Hen’s Teeth, Junior Press and and Night Hare are colliding this weekend on Fade Street. Hen’s Teeth’s store will transform into “a pop-up concept restaurant” on October 21, where just 20 guests will enjoy am evening of multi-sensory madness.
Hen’s Teeth will become The Sunless Garden, a fictitious eatery and “a space which was once seen as the most romantic place to take your beloved for dinner. It is where our fictitious couple had their first date”.
Included in the ticket price of €95 is 12 courses, two cocktails, and a special, limited-edition zine created for the event by the team at Junior Press. Artist and performer Hugh Cooney will be hosting the evening.
We caught up with the Junior gentlemen to find out what exactly will be going on this Sunday. Click here for tickets.
What is The Sunless Garden?
George: The Sunless Garden is a lot of things. I think the official line is that it’s a photography zine launch and concept pop-up restaurant which – despite being a bit of a mouthful – actually sums up the idea quite well.
The zine is a love story in the form of a scrapbook of memories. It follows a couple from their meeting, to their falling in love, through to their eventual separation.
The event itself will serve to mirror the arch of that relationship. We’re going to transform the Hen’s Teeth shop into “The Sunless Garden”, the fictitious couple’s favourite restaurant.
Rich Lewis from Night Hare, drawing on his own experiences of love and heartbreak, has drafted a twelve course tasting menu to echo the flow of the publication.
The dinner will be divided into four sections that will each correspond to a specific time in the protagonists’ relationship. The guests will join them on their first ever date and also their last.
There’s a huge theatrical element to the dinner too. Each of these four sections will begin with a lighting, music and decor change to allude to the passing of time.
So, on one hand, The Sunless Garden is a publication launch but rather than it taking place in a white cube gallery, we thought it would be cool to create a fantasy setting inspired by the narrative of the publication itself.
How did the idea come into being?
George: We got approached by the guys at Hen’s Teeth right as we were launching Issue 3. I had done a bit of work with them beforehand and knew them to be amazing people who have been dedicated for the longest time to that goal of making cool shit happen in Dublin. We met up after Issue 3 and Greg from Hen’s Teeth said he wanted to experiment with food. Myself and Ellius are both really interested in food and the idea of creating this multi-sensory wonderland seemed like an amazing idea. Once we came back to the guys with our idea of the Sunless Garden being a type of photographic love story, the rest of the concept came together really organically. Everyone jumped on board in a big way and it was amazing to see so much enthusiasm from everyone involved.
What is “a sunless garden”?
George: So I usually hate coming up with titles. I remembered putting together a pitch for the Hen’s Teeth guys and trying to figure out a way of naming the zine that we were making. I knew that it was going to be a love story so I just started frantically googling to see what love-related tropes I could riff off of. I was interested in those images you get on tumblr that have a really saccharine quote from someone superimposed onto like a night-sky or whatever. One result that kept coming up was this quote attributed to Oscar Wilde where he describes a life without love as being like a sunless garden. That image of a sunless garden instantly stuck with me as being kind of dark and enigmatic. It ended up being a perfect fit
It’s a pretty ambitious project, even though tickets are limited. Is it a good state of affairs in creative Ireland where you feel you can undertake something this experimental?
George: One hundred percent. I think everyone’s been talking about it recently. The last few years have been really special here. There’s a palpable energy that seems to charge up everyone around it. I’ve really noticed it in the conversations myself and Ellius have about Junior, our scope is getting not only wider but also more creative and there’s no way we’d be in the position to even have those conversations without having other people in the Dublin creative community to act as examples, as motivators, and – in this case – as co-conspirators.
What aspect are you most excited for?
George: I’m giddy at the thought of people seeing just how much effort we’ve put into making the whole evening an immersive experience. Hours of conversation and gigabytes worth of emails have been spent exchanging ideas about all the little details that can be added to really nail the feel of a place that never really existed. Getting the right table-cloths, the right furniture, the right typeface for the restaurant’s logo.
We have a few theatrical elements up our sleeves that will be deployed as the night progresses. I’m really looking forward to being able to observe people’s reactions from a distance.
Hugh Cooney is the maître d’hôtel for the evening. How did you get in touch with such an enigma to perform that role?
George: Yeah, we had to draw out a pentagram in the Hen’s Teeth shop and say his name seven times on a night of a full moon.
Having Hugh come on board is phenomenal. We have created a whole backstory for his character. Ellius and Noel spent hours photoshopping his face into photographs with celebrities. He can’t wait to charm guests with anecdotes of that one time he got to hang out with George Lazenby.
Tell us a bit about the zine specifically? How has it differed from previous Junior offerings?
Ellius: The zine itself is following our last zine, RIP, which we released two years ago. That was a way to air out works in progress and experiment with the form of the zine, in terms of layout, approach and packaging. This time, we wanted to see how far we could push these experimental sides, and make something as far from Junior Magazine as possible. Junior Magazine is our annual offering, our flagship product which we base the rest of the year around. Concurrently, it has to be familiar and any experimentation needs to be fully considered. We use these smaller zines and publications as a sort of testing ground for these ideas and experiments.
This time, we wanted to create a loose narrative through three bodies of work, letting them mix and intertwine together to create something new. We laid the zine out physically on paper, eschewing grids and guides in favour of a very DIY zine, scrapbook feeling. We then scanned everything in and printed the zine with a professionally bound cover. We think the mix of the informality of the scrapbook layout, translated through the polish of the final product will create something that evokes craft in an interesting way. Adding in the elements of an emotional narrative along with a fictitious restaurant, we think the final thing is really interesting and different, much like the launch party will be. This is our most limited edition offering too, with only 20 copies on sale, each packaged with a ticket to the launch party pop up dinner at Hen’s Teeth. There will be one on sale after that, but for a far greater price.
Did the collaboration affect your original idea in any interesting ways?
Ellius: We are very used to controlling every element of Junior publications and events, so being able to collaborate on certain elements was really interesting for us. We saw our narrative interpreted in multiple ways with each aspect of the event. This Greedy Pig are bringing character and life to the fictitious restaurant space through set dressing. Richard Lewis of Night Hare took the loose story and drew on his own personal experiences to create a unique menu of food. While we were mostly in control for the zine itself, it has been really inspiring to consider how it will sit in the context of all these other streams of the event.
We are promising a theatrical dining experience this Sunday, and so we have recruited the one and only Hugh Cooney to play the restaurant’s maître d’. It has been amazing to chat with him as he builds up a character that will interact with the guests. It has brought The Sunless Garden to life for us, and we can’t wait to show everything off on the night. We feel like we’ve been able to put a new spin on the art event.
What can people expect on the night?
Ellius: First and foremost, the night will centre around the 12-course tasting menu by chef Richard Lewis. Draped around these delicious plates, there will be some theatre and fiction, woven into our fictitious restaurant spaces, its inhabitants and history. The evening will loosely follow some of the emotions of the relationship in our story, and as we mentioned, Hugh Cooney will be playing as our guest’s maitre d’. We really think this will be a night to remember, a dining experience where the highlight isn’t just the soft serve icecream you can pour yourself at the end. We’ll also be having a little party in the space right afterwards, with drinks on offer. Just another (only) night at The Sunless Garden.
The Sunless Garden, a concept pop up restaurant, takes place this Sunday October 21. Click here to be one of the 20 people in attendance.