Bow Lane Social
17 Aungier Street
Phone: 01 478 9489
Irish Daily Mail
9 January 2016
Many years ago, I used to be a school teacher. At the end of each term, reports had to be written for each pupil and this often put a considerable strain on the staff’s creative faculties. For example, it was simply not on to write “could do better’, even if this was manifestly the case.
I remember using phrases like “Her enthusiasm for Latin seems somewhat muted” but the champion was a colleague who once commented “There are gaps in his ignorance.”
I was reminded of this the other night in Bow Lane because of another convention during my report writing days. It was an unwritten rule that we should never compare the performances of siblings.
And that, in a way, is what I’m doing now. Bow Lane is very young and it has an older sister (or possibly brother) in the form of the Whitefriar Grill and the Whitefriar Grill is intelligent, charming, attentive, sits up straight in class and works hard at producing good food in a robust style. It’s obvious prefect material.
Poor little Bow Lane (which is actually quite big, spacewise) has got off to a mixed start. The report at the end of the meal is not looking promising.
It’s hard to tell what the inside of the place looks like because the lighting is modishly dark. I think there are equally modish bare walls. Behind our table I could vaguely make out faux panelling in metal and it seemed that someone had been at it with a spray can. Beyond that, it’s difficult to say as we could barely see our hands and the menus were invisible until my companion shone his iPhone in the right direction.
It would be polite to call said menu eclcetic. It would be less kind to call it confused; perhaps it’s just keen to keep too many people happy. And potato skins with barbecue duck, melted Coolea cheese and cajun (sic) sour crème, was just a bridge too far.
We started with scallops, fennel purée, blood orange and chilli gremolata which sounded a bit desperate to be on trend, any trend. It turned out to be small, rather overcooked scallops sitting on a splodge of beige, bland mush. We detected no sign of orange, blood or not, and the chilli gremolata (what?) was too shy to make it on to the plate. Possibly with good reason, who can say?
I mentioned beige. At this stage the lighting had, er, lightened. It felt like that strange period just before dawn and the fennel purée seemed beige. It may have been day-glo pink, of course.
Tuna tartare with avocado and a lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf marinade was generous: it looked like a tuna burger sitting on the innards of one or maybe two avocados. The marinade was good but it had made the chopped raw tuna as mushy as the avocado. It should have been a dressing, not a marinade.
A 20 ounce “tomahawk” steak with crab claws came next, as a sharing affair on a wooden board. Surf ‘n turf, don’t you know (something I thought that had died out, to be honest).
It turned out to be a very flavoursome if gristly piece of meat, perfectly cooked medium and well seasoned (unlike the crab claws which cried out for a little salt and pepper). Unremarkable skinny chips, sorry, fries and some good “heirloom” roasted carrots and beet provided support.
For €40 this sharing dish offered exceptional value. A somewhat larger entrecote elsewhere in town would cost €60 or more these days, but it would have been better trimmed and less gristly.
The service was pleasant but it struck us as a restaurant that wasn’t quite sure what it should be doing.
This was underlined by the very expensive wine list. The white Grenache of which we ordered a glass each with the starters was a clear example of clumsy winemaking and tasted lingeringly of tartaric acid (something that is used almost universally in winemaking, but much more subtly than this). We didn’t finish it, nor the bottle of organic Malbec which was flabby, unbalanced, cloying and, in oenological terms, a bit of mess. And it was €34. Had nobody tasted these wines before putting them on a list? I mean, a wine list is not just for the pleasure of customers, it makes a statement of intent.
Our bill came to just over €100. And the report? Could do a lot better.