Joe Macken has always known how to put the funky into flavour, and how to mix fun into food.
His restaurant rooms are amongst the most clubbable, witty and exhortatory of Dublin dining spaces, and he works endlessly to polish and refine and contemporise his food offers. Macken is a self-critical restaurateur, which means his locations are always like works-in-progress, evolving to accommodate his latest discoveries, enthusiasms and obsessions.
With Hey Donna, which began life as a D6 dining room in Rathmines with shared plates and an Middle Eastern groove, he has hit on a formula of relishably spicy cooking, relaxed service, and good vibes.
Donna’s move northwards, to a second, big 100 seater room on Dame Street in the centre of Dublin, expands the concept, focusing the food style on shared combos, grilled meats, spiced vegetable dishes, and natural wines. It’s a masterly piece of work, anchored by rock-steady cooking that gets the details right: the hummous is super good; the breads are soft and lush, the spicing on the meats adds electric shocks of zip to the flavours of crumbed pork, beef kofta and hot ribs.
But, above all, Hey Donna is fun. Macken is a witty guy who enjoys fashioning witty, knowing places, and finding witty, knowing staff who make the rooms great places to be in. These are hipster hangouts, but without the self-consciousness. You come to Hey Donna to eat well, drink well, and have a great time, and the cooking facilitates all of that. They make it look easy, and they make it easy to enjoy yourself. And here’s a little metropolitan tip to make the evening even more fun: before you make your way to Dame Street, have a drink in Bar Giuseppe, above Jo’burger in Castle Market. Styled on a Dutch brown bar theme, it’s a wickedly cool joint to get the party started, and it’s got the hippest list of wines in the city.
Hey Donna, 60 Dame Street, Dublin 2