(Title Borrowed from Trevor at the Twisted Pepper via Colin from 3FE)
For those of you who follow my incessant twittering, you will know that the tumbleweed-ey nature of 9 Bean Row of late is because I am involved in a new venture, a ‘eating and drinking emporium’ in Stoneybatter, called L. Mulligan. Grocer. although for the time being we are mostly a drinking emporium, with pickled onions, wasabi peas and the imminent arrival of pork pies being offered to sustain the beer drinking masses. I am so lucky to have two business partners who are also determined in their ambition to create a place that is local, which honours Irish food and Irish drink and which is willing to take risks to do slightly odd-ball things.
The last number of weeks getting the pub ready have been a frenzied, helter-skelter tangle of upholstery fabric, ceiling emulsion and floor varnish. We have each agonised over the minutiae of the décor, wanting to restore the dilapidated pub to the grand old dame it once was. We have eaten almost every meal off the back of the wallpaper cutting table and spent hours talking about what it is we wished to create, all the while sanding, scrubbing and disposing of vintage soft drinks (apparently 2003 was a great year for Fanta). The pub was not in great shape when we got to it, underneath the layers of grime the walls were a lurid red, the upholstery was torn and unsightly, and the floors had taken on a lustre of grey where the dirt that had been walked into the floorboards.
So many quotes we received from tradesmen were insanely expensive (seemingly the pub refurb industry is immune from the recession) that we decided we could do a lot of it ourselves. Upholstering tacks were bought, books were consulted, a belt sander was hired and our tireless obliging friends were co-opted in to help. There were times of pure frustration, of despair and where we all questioned our sanity, at 1am sanding bar stools and pulling staples out of the cushions with a butter knife, but for the most part, getting the pub ready to open was a period of joy. Every person who set foot inside Mulligan’s before it was open must have looked around at the squalor, widened their eyes and wondered how it was ever going to be ready, but despite this, put their reservations aside, picked up a paintbrush and cheerfully got on with it. We are all eternally indebted to these people, their contribution was more than the sum of their physical toil, it was the energy they brought to the place, and their belief in us, that we would open, we would sail, that brought us to the point we are at. Most of all, for myself I am glad I was there, I am glad I gave it everything, I am glad I have developed fledgling upholstery skills, that Michael could now have a second career as a floor varnisher, that Colin has newly acquired carpentry experience and that Mark, (my amazingly good-natured brother in law without who the pub would not have opened) is now Dublin 7's resident expert on hanging wallpaper, because it wouldn’t have felt ours not to (plus if it all goes wrong, we will at least have a fighting chance of ‘gettin’ the start’).
There are a great many things not done, works in progress, snags that I can see lurking from the corner of my eye, but these will be fixed with time, the important thing is that we are open. And we are. On Thursday 1 July, at 4.22-ish, having spent the first official 22 minutes of opening rushing around wiping counters and sweeping floors, while people waited patiently outside we opened the doors to the public. I had remarked over and over that it would be odd having other people present in the pub, people who aren’t there because we are paying them to remove the unsightly pool table or poker machines or friends who had generously donated their time to work for nothing, but it wasn’t like that at all. The energy of that first evening was amazing, it was hopeful and forgiving, people were excited for us, and about the pub. There was a lovely mix of people who lived locally, beer and whiskey aficionados and people we knew who had come down to support us. For all of us, I think the memory of Thursday evening will sustain us through the coming weeks, as we wrangle the back half of the pub into some semblance of order, sort out proper processes and continue to interview chefs. Personally I am going to try and write more here and on our Mulligan’s blog, I miss it, I have so many lovely recipes from when I was in Australia four weeks ago, and inspired by Taste of Dublin three weeks ago, but for now, I have wasabi peas to order and pork pies to source, so I leave you with a pickled onion recipe.
This is the cold method, in which the onions take longer to mature, but I think is more mellow and flavoursome than the warm method, and retains the crispiness of the onion.
Large dinner plate, or similar that fits just inside the saucepan
2 large kilner jars or similar
One kilo of pickling onions (silverskins are great) or shallots
150 grams of salt
100 grams sugar
1 litre of water
1 litre vinegar
½ teaspoon of each coriander seeds, mustard seeds, pink peppercorns and chilli flakes
1. Make a brine by boiling salt and sugar in the water, until all has dissolved. Leave to completely cool before using.
2. Peel the onions (I do this by removing the dry outer skin and then blanching the onions in hot water for a few seconds and then rubbing the skins off).
3. Soak in the brine overnight, using a weight to keep the onions bobbing happily below the surface of the brine. A plate slightly smaller than the bowl works well for this. Rinse well.
4. Boil the vinegar and spices together in a pan for 10 minutes.
5. Leave to cool completely.
6. Pack onions into clean, sterilized jars and cover with cold spiced vinegar.
7. Cover and label with contents and date.
8. Leave for two months before using.
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