Ireland's beef farmers are not having the best time of it at the moment.
There was good news recently however with a number of gold medals won by Irish beef at the World Steak Challenge — surely another reason to move our beef into a more premium category.
I was one of the judges and it was a fascinating exercise — the over-marbled steaks often tasted greasy and I much preferred the texture of the grass fed examples.
FX Buckley took a gold for an Angus grass fed fillet and this reminded me that I hadn’t visited one of their restaurants in a couple of years.
I invited my ‘meat mentor’ Dave Lang who did his butcher’s apprenticeship with FXB’s in the early 1970s — these days Dave runs butcher training courses via his website www.butchermagazine.com — Dave’s blog on all things meat is also worth a read.
FX Buckley Steakhouses are in five locations in Dublin but Pembroke was the first branch and is still the flagship.
Angus and Hereford beef is aged at four degrees for 28 days or more and you can see some of the meat hanging as you enter.
FXB’s Pembroke has a comforting old-fashioned feel with the walls lined with photos from their many years selling meat to Dubliners.
Another reason to visit was the wine list which was managed up until recently by Albert Baginski who now runs his own import business Solera Wines.
The list is comprehensive and fairly priced with a decent selection by the glass including fine wine options via Coravin.
Most impressive is the list’s selection of large format bottles from Bordeaux — magnums (1.5 litres), double-magnums and even a Salmanazar (9 litres) of the second wine of Ch Gruaud Larose.
Our bottle of Vasse Felix ‘Filius’ Cabernet Sauvignon for €59 from Margaret River, Australia’s most ‘Bordeaux-like’ wine region, was excellent with supple and finely layered minty dark fruits.
FXB’s menu includes around 12 starters, a nominal fish and chicken option and of course steaks which can be ordered in different weights from 8oz - 14oz with a choice of fillet, rib-eye, sirloin and rump or a large Porterhouse or Châteaubriand for sharing.
I began with Devilled Lamb Kidneys (€9.90) with bacon and mushrooms in a rich meaty sauce that had been further enriched with a topping of creamy hollandaise. Proper old-fashioned Gentleman’s Club style cooking with fruity kidneys and good sauces although I would have preferred the kidneys cooked a little less fully.
Dave’s roasted bone marrow with seared foie gras was also old-school and well executed but given that bones are virtually free to a butcher (most pay to dispose of them), I consider the single 4 inch slice of bone rather stingy.
Now to the main event — Dave’s 10oz rump steak had the best flavour, beefy and rich tasting but was also a bit closer to ‘medium-well’ rather than ‘medium-rare’ as requested.
My 10oz sirloin (€32) —strictly speaking a striploin — fell the other way and rather than rare was served blue with just 2-3 mm cooked flesh.
I’m happy enough to eat steak blue so I didn’t send it back but good as the meat was it really needed more time on a cooler part of the grill.
The fact that neither steak was seasoned is the more serious flaw in my view — yes salt can draw a bit of moisture but it also ensures the steak develops a caramelised crust which in addition to the ‘maillard reaction’ between sugar and amino acids gives steak its crucial umami flavour.
The beef dripping chips helped save the day and were properly crispy with noticeable beefy flavour and the side of Cajun fried crispy onions were also nicely executed.
From a rather short dessert menu we ordered ice-cream and a ‘triple’ chocolate mousse, both serviceable enough but could do with improvement as only the sauce on the mousse was properly ‘chocolatey’.
Overall we did enjoy our meal and I would not be afraid of returning.
But I think I would be issuing quite specific cooking instructions to the kitchen.
Dinner for two including starters, mains, sides and desserts plus a decent bottle of wine cost €161.45.
- Lunch, Monday - Friday from 12pm; lunch, Saturday and Sunday from 1pm; dinner, every day from 5pm.
- Food: 6.5/10
- Wine: 9/10
- Service: 8/10
- Ambiance: 7.5/10
- Value: 8/10
- An outstanding wine list and good quality steaks at great prices but let down a little by some less than perfect cooking techniques and seasoning.