. Restaurants .

Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 8:38 PM
Location: The Whitefriar Grill, Aungier Street
Dining companions: My man

The Whitefriar Grill has only been open since the beginning of October.  It already has 39 reviews on Trip Advisor and is currently sitting pretty at #2 of 728 Restaurants in Dublin.  How is that possible?!  Are they all real reviews or has someone got all of their friends to go on and write rave reviews?  I’m sure they haven’t as they all seem very genuine but it just seemed a little too good to be true.  I figured the only way to find out was to get my booty down there and check it out – DFG to the rescue!

It was a Thursday night when we headed in and I was surprised to find it a little empty – I had thought I might be battling with Christmas shoppers and/or revellers, but no.  Aside from ourselves there were only 2 other tables in use when we arrived and I think this maxed out at 3 more over the course of the evening.

Despite that though there is a nice buzz about the place.  It’s pretty casual - a bare, brick walls, low lighting, floorboards kind of place.  The music was louder than I was used to, but it was good music and helped give the place energy.

In looking at the menu I was keen take advantage of early bird (2 course €21.50 or 3 courses €24.50) – however there just wasn’t quite enough choice of starters on it for me.  There was a soup (rarely a starter choice of mine), a salad (hmmm – I’ve had enough salads recently) and only one other option.  Add onto that the fact that I had read a review that said the chicken wings might rival the Elephant and Castle, so really I had no choice in that and they weren’t on the early bird.
My man however did manage to choose from the early bird menu and had a pear, blue cheese and candied walnut salad.  This seemed to go down well, but more pear would have helped a lot.

My chicken wings (€8) were actually very, very good.  Indeed, they probably were better than the wings I had at the Elephant and Castle, however as previously discussed I think I caught the Elephant and Castle on a bad day so don’t hold me to that – I’ll have to go back and reconfirm!

Back to The Whitefriar Grill, their wings are definitely worth checking out – the meat was moist and you could get a really satisfying mouthful from each one.  The sauce had the appropriate sharp and tangy burst – in fact it was so sharp that the vapours hurt my nose when it first came out.  That can sometimes be a bad thing but not in this case – it was just right.  The wings were served with the appropriate blue cheese and celery (is there any other way?) – the blue cheese really came through in the sauce as well, as it should.  Big tick on the starter.

I had a few deliberations on choosing my main – there was rabbit on the menu which I’ve been craving for some reason, a duck shepherd’s pie and a monkfish disk with clams, mussels and lemongrass.  I went for the duck shepherd’s pie with parsnip gratin (€18).  Sad to say it didn’t quite work for me – I felt the parsnip completely overpowered the duck.  The balance of the dish probably exacerbated that problem as well, I think there was a lot more topping than filling.  When I picked around in the dish and piled up some duck it was lovely, rich and homely.

My man went for the rabbit – rabbit in a white wine and mustard sauce with mash.  It had a gentle and subtle flavour which we both enjoyed, however it could have done with a different texture on the plate.  The rabbit fell off the bone and the mash was very soft - add the sauce and it was all a little mushy.

Another odd observation was the temperature of all of the food that we had.  I would be the first to complain if something was cold I appreciate that, but there’s also a balance in that I don’t want to burn the roof off my mouth either.  Absolutely everything here was of the latter persuasion – unusually hot.

Overall it was a nice enough dinner. The atmosphere was good, and the staff were friendly.  The lighting was a bit too dim (candles on the tables at least would help), and the service a little too swift for my liking.  The food for me had a terrific high and then a bit of a low.  We spent €61.50 for 2 courses each, 2 glasses of red wine and an espresso.  Not bad value at all.  I would go back, but I won’t be rushing (unless someone suggests going to share some wings) and I’m afraid to say it wouldn’t make #2 restaurant in Dublin for me.