Restaurant review: Featherblade, Dublin

Featherblade, 51b Dawson Street, Dublin 1, 01-6798814, book@featherblade.ie 
Restaurant review: Featherblade, Dublin

Four hundred years ago this year, William Shakespeare died and already there have been radio programmes and newspaper articles about the longevity of perhaps the world’s greatest ever storyteller.

Storytelling is the basis of all communication, it is even said that the reason we dream in narrative form is so that our brains can more easily file memories. So where did storytelling begin? I reckon it began with meat.

Sharing meat cooked over a fire in a cave several millennia ago was, for me, where human society began. Once bodies were warm from the fire and bellies were full, the conversation began — tall tales told, plans made, conflicts resolved (or created). This was the spark that led ultimately to Shakespeare and to moon landings.

Featherblade on Dawson Street opened in autumn 2015. The concept is simple — there is just one permanent item on the menu, Featherblade steak (plus some sides and auces). Daily specials include a few starters and desserts, plus one extra steak cut.

Featherblade is a loose adaptation of the successful l’Entrecôte chain in France (known as Relais de l’Entrecôte in Paris) which offers one starter — walnut salad and one main — faux filet [sirloin] steak).

Also like their French counterpart, Featherblade seems permanently full. Admittedly, when I visited with the Engineer and the Teenager on a wet Monday in early January, there were a few empty tables but they were still busier than I suspect most restaurants in the city.

The two starters on offer were grilled prawns and wild mushroom arancini with tarragon and aioli. The arancini were expertly done, ping-pong sized golden cooked balls of risotto rice with balanced flavours and good texture. The prawns were lightly charred, beautifully tender, and flavourful.

A glass of Ventoux Syrah Grenache was good but my spiced Old Fashioned cocktail enlivened with rosehip syrup and Tabasco was delicious and a bargain. Both cost €7.50,

The steak choices were Featherblade and Hanger Steak at €13 each, both served with salad leaves — béarnaise sauce and whiskey peppercorn sauces cost an extra €1.50.

Both steaks arrived pre-sliced and pink, the featherblade particularly tender. On a previous visit I was told all the steaks were pre-cooked sous-vide but I was assured this time that the featherblade steak had gone straight onto the grill. If so, this was a very carefully hung piece of meat, as featherblade generally needs a lot more chewing.

The teenager finished his plate but would have preferred a bit more bite to the meat as he insists (rightly) that chewing brings out the flavour.

My Hanger Steak was marinated in mild Asian flavours and had visited the sous-vide machine prior to finishing on the grill. Sous-vide involves vacuum packing the meat and pre-cooking it at around 55C to break down the connective tissue and retain moisture.

The Asian flavours added a touch of sweetness without overpowering the meaty flavours and there was still good texture left in the meat. The steak was carefully grilled to crisp the exterior and create a Maillard reaction (browning, in simple terms) while the interior was still juicy and rare.

On my previous visit to Featherblade, I had found the texture of my steak rather mushy but either I was just unlucky or the kitchen has honed the sous-vide technique over the past four months.

Beef dripping cooked chips were crisp and light and the béarnaise was for me the more successful of the two sauces and a perfect contrast to the frites.

Desserts of rich chocolate tart and limpid creamy Clementine Posset appropriately concluded a generally successful meal. In conclusion however let me return to that primordial cave and open fire. While I enjoyed my hanger steak I couldn’t help thinking of the way this cut is served in Parisian bistros — crisp grilled on the outside and blue in the centre.

I enjoy chewing, I have eye teeth created for this purpose, I like the raw texture, chewy tendons and dripping bloody juices. Sous-vide breaks connection with our shared ancient past and for this reason I don’t want that machine near my steak. But perhaps I am less civilised than most people and perhaps I think too much.

The tab:

Dinner for three with one cocktail, one glass of wine, two starters, three mains, three side dishes, three sauces and two desserts - €99 (excluding tip).

How to:

Monday – Friday: 12pm–3pm; 5pm-10pm; Saturday: 12pm-Late; Sunday: 1pm–7pm

The Verdict

Food: 7/10

Service: 8/10

Drink: 7/10

Ambience: 7/10

Value: 8/10

In a Sentence: Featherblade is a cheap and cheerful steakhouse, they only do one thing but they do it well.

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