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Cult Dublin restaurant Assassination Custard closes its doors suddenly

The tiny hidden gem on Kevin Street is closing after nine years, but owners hint at a return in a different guise

Assassination Custard owners Gwen McGrath and Ken Doherty in the Kevin Street, Dublin, restaurant. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

In a surprise announcement on Instagram, the enigmatic Assassination Custard restaurant has signalled its closure, effective immediately. Owners Ken Doherty and Gwen McGrath spent the past nine years dishing up some of Ireland’s most remarkable food in a tiny eatery that became the worst kept secret in town.

Critics and food lovers alike chomped at the bit to nab a table and with only two tables’ available, odd opening hours and zero ability to book, securing a table was no mean feat. In December 2023 it ranked in The Irish Times top places for lunch in Ireland, when restaurant columnist Corinna Hardgrave described its offering as “dishes composed intuitively in a simple yet exquisitely delicious way”. In November 2023 it featured in a New York Times article on Dublin’s newest culinary trail.

The online post stated the pair were “trialling the ‘never open’ for real this time” – a reference to the restaurant’s restrictive daytime opening hours. However Doherty added that the pair have not ruled out a return to the current (now infamous) space in the future but for now, the couple are busy with private events and are open to future collaborations.

He told The Irish Times: “It never worked really, we just persevered. If we were to reopen, there would have to be changes, a booking system at least, and maybe a set menu”.

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Referred to over the years as “elusive”, and “refreshingly notion free”, a recent description of Assassination Custard described it as “a place of chubby mum hugs and humble hospitality”. The name Assassination Custard apparently comes from an anecdote where James Joyce and Nora Barnacle brought George Bernard Shaw (some accounts say it was Samuel Beckett) a gift of an Assassination Custard (a type of cake) after Shaw had been stabbed by a pimp. Or so the story goes.

From the outside, Assassination Custard gave little away, which, of course, was part of its charm. With its lack of signage and slightly grubby exterior, it operated on the down low, but was one restaurant that always stayed true to its values. Over time, word spread and the snaking queues outside the tiny premises became a common sight.

A daily changing menu (written on a paper bag each day) relied on seasonal availability and fresh produce and part of the magic was the simplicity and restraint at the core of the cooking. Menu dishes such as brawn toast and, famously, , the tripe, were not for the faint hearted but there were also many converts who relished trying these lesser-used ingredients.

Other typical dishes, such as bread with artichoke and sun-dried tomato or purple sprouting broccoli with blood orange and tahini, presented less of a challenge and a dessert of brown sugar rhubarb cake with freshly whipped cream garnered legions of fans.

There were occasional pop ups too, such as the collaboration with chef Xarem Guzman Sanchez last year and a pop-up dinner at Honest to Goodness in Glasnevin, which will hopefully continue, but there is no doubt that Assassination Custard in all its original glory is parked for now.

Reassuring the many (many) people who never managed to get a table, the couple signed off saying, “it was only lunch”. Watch this space.