Chef Gareth Mullins – The Marker Hotel Dublin & His Recipe for Rack of Lamb
Ireland was not always about food, but it is definitely now a food destination. ~ Gareth Mullins, Executive Chef, The Marker Hotel Dublin
When we set out on our travels to Ireland, we had visions of dining on Irish Stew and Bangers and Mash accompanied by pints of Guinness. What we discovered, however, was an entirely different dining experience: haute cuisine, Irish style. That’s not to say the traditional Irish fare is not served in many restaurants and hotels, but we were pleasantly surprised that every one of the properties during our two-week tour had extraordinary food. We don’t always find that every place we travel, but it was true in Ireland. The dining experiences and the dishes served at the hotels, castles, and country inns where we stayed were refined, elegant, and impressive. Chef Mullins is right: travel to Ireland for the food.
The Marker Hotel Dublin
It seems fitting that The Marker Hotel, a stylish new 5-star property in Dublin, would be built at the end of the 82-mile long Grand Canal, one of the iconic landmarks that is carved through the city, the capital of Ireland. Merging the old with the new, this recently developed area at the end of the canal, known as Grand Canal Square in the Silicon Docks, is home to many international corporations and a vibrant commercial district where modern glass façades and splashy architecture stand in stark contrast to the Georgian architecture of old Dublin.
With the introduction of so many “foreign” workers employed by these international businesses, younger Irish workers traveling the world with these companies, as well as tourists and visitors to Dublin looking at food experiences as one of the attractions of travel, Ireland is undergoing a culinary renaissance and Gareth Mullins, the executive chef at The Marker Hotel is one of the chefs forging the change.
Chef Mullins is no stranger to working at hotels. After many years at The Merrion Hotel early in his career, one of Dublin’s finest properties, followed by a 6-year hotel stint in Australia, he returned to Dublin and The Merrion Hotel, until this new opportunity at The Marker Hotel came along. He told us, “In 5-star hotels, especially Leading Hotels of the World, there are high standards for dining, so I can get the ingredients I want and can focus on the food. I also work with professionals who care about the food and the customers as much as I do.”
When the property opened in the spring of 2013, Mullins as the executive chef, was interested in creating something very different for the culinary program. “It’s important to make food current,” he said. “Dining habits are changing, and people and chefs are traveling more. After the recession, chefs were thinking about how to give more value to their guests.” With two rosettes recently awarded for culinary excellence in 2015-2016 to The Marker Hotel, his focus on the food and providing the best dining experience for his guests was recognized.
Grand Canal Square is home to the European headquarters of the technology, internet, and pharmaceutical giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Airbnb, and Pfizer, to name a few, so the hotel and its restaurants have to appeal to international guests who are well-traveled and looking for great and innovative food and at times, healthy food. Mullins told us, “We do have rich and luscious food on the menu, but I also created ‘The Marker Equilibrium, It’s All About ME’ concept for the property. This offers an entire program to our guests from the clean foods options on the menu to organic wines, and a spa and fitness program. It’s all about balance.”
He went on to say, “Dublin was always known for its drinking culture, but that’s changed. Beverage sales are down and it’s the same with the type of foods people are eating; they aren’t eating the heavy traditional foods as much and are treating their bodies better. I used to go out after work for a few beers, smoke more, and with a long stressful day as a chef, I didn’t eat right. Now I eat breakfast every morning, go to the gym, and I have a trainer. I feel better and I have a clear mind. It all goes back to the hotel’s concept.” With the changing face of Dublin, The Marker is responding to the influx of younger, savvy workers, and travelers.
“I try not to get caught up in trends, but we see this as a long-term concept for the hotel. It seems like every seven years there’s a new food movement. First there was Nouvelle cuisine, then Molecular, and now we’re into foraging. Eating better food should not be a trend. For me, it’s always been about the best ingredients; that’s where it starts, no matter what type of food you’re preparing. You can’t make it good when you have bad ingredients.”
Mullins is also a great proponent and spokesperson for the local farmers and artisans and gets excited when talking about the products he has available to him. “I think we have some of the best beef in the world in Ireland; it’s how the animals are raised and treated and the grasses they eat. You can taste the terroir and the differences in the regions. We also have great farmers.”
He turned to me and asked, “Didn’t you have the buffalo mozzarella at lunch? It was from Ireland, but you would think it came from Italy. A farmer in Cork bought buffalos and produced the milk and then started to make the cheese. The cheeses are so good because of the grasses. With these fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced products I don’t have to mess with them too much. You first have to understand what you’re starting with. And these products are exceptional. As I heard when I was in Australia, ‘Fusion quickly turns into confusion.’ I take a well-balanced approach with my dishes. It should be like a well-written article.”
Every dish we had at The Brasserie, the hotel’s main restaurant, was like a symphony of tastes and textures beautifully orchestrated. We were truly wowed at the presentation, the exciting combination of flavors, and the freshness of the ingredients. We could taste the terroir in the wild Irish grouse, the waters off the coast of Liscannor in the crab, the Atlantic Ocean in the local lobster, and the lush green grasses in the Cashel Blue Cheese.
Mullins said, “I’m most happy when the seasons begin to change and I know we’ll be creating new menus and changing from the things you enjoyed, like local lobster and the fresh tomatoes, to the wild grouse (which we also had in September) to root vegetables and apples. And there’s nothing better than having the warm bread served with our great butter,” he smiled. And we would agree. We became addicted to the brown bread and creamy Irish butter during our travels.
On days off and evenings out, where does Chef Mullins like to dine in Dublin? “There are some new spots in town that are doing really good food. I like 777. It’s Mexican but done well with great ceviches and excellent margaritas. I also like Chapter One. They have one Michelin Star. And of course, I have a soft spot in my heart for Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud at The Merrion Hotel (two Michelin Stars). They’ve been Michelin for 20 years, which is phenomenal. I understand the dedication that it takes to make things perfect with every dish, every glass, every day; it’s an institution.”
With these new and innovative dishes, where does his inspiration come from? “As a chef, I need to keep traveling, so that’s how we spend our family holidays. The last trip was to Spain. We were the only non-Spanish people in the town we visited, so it was hard to ask where to find the best restaurant. We decided to go to the town center and wait until mass let out and then follow the crowds to see where the people went to eat. My kids were playing ball with the local kids while we waited. It was a fun idea and it worked. The food was great.” Problem solved.
As we discovered while traveling from Dublin to Belfast and into the smaller towns we visited, there is an impressive culinary scene in Ireland. Picking up their version of Food & Wine magazine, it appears that the people in Ireland are every bit as obsessed with eating and drinking as we are in the United States. There’s much more to come to Ireland for, beyond the jaw-dropping scenery, friendly local people, traditional Irish pubs, and the incredibly fresh tasting Guinness (although we thoroughly enjoyed all of those, too). With their abundance of local producers, talented chefs, a booming economy, and interest in all things culinary, travel to Ireland for the food.
And when your travels take you to Dublin, book a room at the sophisticated and contemporary Marker Hotel, take a stroll through this revitalized section of town, and make a reservation at The Brasserie for a memorable evening with Chef Gareth Mullins.
Chef Mullins has shared his recipe for Wicklow Rack of Lamb, Neck Croquette, Roast Tomato, Champ Mash, and Rosemary Jus. Wicklow lamb is a local lamb he sources in Dublin, but you can substitute any rack of lamb that you prefer.
Here are several other articles on Ireland you might enjoy:
∗ Photo credit- The Marker Hotel
Wicklow Rack of Lamb, Neck Croquette, Roast Tomato, Champ Mash, and Rosemary Jus
For Lamb Neck:
- 160g lamb neck, untrimmed from your local butcher
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 celery stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bunch of rosemary, divided
- 1 cup of red wine (merlot)
- 250ml fresh chicken or veal stock
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
For Roast Tomato:
- 2 plump tomatoes
For Champ Mash:
- 1 bunch of spring onion
- 4 medium white potatoes
- 80g of unsalted butter
- 200ml full fat milk
For rack of lamb and to assemble:
- 1 whole rack of lamb (8 bones)
- 160g green beans, blanched
For Lamb Neck Croquettes:
- Pre-heat the oven to 140 °c.
- Sear the lamb neck for 2 minutes each side in a hot pan. Add the chopped onion, chopped carrot and cook until tender.
- Transfer all the ingredients into a casserole dish or slow cooker, add a clove of garlic, chopped celery, bay leaf, rosemary and red wine.
- Cover the lamb with the veal or chicken stock and cook at 140 °c for 3 to 4 hours or until the meat is tender.
- Once the meat is cooked, pour all of the juice into a pot and reduce slowly. To keep the jus light and clear, skim the fat off the top to prevent it from emulsifying into the jus. Finish the jus with some fresh chopped rosemary.
- Take the lamb neck meat and pull into small pieces. Mix with half of the reduced rosemary jus and add salt and pepper as required – it should be of a sticky consistency.
- Spread out some plastic wrap on a table and shape 2cm wide roll of the lamb mixture. Roll as tight as possible and form a sausage.
- Cool down and cut into desired length.
- Lightly beat the eggs and prepare the flour and the breadcrumbs in separate bowls. First dip the lamb rolls in the flour, then the egg and finally into the breadcrumbs. Place in the fridge for later use.
For Roast Tomato:
- Cut the tomatoes in half and toss with some extra virgin olive oil and some salt. Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven at 100°c for about an hour.
For Champ Mash:
- Slice the spring onion very fine and blanch in water until soft. Put straight into cold water so the spring onions keep their green colour.
- Peel the potato and cook in salted water. When still hot, mash up the potato and mix with butter, milk, spring onion and salt and pepper as required.
For Rack of Lamb:
- Pre-heat oven to 175 °c.
- Sear the rack of lamb in a hot pan until nicely browned. Finish cooking it the oven for about 8 minutes, take out and let it rest for 4 minutes before serving.
- Heat some oil in a pan and fry the lamb neck croquettes until golden.
- Warm the blanched green beans in a pan with a little butter.
- Assemble the dish with the champ potato the roast tomato, the rack of lamb, the lamb neck croquette, green beans and finish with the rosemary jus.
Executive Chef Gareth Mullins
The Marker Hotel Dublin
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Disclosure – We were assisted with our travel plans by The Marker Hotel Dublin. We have in no way been compensated and the opinions expressed regarding our experience are our own.