Friday, May 11, 2012

This review first appeared in the Irish Daily Mail in February 2012

Brendan Behan used to claim that members of the Garda Siochana were recruited by luring them from the Kerry mountains with hunks of raw meat. I can't vouch for the veracity of this obersavtion as it was way before my time; but there's no doubt that the relationship between the average Irish male and the flesh of animals, is close and lip-smacking.

It's more likely that a GAA or rugby star will take to competitive crochet than veganism. Our teams have been built on meat, and plenty of it.

It is appropriate then that Jamie Heaslip has joined forces with Joe Macken (of Jo'Burger, CrackBird and Skinflint) to create not a lentil bar but a restaurant in which bits of dead animal have heat applied to them.

The cuts avoid the usual suspects. You can have onglet for €24.95 or bavette for €29.95, a flank for €34.95 or a London Broil for €59.95.

Now, I don't know what a London broil is, but the rest are cheaper cuts that require quick cooking and then to be sliced across the grain of the meat. You get chew but you get first rate flavour.

And so it proved with our massive onglet. It would have been sufficient to serve three ravenous Irish males and perfectly adequate to satisfy four normal human beings. We brought half of it home with us.

And how was it?  This monumental piece of meat was nicely charred outside and nicely rarely within, a near perfect exercise in steak cooking. Part of it could have been better trimmed (had this been New York, the stringy bits would have constituted a capital offence) but overall it was a fine piece of meat and full of good, beefy flavour. Indeed, it set one wondering why such a steak experience is so rare - no pun, honestly - in this land of ours which produces the finest beef in the world.

So Bear - this is what the restaurant is called, for no apparent reason - does a good piece of steak and at a fair price. It's a shame about much of the rest.

Jamie and Joe, I have to tell you this. Cold mashed spud mixed with a bit of smoked haddock and dumped in a jam jar is not, by any stretch of the imagination, "smoked haddock skordalia". It's unpleasant, fishy mashed spud in a jam jar and I can't imagine anyone being prepared to part with €6.95 for it.

Now lads, "toasts"? Well where do we start? You shouldn't have to be told this but there's an ocean of difference between bread (even good bread, as it is here) that has spent a few moments in a toaster and thus become tepid and, you know, toast. Crisp, er, toasted toast. Tepid bread is unpleasant.

Not quite as unpleasant as cold, fishy mashed spud in a jam jar, admittedly, but not nice. At all.

Lads, I don't know if you'e ever had actual skordalia but bear in mind that the conventional version, made with breadcrumbs, needs a lot of really good olive oil and either almonds or walnuts to make it work. They use spud in Cephalonia and they have to try even harder to make it taste good.

Your "salt and vinegar fries" turned out to be slices of fried, unpeeled potato which managed to be sweet, flabby and overbrowned (all because the wrong kind of spud was employed). They were revolting and we sent them back. "Fries" were at least chip-shaped but equally unpleasant because, again, the spud was wrong.

There are potatoes that make good chips and potatoes that should never be used in this capacity. Honestly, you shouldn't have to be told this.

Look, if you're doing really good steak at a decent price, is it too much to ask for a crisp, properly made chip? And while you're at it, what is steak withhout bearnaise sauce? You have a few details to work out, lads...

With four glasses of wine, our bill came to €77.

34/35 South William Street
Dublin 2

Oh dear, it's one of those wine lists that seem to have just happened without any reason, rationale, point... It's been a while since we saw any Bulgarian wine in Ireland. Taste Domaine Boyar Cabernet (€18) and you will understand why. It's foul.  Domaine Boisson Cotes du Rhone is OK at €25 (or €6.50/€8.50 for a small/large glass). Bear in mind that Chianti Corale (€23) is not made by Badia a Coltiuono as claimed here.

There's no arguing with the value offered by the shared grills.

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