DRURY BUILDINGS AND FOOD: MORE PLEASE!
52-55 Drury Street
Phone: (01) 960 2095
Irish Daily Mail
21 April 2018
You might imagine that the people whom I ask along to sample food with me are all pretty well versed in what some would call gastronomy. Actually, the one thing they all have in common is being good company. If you’re ever in any doubt about who to ask along to share a meal, this is definitely the way to go.
It was good to return to Drury Buildings, having been there just after it had opened and found it pleasant but not a lot more than that. On this occasion I brought an academic friend who is an expert on both Dickens and Kierkegaard but whose awareness of food is confined to eating something, anything, when hunger strikes.
This is a big old rag trade building, dating from the 1940s and both the downstairs bar and upstairs restaurant now feature a lot of New York period architectural salvage in a surprisingly seamless kind of way. I like its vaguely Mad Men aesthetic. You can imagine multi-martini lunches consumed in a fog of Chesterfield smoke.
Anyway, my companion for dinner scanned the menu and carnivorously locked on to the beef tartare and the lamb. I should have realised what was happening. The word “beef” was enough and, like an old warhorse getting a whiff of cordite he looked no further.
When it arrived, he looked at the little patties of raw beef lying beneath a snow of lacy Parmesan, and wondered where the beef was. When he realised that it wasn’t cooked a look of utter horror crossed his features. I had to tuck in, enjoy the mineral tang of the raw beef on toasted sourdough, anointed as it was with truffle oil and lemon. Around about 1963, my mother would occasionally find me stuffing my face with raw mince from the fridge. I am made for this kind of thing.
While the companion recovered from the shock I tackled a very generous tuna tartare (see a theme emerging?) with tangy citrus-dressed salad. The cubed, raw fish had been tossed with soya sauce and sesame oil and formed into a timbale or small mound. After my foray into the beef, it would have quite enough for me.
However, despite my notoriously small appetite and a large payload of raw protein what came next was the highlight of the meal and, as is often the case, it was simplicity itself, involving impeccable raw materials and no messing about.
This was a small portion (you have a choice) of al dente pasta ribbons, calamarata, to be precise, so named because it comes in rings like squid, with guanciale, the cured pork cheek from which proper carbonara is made when combined with just eggs and Pecorino cheese. Here it was just the pasta, the guanciale and the Pecorino. So simple, so delicious, so perfect.
The companion’s lamb was the perfect shade of pink for me, and although I think he wanted to take a blowlamp to it, consumed it with relish. Well, with a sharp salsa, courgette and olives. This was roast lamb in almost caricature Italian style and none the less attractive for that.
The idea of “Blood orange and Campari cake with yoghurt sorbet and yuzu marmalade” was irresistible, the sweetness cut by the bitterness of Campari and the sharpness of the yuzu, that rare Japanese citrus. A selection from the Natural Ice Cream Company in Co Wexford, otherwise known as Scúp, was darn good. They make ice cream in the genuine, obsessional Italian manner.
Drury Building, is a restaurant with enough well-founded confidence to serve food simply and in a broadly Italian style that is as far removed from the usual trattoria tat as you can get. It’s elegant and understated, with a big, airy dining room and lovely staff. With wines by the glass and mineral water our bill came to €129.95.
(And I apologise for the headline, especially to those who get it).