We meet the dream team operating the recently opened Bartley’s in Dublin City
The hospitality industry is all about relationships. They lead to repeat business from guests, and within the industry forge career-long connections and provide growth and opportunities. Nowhere is the latter more apparent than with Bartley’s, located in The Grafton Hotel in Dublin City. Bartley’s is helmed by CheF&B Manager John Sheridan, Noel Bates, Food & Beverage Manager and Gary Campbell, Assistant Food & Beverage Manager, who are making collaboration an art form. Hotel & Restaurant Times met with the three men to chat about their career-defining relationship, and how they apply their extensive hospitality experience to the exciting Bartley’s, which in just one year of opening has already been voted one of the top places to dine in Dublin.
John, Gary and Noel worked together over the years and all three at the same time in the Aloft Hotel in Dublin. John was developing the hotel’s gastropub offering as Head Chef and interviewed Noel as manager. Soon after Gary came on board. A close working relationship developed into a steady friendship and when the opportunity arose to open Bartley’s, the three jumped at the chance to work together on an exciting new venture.
The trio comes with extensive and varied experience – we put it to them that they have 100 years’ experience combined and they laugh that we’re making them feel old. They are hospitality powerhouses, we say.
John started training straight from school in Killybegs, Donegal when he was just 16. He worked in Germany for two years, then went on to London for a stint, and following that returned to Ireland, where he worked in the Croke Park Hotel for 12 years.
Noel studied to become a quantity surveyor but ended up becoming a publican in Mayfair in London, and over the next number of years operated three pubs across the city. Upon returning to Dublin in 2007, he took up the lease on the Sands Hotel and worked there for a few years. He met John when being interviewed for the bar in The Mariott Hotel.
Gary has also been in the industry from a young age. He started at 17 in the Glens of Antrim working in bars and hotels, first as a glass collector, then bartender. “I then went to college for two years to train as a chef,” he tells us. “I left because I realised I couldn’t cook!”
A five-year stint as a bartender in the Charles River Country Club in Boston followed and upon returning to Ireland, Gary spent five years in the Morrison and five years in the Westbury working on the bar side.
“Over the years we’ve always relied on one another’s skills,” says John. “I had never been outside the kitchen or had bar knowledge until working in Bartley’s, so I’m learning that side, and thanks to Gary and Noel I have a new appreciation and understanding of what goes into it. We work well together. We want to get Bartley’s right, so we’re putting ourselves out there and making mistakes and learning from them as opposed to being afraid to make mistakes and getting nowhere. The three of us are all about going for it, and that’s what you must do to create something special.”
Bartley’s is situated on the site on the iconic Bartley Dunnes bar, which is where the inspiration for the name came from. Bartley Dunnes is cemented in Dublin nightlife lore, and Noel, Gary and John tell us their goal is to honour Bartley’s namesake by creating a unique and special experience of their own.
“I’ve learned so much from John and Gary and that’s set me up well for this challenge,” Noel says. “John, with his experience of five-star service and food quality has brought me to a new level, and Gary with his experience of drinks and cocktails. Our combined skills enabled us to open Bartley’s and pool our resources to create a fabulous experience.
” Together we’ve designed a fantastic menu; our Head Chef Lee creates fantastic food made with love and our cocktail list is very special. Gary and I create bespoke drinks made with high-end spirits and our own beautiful homemade bitters and syrups, like spiced Irish tea for our Old Fashioned and mango and chilli for our Margarita.”
The guys must be doing something right. Since Bartley’s opened in October 2021 The Grafton Hotel has quickly shot from 132 to number 17 on TripAdvisor for the best places eat and drink in Dublin.
“The standard we’re offering here is exceptional,” Gary says. “Cocktails are an important part of a night out, whether it’s your pre-dinner cocktail or Irish coffee at the end. It’s all about how its presented, and we set out to wow our guests. It’s a great feeling to go to a table and leave drinks or food down and know the guests won’t just enjoy it, they’ll love it. We always approach guests and ask how everything is and it’s such a thrill to hear them say the food is amazing.”
Service must of course match the standard of the food Gary, John and Noel tell us. “For example, we don’t see ourselves as mixologists,” says Noel. “When I think of that I think of a person with their head down mixing drinks. Gary and I don’t have our heads down – we chat to every customer while mixing drinks. We want to provide a warm welcome and an enjoyable atmosphere as well as a superior product.”
This approach is championed from the top-down, says John, and staff are encouraged to chat and connect with the customer. “Our approach is all about warm and attentive hospitality,” John says. “We encourage staff to let their personalities shine and this in turn empowers them to use their judgment to best assess and deliver on the individual needs of each guest.”
Bartley’s is thriving, but the guys tell us they, like the industry at large, are not immune to the challenges of the high cost of living. When the cost of ingredients and utilities goes up, this can mean increased prices for guests. John tells us while this is often unavoidable, their way of meeting this challenge is to raise standards and deliver the service the guest expects based on the price they pay.
Challenges aside, the three are positive about the future, and Gary has a specific goal in mind: “This time next year I’d like us to be in contention for Cocktail Bar of the Year or Hotel Bar of the Year. I think it’s feasible; we’re on the cusp of something great here.” Noel agrees and says with a laugh, “We are working hard to establish ourselves now, so we come first. There’s no point trying too early and coming third.”
We’ll be watching this space!