Juicy steaks and béarnaise covered burgers
What’s the story?
Dublin has long been lacking in casual dining restaurants, where the food is excellent but uncomplicated, and where you can justify eating at any point in the week, lunch or dinner, rather than saving up for that Friday/Saturday night splurge (we still think there's a bit of Catholic guilt going on about eating out midweek in this city). Thankfully that's changing thanks to restaurateurs like Joe Macken (Jo'Burger, Skinflint, Hey Donna) and John Farrell (777, Dillinger's) who've been turning out reliable, inexpensive restaurant concepts over the last few years.
Featherblade is another one to add to the list. It opened in September 2015, with the aim of turning out quality, affordable steaks and sides. Similar restaurants have people queuing down the street in London (Flat Iron) and Paris (Le Relais de l’Entrecôte), so someone clearly saw a business opportunity. The featherblade is a relatively cheap cut of meat that comes from the shoulder of the cow, and can be tough if cooked incorrectly but has lots of flavour when done right.
The menu is simple. Two starters, featherblade steak or burger for main, sides and sauces. There are a couple of desserts too, and maybe a special. They've had a bit of flack for cooking the steaks sous vide, which involves putting the meat into a vacuum-sealed bag, and cooking it in a water bath until it reaches the required temperature, then finishing it off briefly on the grill. Critics would say this is a lazy way of cooking and doesn't involve any skill. Advocates would say it produces the juiciest meat and ensures each steak is perfectly cooked every time. If you want to read more about it check out the brilliant Serious Eats website.
Where’s good for a drink beforehand?
You're bang in the centre of town so there are loads of options. If you want a glass of wine we'd suggest Le Cave or La Ruelle. For pints you've got Café en Seine a few doors down (good for groups or if you want a seat), Kehoe's around the corner on South Anne-Street for that proper Irish pub feel, or on the very off-chance the sun is shining, the terrace outside The Bailey is where everyone wants to be. If it's cocktails you're after and you're organised enough to make a reservation in advance, The Blind Pig or Peruke & Periwig would be a lovely start to the night.
What’s the room like?
Very Scandinavian. Sleek and modern, but not cold or overly-minimalist. Lots of black and wood. There are two levels - ground floor, and upstairs where you can see the kitchen. Seating is much the same on both levels, but we found downstairs slightly cosier and more peaceful.
What's good to eat?
This is easy. Because the menu's so small, if you go with just one other person you can pretty much order it all (bar maybe the specials). On the day we visited the two starters were lamb croquettes with parsnip purée and salsa verde, and ricotta gnocchi with squash, hazelnuts, wild mushroom and sage butter. We loved both, but there was a recurring theme of some vegetables tasting of nothing. Both the parsnip and squash purées were either made from inferior veg or badly under-seasoned. It didn't ruin the dish, but getting that part right would have taken them to a different level.
We were very pleasantly surprised with the burger, having not expected too much, this being a steak restaurant. It was cooked perfectly medium and was super juicy, in a good quality brioche bun, with the béarnaise sauce a genius (if belly-busting) addition. We really enjoyed it, but were glad we were sharing one between two.
We had ordered the steak medium but when it arrived it looked closer to well-done. The wait staff apologised and went to retrieve another one, but this looked not far off the first one. We then realised this was due to the style of cooking. Despite this throwing us slightly, the meat was incredibly juicy, tender and full of flavour, and the chimichurri salt on the outside was the perfect enhancer to the sweet meat. It was a generous portion for €13 and we can't think of anywhere else that does steak this good for this price. They took both steaks off the bill by way of apology and although we insisted on paying for one they were having none of it.
There were two options for dessert, and we went for the chocolate and peanut tart with salted caramel after seeing people rave about it online. It tasted like the poshest possible incarnation of a snickers bar and we're still thinking about it. Be warned, it is incredibly rich so half was more than enough.
What about the drinks?
Cocktails are really well priced at €7.50 each, so much so that it would be madness not to start with one. We tried the Raspberry Fizz with prosecco, limoncello, raspberry purée and mint, and the Old Fashioned with Teelings whiskey, orange thyme and chilli syrup, which were both excellent. We thought the fizz might be too sweet but it was perfectly balanced and refreshing, and we loved the twist on the more grown up (read: more booze heavy) Old Fashioned.
They have a nice list of bottled beer and cider, and wine comes both in bottle and on tap, which you can order by the glass, carafe (500ml) or litre. From tap we tried the Spanish Tempranillo from Bodegas Abanico (€7 a glass), and the Portugese Touriga Nacional from Alex Relvas (€7.50 a glass). Both were really solid wines for red meat, but the Touriga Nacional was particularly fragrant and interesting, and great with the steak.
And the service?
Our waitress was very friendly and accommodating, and they dealt with the steak issue like pros.
Featherblade is the type of restaurant that Dublin needs more of, and we think they're offering real value for money, especially considering the eye-watering rents in Dublin city centre right now. There's nothing fussy or 'special occasion' about it, which is the draw, and overall the food delivers, making it perfect for a midweek outing, or when you don't have hours to languish over dinner. Despite a few minor complaints we really enjoyed our meal and are planning a return the next time we want steak and don't want to cook it. Long live quality casual dining.
51 Dawson Street, Dublin 2