Some 25 years ago, long before Temple Bar was a glint in any property developer’s eye, Carol Walsh signed herself a lease in a tall, narrow building on a cobbled street just off the River Liffey, surrounded by artists' studios, record stores and comic shops. She kitted out the first floor with walls of mirrors and opened a dance and aerobics studio. Downstairs, she opened a vegetarian café called The Cellary. Later, in Dublin's clubbing heyday, Carol ran several underground clubnights in this ever-adaptable space. While her neighbouring building was being transformed into what is now Temple Bar Gallery, Carol took the opportunity to go travelling. She found herself in Indonesia, where she fell in love with the heady spice combinations of their culinary approach. In 1994, she opened The Chameleon restaurant in that same tall, narrow building. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today Kevin takes great pride in the attention to detail required to produce award-winning food, inspired by Indonesian culinary culture and tailored for an Irish diner. Everything – from pastes to desserts – is made from scratch in that narrow little kitchen. Like their namesake – the chameleon, an expert at adapting to his current environment – Kevin and Carol attribute their recent success to their continual focus on adapting to how Irish people want to dine today. Recent additions include a range of craft beers and wines by the glass as well as the tapas-style menu in Spice Bar downstairs, where small dishes from the much-loved Rijst-Tafel menus can be ordered individually by diners looking for a quick bite before a nearby movie, gig or theatre show. Meanwhile, all pastes and marinades are made from scratch in the restaurant and dishes carefully tailored to please Irish palates while showcasing Irish produce. With the restaurant’s 20th anniversary coming next year, this adaptable couple are looking forward to what the future holds for their enduringly popular gem of a restaurant.