The duo are working with new Head Chef James Winians “to restore the pub’s reputation for high quality food” and have also incorporated a range of craft beers into the food menu.
The pair also own the The Step Inn in Stepaside, south County Dublin, which has two successful restaurants.?John will continue to run The Step Inn while Ashley will concentrate on developing The Purty Kitchen which dates back to 1728.
A lease/purchase arrangement for the Dun Laoghaire operation has been agreed through the Receiver Tom Kavanagh of Kavanagh Fennel (following the Dun Laoghaire and Temple Bar Purty Kitchens’ having been put into receivership in Spring 2011 by previous owner Conor Martin with the two outlets owing €15 million to AIB).
The Dun Laoghaire outlet has also been renovated, blending contemporary influences with its historic character as a seaport hostelry, complete with rustic open fires.
By having raised areas the bar has introduced a subtle division between food areas and the drinkers at the bar.
Self-confessed “beer anorak” Ashley has also created a beer club there, rewarding beer aficionados who collect stamps for each new beer they try there. When every beer has been sampled, they earn themselves a personally inscribed beer tankard. This is kept in the fridge of The Purty Kitchen to be taken out to serve them whenever they visit – the sign of a true local.
While the beers originates from all over the world, the pub focuses on those from Ireland and Ashley has searched the country to find the best hand-crafted beers by visiting fairs and brewers.
By taking on a local Tipperary beer White Gypsy, for example, Ashley has actually increased the brewery’s business so much that two new jobs have been created, he claims.
Ashley’s currently renovating the upstairs area as a private party venue scheduled to open in mid-January. The first booking has now been taken for upstairs and the feedback to date has been fantastic, he stated.
Future plans include the opening of a traditional snug bar called Widow Gambols in the premises next door by this Summer.
“We’re trying to do a few unique things here,” Ashley told Drinks Industry Ireland, pointing out the heavy emphasis on the standard of cuisine.
“We’re playing the restaurant card” he explained, “and being respectful to the long tradition of fish dishes here.”
Business in the first month, October, was fairly quiet, he added, but November saw an increase of 30 per cent and he was hoping to “blow the lights out” in December.
Ashley opened his first pub, Anna Liffey’s, in Connecticut’s New Haven area in the US which enjoyed “queues out the door” he says. He lived there for 10 years but had always wanted to come back home to Ireland. So after running a small bar in New York for a while he sold up and came home to Ireland where he went into partnership with John McCluskey in The Step Inn.