As new openings go, Fade Street Social was one of the most hyped of the year and judging by how full it was when we arrived that hype hasn’t really died down very much. The atmosphere is buzzy, there’s pumping music playing – but not so loud you can’t have a conversation – and the chefs haring around the open kitchen all sport natty headbands which make them look more like extras in a kung fu film. As you can tell, it’s all pretty breathless stuff.
We had booked our table in the tapas bar rather than the restaurant as the menu seemed much more interesting (and nowhere near as needlessly confusing). There’s still a lot of choice but it’s not overwhelming even if it is laid out somewhat idiosyncratically. Our waiter, for some reason, thought he needed to explain the concept of tapas to us but he meant well and there was no upselling or any of that nonsense.
I was greedy and ordered four small plates while everyone else chose three and I managed to have a taste of pretty much everything. There are lots of clever and interesting flavour combinations on display: soft-shell crabs, deep-fried and crunchy, with miso mayonnaise and lemongrass dip, eat as well as they sound and it’s a shame not to see them on more menus. The pata negra steak poached in fennel powder is eye-rollingly good, finished off on the grill there’s also notes of orange amongst the charcoal.
A second crab dish loaded with melted cheese, duck egg, hollandaise and truffle mayonnaise should be a mess but actually works surprisingly well. The half a duck option is, in reality, a leg and half a breast with that edge to edge doneness indicating time spent in a water bath: it’s a fantastic piece of fowl, one the best I’ve eaten in a long time. There’s vegetarian options too and a lovely riff on leeks vinaigrette with parmesan and hazelnuts is only let down by slightly stringy leeks and some chickpea ‘chips’ accompanied by a pernod custard provide yet another inventive combination.
So, the cooking here is definitely of a high standard but it does come at a price: the whole tapas thing is fine in theory but in practice it’s not for the customers’ benefit. All our plates arrived over the course of two to three minutes with the exception of my friend’s, he sat watching us eat for a further ten minutes and all he was waiting on was some chips and the duck. And while serving everything at once is great for turning tables quickly it means by the time you’ve finished one thing the others have gone cold. For example, a bowl of truffle (truffle oil, a cheap trick at best, features far too heavily on the menu) popcorn with shards of crispy chicken is fantastic when hot but a chewy mess a few minutes later.
A little bit of order management to ensure everyone gets to eat whilst not inundating the table shouldn’t be beyond the kitchen but then when you’re doing as many covers as this place there’s no incentive to bother with that sort of thing. I really like the food but if we come back it will be when the hype has dissipated somewhat and on a day of the week that won’t be as busy. To end on a positive though, the bill was a pleasant surprise: we had thirteen tapas, two cocktails and a thirty euro bottle of Malbec all for under €150, which is very good value to my mind.