery/cafe, open daily.
Second location: Powerscourt Townhouse (Dublin 2); open Monday–Saturday.
Recommended for pastries.

Scéal Bakery, goods sold at located at various markets and shops through Dublin.
Recommended for pastries and breads.

Five Guys, 1 Block 4, Dundrum Town Centre (Dublin 16); American burgers and hot dogs, lunch and dinner daily.
Recommended for burgers.

Clement & Pekoe, 50 South William Street (Dublin 2); cafe, open daily.
Recommended for coffee.

M O’Briens, 8–9 Sussex Terrace (Dublin 4); pub, lunch and dinner daily.
Recommended bar.

The Long Hall, 51 South Great George’s Street (Dublin 2); pub, open daily.
Recommended bar.

The Pig’s Ear, 4 Nassau Street (Dublin 2); Irish, lunch and dinner Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday.
Recommended dish: Shepherd’s pie.

About the Chef: “At a young age, I wanted to be a chef,” Ciaran Sweeney recalled. Starting his career at 16 at the Rosapenna Hotel near his hometown, he honed his culinary skills at college and at Le Champignon Sauvage, a two Michelin–starred restaurant in Cheltenham, England where he worked as pastry chef under David Everitt-Matthias.

Sweeney eventually returned to Ireland and established himself in Dublin, working for Kevin Thornton at Thornton’s and then Mikael Viljanen at The Greenhouse. He followed up with stints at the Market Canteen and the Culinary Counter. Sweeney eventually met John and Sandy Wyer, owners of Forest Avenue. He had an opportunity to host a residency at their restaurant every Sunday night when it was closed. “That’s how I built up repertoire,” Sweeney said.

Fast forward to summer 2016, and Forest Avenue has a sister restaurant and wine bar: Forest & Marcy. As head chef, Sweeney leads his team in crafting innovative, mouthwatering dishes that are truly Irish to their core. One of his most popular creations is the fermented potato bread, a classic, humble Irish comfort food that has practically become Forest & Marcy’s signature dish. It’s something Sweeney remembers his grandmother making regularly, but his version brings it to the 21st century. The dough itself includes the best local ingredients—organic goat’s yogurt from Galway and Irish potatoes, buttermilk, and flours—and charred cabbage, crispy bacon and onion, and a silky smooth bacon mousse accompany the bread.

In Forest & Marcy’s first year, the Restaurant Association of Ireland awarded Sweeney Best Chef in Dublin, while the restaurant itself snagged the Best Newcomer and Best Emerging Irish Cuisine accolades.