Rustic Stone from start to finish
21 November 2014
The last few months have brought seemingly endless changes to Rustic Stone. While some of them got us excited immediately, others ushered in only headaches. From humble beginnings to ambitious new projects, Dylan and his team have great plans the building and its evolution in Dublin. Hear what Dylan has to say about Rustic Stone, where it started and where it’s going next year.
In the beginning
Rustic Stone opened in a very different Dublin. No one understood the effects of the recession better than Dylan, and he was determined to do something completely new in a city that needed a breath of fresh air.
I knew at the time that Dublin needed something different, and I wanted to create a restaurant that was fun and interactive. At the same time, we needed to make it affordable. There was so much going on in the country, and I knew that for Rustic to compete the food had to be spot on, but at a price that people could afford. By introducing the stone cooking, we married those ideas together.
The hot stones allowed us to create a style of restaurant that could handle serving a big volume of customers, but the stones gave us the chance we needed to be an innovative new restaurant that people could afford to go to.
The Irish haven’t always been as health conscious as we are today, and in 2010 the widespread acceptance and interest for specialised diets was just beginning to take hold.
The market was changing in Ireland. People wanted to go out and eat healthy and it was becoming more common for people to make more health-conscious choices in restaurants. At the time I worked very closely with Erika Doolan, who is a nutritionist, and seeing the decisions she made when feeding herself were a big inspiration. It helped me to see what Rustic Stone needed to be at that time in Dublin.
The middle bit
Opening a restaurant like Rustic Stone wasn’t without its challenges for Dylan.
Rustic Stone was a big adaptation for me. Fine dining was all I knew, I knew nothing else. But the customers that appreciated fine dining were now spending differently, and I had to learn to go to the opposite end of the scale for them. It was hugely difficult for me to detach from that style and move into something more commercial.
Flavour, however, was something that I did know. I was forced to apply that knowledge and to look at things in a different light, because there was no way I could return to fine dining yet. I had to find a way to go commercial. Highlighting nutrition and giving customers more ability to choose what wanted to eat and how they could eat was where I wanted to go. In theory, Rustic Stone needed to be the opposite of Mint was.
Rustic Stone is unique, even today. It’s health centred, but still allows customers to indulge. For Dylan, finding that balance was key.
Rustic stands out because you can be good or bad in there, it gives you the choice. You have the opportunity to stick to whatever type of diet you’re on. You can eat small or big, you can do steak or salad. There’s large portions and small portions. You have choices at the very healthy end of the scale, like a superfood salad, or you can indulge with a burger. You can eat on a budget or have an extravagant meal.
We took on a lot of challenges too; we were the first restaurant in Ireland that was able to introduce sugar free cocktails, and to make a good attempt at all sugar free desserts. We work with a RAW food menu as well and that really sets us apart. It was about running with an idea and finding new ways of cooking and creating that could stand with that idea.
For Dylan’s restaurants, evolution is key and his drive to change and grow is apparent in all his projects. So what’s in store for Rustic Stone?
I’m going to completely change the menus in Rustic. Right now, I’m building a development kitchen upstairs specifically because I have restaurants that need to change and grow and adapt. We’re so busy that it’s hard for me to develop them, so the development kitchen will give me the space to do that. Rustic needs to grow up a little bit, it’s already 4 years old.
We all know that there’s something going on above Rustic Stone, but Dylan isn’t keen to hint. When probed about upcoming developments for the beginning of the New Year, he laughs.
We’ll continue to let you be good or bad, but in a completely different way. And that’s all I’m going to say about it.
It doesn’t put an end to the curiosity and speculation, but at least we know there will be the plenty of new flavours to taste.