The Champs Élysées is full of fast food outlets and chain stores, Oxford Street and Fifth Avenue are similar, but hey they could be a lot worse – look at O’Connell Street!
The Irish Republic was declared on this street just over a century ago, the street is wide, elegant and long with fine tall Georgian buildings and contains statues of some of our greatest citizens from Larkin to Parnell to O’Connell himself.
O’Connell has been called the greatest Irishman that ever lived and I’m kind of glad he is dead so he can’t see what has become of the street we named after him — packed as it is with appalling fast food restaurants, all-you-can-eat buffets, cheap casinos and shops selling tourist tat.
Hopefully things are about to change with the sale of the Gresham and the development of the old Carlton site but in the meantime there is one old institution on the street that recently had a facelift.
Flanagans Restaurant opened in 1980 just up from Henry Street and has been serving breakfast, dinner and tea almost every day since that time. The room is now brighter and more airy with booth seating and a bistro feel plus a new terrace and basement bar.
I visited after a busy January sales shopping trip with my 16-year-old who was delighted at the prospect given that he liked the sound of virtually everything on the menu.
This is classic unpretentious Irish fare – steak, burgers, pizza, knickerbocker glories and ice-cream sundaes. Prices are keen, service is efficient and you won’t need to linger (but they won’t mind if you do).
The drinks list is short but serviceable with a dozen (non-scary) wines and a concentration on macro-brewery beers with draught O’Haras representing the craft industry. We stuck to classics and easily the star dish of the meal was the Mussels in white wine cream with tomato and fennel – a decent quantity (for a mere €8).
The other starters also worked well – chunky tasty garlic bread made with a soft white roll, and the supposedly small (actually huge) plate of chicken wings (€6.50) in a bright tangy sauce that left our lips tingling.
So far so good but things went rather off base with our main courses.
The biggest crime (the ultimate food crime in potato obsessed Ireland) was that the “hand-cut chips” mentioned on the menu turned out to be frozen (our waitress confirmed this with the kitchen).
I’m really hoping this was a once-off and that they just ran out of fresh cut chips that day but given their importance in restaurant like this, these fairly abysmal chips dropped them a full point in my rating below.
The Flanagans Burger with bacon and Dubliner cheese was solid and quite tasty but the meat patty was rather dense and dry.
My 10oz Sirloin (good value at €21.95) came with decent sautéed mushrooms and onions but instead of rare it was cooked closer to medium or medium-well.
I considered sending it back but to be honest it was still very tasty with top quality tender and flavourful Irish beef so I let it go.
For desserts our waitress recommended Banoffi and the boy went for the Brownie. Both were fairly classic with the Banoffi winning out thanks to the balance of toffee to cream to biscuit base.
Despite the terrible chips and some less than perfect main courses this was still an enjoyable meal and the next time I visit the Savoy cinema I might just drop in here first for a big bowl of mussels and a pint of O’Haras.