For Andrew Walsh, Cure’s Irish menu is a sign of maturity
As the Michelin-star restaurant celebrates its 7th year, its chef has a new calling: to champion Irish food in Asia.
by Rachel Genevieve Chia /
March 17, 2022
Andrew Walsh is single. But opening his restaurant was like a marriage: “as in, you know, I committed to it.” So we make him pick favourites among his babies: the 21 dishes on Michelin-starred Cure’s Nua Irish menu, complex creations carefully designed to pique curiosity in Celtic cuisine. Nearly 9 in 10 ingredients hails from the emerald isle.
After some thought, the chef selects A Porridge of Grains, a silky gruel seasoned with Cashel Blue cheese from Tipperary county and crowned with a plump sphere of organic egg yolk, veiled in aged beef.
“It reminds me of a big bowl of porridge on a winter morning as a young kid in Ireland – except more contrived,” he laughs. “I taste everything that goes out of this kitchen, and every time I taste it, wow. It evokes those memories.”
His heritage inspires more dishes, such as the dreamily-named “Childhood Memories of Peat” – which, as advertised, captures boy Walsh’s turf-cutting trips to the bog with dad through clever use of deep-fried charcoal poori stuffed with peat-smoked milk ice cream.
In another course, potatoes dressed in black kombu and caviar pay solemn but delicious respects to Ireland’s disastrous Great Famine.
“The potato has such a rich history as food for peasants – and that’s what we were back in the day, peasants,” he says. “My family live an hour inland from the coast. It’s a very rural area, with a farming background.”
With so much source material, why did it take the chef so long – five years, to be exact – to dish up his homeland fare? The boss of the Cure Concepts group runs four more kitchens: Butcher Boy, Bao Boy, Catfish, and Club Street Wine Room.
Walsh pauses, thinking.
“It boils down to one thing. Maturity as a chef, simple as that,” he concludes. “Maybe I wasn’t ready, maybe I wasn’t proud enough to serve Irish produce. I’m not gonna lie, I was very nervous launching the Nua Irish menu, because it was a big change. There were a few nights I asked myself: am I really going through with this? What’s the reception going to be? Is there enough to Irish food?”
His answer, two years on: There is – and so much, in fact, that a new springtime menu is in the works, promising a dessert blooming with Irish coffee notes and a sorbet of “an apple, dropped from the orchard”. Also coming to town is a delivery of plates from Irish ceramic studio Fermoyle Pottery.
To be fair, with Cure – which from 2015 served mod European fare and in 2020 secured a star on its pivot to Irish cuisine – Walsh is arguably trailblazing alone, leading the first Michelin-acknowledged Irish fine dining concept in Asia.
But Singapore diners, he has found, are remarkably open to new tastes. Perhaps that’s why he’s stayed so long in the city-state: 11 years and counting, the longest stop in a string of stints spanning London, New York, France and Australia.
He admits Covid-19 and homesickness forced a reflective break that opened his eyes to his unique position to reinvent Irish food in this corner of the world.
“I found clarity,” he says. “And I only achieved that by having a little bit more time outside the kitchen.”
The voice of Irish food
What comes after one Michelin star? Two, of course – and Walsh longs to visit home to spark more inspiration. In the meantime, he’s studying early cookbooks of Irish culinary doyenne Myrtle Allen, which provide simple instructions for classics like lamb stew and soda bread.
“Sometimes I look at these old recipes to see how I can transition them to something more contemporary,” he explains.
What’s also helped: Irish farmers becoming increasingly keen to sell globally. The ducks of family-owned business Silver Hill Farm, for one, became a cult favourite only several years ago after expanding supply chains to Asia. They’re now a favourite in the kitchens of the TungLok Group, Unlisted Collection, Ritz-Carlton and Hilton-owned Conrad Centennial.
“When I started Cure, I couldn’t get my hands on Irish ingredients,” Walsh recounts. “But in the last two years, the abundance of Irish produce has made that transition a lot easier.”
And as these ingredients find their way around the globe, much like the chef has, Walsh’s point of view has shifted.
“I’m hoping to be the voice of Irish food,” he professes. “I’m just an avenue of taking the product and transforming it into a dish to tell the story of the producer, but I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Beyond that, he’s already dreaming up part two of his culinary story: an Asian outlet back home, one that serves chilli crab buns, laksa dumplings, and Szechuan sprouts.
“I want to tell the story of how I perceive Asian cuisine, perhaps bring the xiao long bao to Ireland,” he says, only half-joking. “Maybe in 10 years, I’m drinking Guinness in my dumpling restaurant in Dublin. Who knows?” He smiles. “Sometimes in life, you come full circle.”
5 questions with: Andrew Walsh, chef-owner, Cure
What’s Irish cuisine?
It’s from the waters and the land. Ireland has deep waters for amazing oysters, crab, mussels, wild fish. We’re also a nation of farmers amid a vast green landscape, so we have great lamb, beef, pork, and we grow beautiful vegetables.
How’s it different from British food?
It’s much better (laughs). I think we have a more Nordic inspiration, and foraged ingredients are a big theme. If you look at the UK, it’s inspired mostly by French cuisine.
Are you a star back home?
I’m from a family of eight. We’ve a humble background, Dad worked in telecoms and mom in factories and cleaning jobs. In my family you’re not allowed to get ahead of yourself. When I go back, I’m just normal Andy, as they call me. Even at the local bars, I’m no one.
Favourite Irish ingredient?
Dairy. I think we have the best butter in the world. Also, Irish cream. And people always talk about French or Italian, but I believe we’ve some of the best cheese in the world.
Best Irish dish you’ve had?
My father makes really good boiled bacon and cabbage, with a few onions and some thyme and garlic and mashed potatoes with parsley sauce. If it’s at a restaurant, then a meal at (two-star) The Greenhouse, when it was under Mickael Vijanen and Mark Moriarty.