27 October 2010

Frankie's Steakhouse Restaurant Review: "Frankie – do you remember me?"*

I’ve been a big fan of Marco Pierre White since his stint on Hell's Kitchen and so, despite knowing he’s probably rarely set foot in the place, I was excited about trying Frankie’s Steakhouse & Bar –- his Temple Bar based partnership with Italian jockey, Frankie Dettori -- as part of Dine in Dublin last week . So last Wednesday, after a swift apéritif in the Foggy Dew, off we set, the four of us – myself, himself, and our bestest mates, George and Velma Valento (real names - fact!**).

Now, the location was slightly off-putting. Of course you can get good food at decent prices in Temple Bar, but there’s no denying that Dublin’s most famous tourist quarter is also home to some substandard joints that rely on location, high footfall and one-off visitors to fill their coffers. Happily, Frankie’s does not feel like one of the latter. We were in great form and first impressions were favourable, with the soft amber lighting, twinkling mirror balls, comfy banquettes and cushions all contributing to a welcoming atmosphere. We were seated at a circular table by the window which looked warm and inviting but, once we’d removed our jackets, proved anything but, with an uncomfortable draft hitting us through the glass.

Our waiter – one of four who served us throughout the evening – seemed a little put out by our request to move tables: he wandered off to ‘check if it was ok’, despite the restaurant being, at most, a quarter full at that stage of the evening. Move we did though and were soon happily ensconced in a cushioned banquette and perusing the appealing little cocktail list at €7.95 a pop – including the champagne cocktail, which at that price, we were almost obligated to try. And absolutely delicious they were, too.
And so to the important part: the food. The Dine In Dublin menu was €30 for 3 courses which seemed like a bargain – until we had a little look at their regular menus. The prices here are reasonable: so reasonable, in fact, that the ‘special’ Dine in Dublin deal didn’t look quite so special anymore. I jumped ship and opted to eat from the early bird menu, tempted by the crispy calamari a la romana, but the other 3 have more staying power and determined to see out what we’d set out to do.
Himself and Velma went with the Boston Style Shrimp Cocktail, while George had the liver pate with melba toast. George and I were impressed: the calamari was lightly battered and well-seasoned, while the pate was deliciously creamy and rich. The shrimp cocktails were pronounced good, but a little too acidic, with the vinegary taste becoming more pronounced as they got to the bottom of the dish. They were a smidgeon heavy on the paprika, too.
Excuse the picture quality - aforementioned
amber glow is not the most conducive
to photography!
Being in a steakhouse, our main courses were, predictably, steak: 3 x sirloin with chips, from the Dine in Dublin menu, and my steak sandwich, from the early bird. The steaks were well cooked to order but, while the sandwich (probably ribeye) was a juicy success, the sirloins lacked flavour in two out of three while one, in particular, contained quite a lot of gristle, which was pointed out to our waiter. Himself noted that sirloin was not a cut on Frankie’s regular menu -- which offers fillet, rib-eye, and T-bone as the norm – so we conjectured the sirloin had been bought in just for Dine In Dublin, and may not have been to the same high quality they would usually serve.
We washed the steaks down with a nice bottle of red, a 2008 Stormy Cape Shiraz, at a reasonable €24.
Sadly, though, dessert brought more disappointment. The ice-cream was grand (though brought grudgingly by one of our many waiters as a substitution to the semifreddo on the menu), the chocolate fudge-cake was pronounced a success, but the two crème brulees that were brought to the table were burnt, badly, on one side each. This was brought to our waiter’s attention, and the desserts returned to the kitchen. Just like our comments on the steak, we were told the chef would be informed and then ignored, to be served by a different waiter and given no acknowledgement or explanation from the kitchen.
Imagine our surprise so, when, 10 minutes later, the returned desserts turned up on the bill. We mentioned this to the very nice gentleman who, the Frankie’s website obligingly informs me, was General Manager Greg Mullan. He whisked away the bill, consulted with the waiters, and 2 minutes later returned with a dessert and a cocktail removed. This brought the total down from €170 ish to around €155 for 4 people - 3 Dine In Dublin specials; 1 Early Bird; 3 cocktails and 1 bottle of wine - which, while not astronomical, wasn’t exactly cheap, either.
But all that said, I think I’ll go back to Frankie’s and give it another shot. If they stepped up the attention to detail and customer service by just a notch, this would have been a much better experience. The GM was lovely, the early bird was good value and we enjoyed the atmosphere. And then, of course, there were those lovely champagne cocktails…
**Not factual. At all.
*Post title: Lyric from Sister Sledge, ‘Frankie’
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