From 1901 to 1967 this Dublin restaurant – so famous in its day that letters simply addressed ‘Jammet’s, Europe’ reached their destination within a week – was the resort of actors, politicians, artists and literati, film stars, judges, journalists, doctors, chancers and characters, gourmets and oenophiles, who passed through its doors in search of superb food and wine, or banter in the bars. Praised by Egon Ronay for its ‘space, grace and charm’, the ‘formidable list of culinary delicacies’ and the ‘numerous, very great clarets’, this legendary French dining establishment had no peer in Ireland, and gave occasion to many a tale: Jack B. Yeats, sketching a bucking horse on a birthday menu; Liam O’Flaherty, giving rein to his; Patrick Kavanagh, in search of a mistress; Maeve Binchy, celebrating her Leaving Cert.; Garech Browne, watching Nicholas Gormanston rescue Seán O’Sullivan from immersion in a bowl of pea-green soup; Micheál MacLiammóir, being upstaged by one of the staff.
Pages from the Visitors’ Book with its autographs are redolent of a golden age: Maureen O’Hara, Bertie Smyllie, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Maurice Jarre, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, the Beverley Sisters. John Lennon drew a self- portrait and commented, ‘The other three are saving up to come here!’ Added to the visual mix are original menu cards and recipes, a 200-strong wine list with suppliers and prices, and fabulous foods: a rich iconography affording rare insights into the social and cultural life of Dublin during the sixty-six years of Jammet’s treasured existence.
At the heart of this lively narrative is a truffle of memoir by Shay Harpur, who rose from cloakroom attendant to sommelier in five short years, and recounts a day-in-the-life of Jammet’s with vivid particularity. A closing essay by the late Patrick Campbell celebrates the warmth and idiosyncracy of its famed back bar.