NOT JUST BRILLIANT,
BUT GENEROUS TO A FAULT.
22 Camden Street
Irish Daily Mail
13 July 2019
I'm reading an advance copy of restaurant critic Jay Rayner's My Last Supper (which will be out in September) in which he contemplates what he would eat at said repast, and reflects on how he has got to where he is, including stints in "serious" journalism.
This reminded me of how, in a previous journalistic life, my phone was bugged on the orders of Charlie Haughey who wanted to identify my source on the chaos that attended the scandalously rushed opening of Beaumont Hospital. I was tipped off by a Garda contact and the old rogue never found what he was looking for.
Like him, I'll quote from Othello and claim that I did the State some service then. And now I'll do it again by saying that Dublin has a cracker of a new restaurant. The simple fact is that Frank's is sheer unalloyed delight. If you could book a seat at the communal table (which you can't) I would have one permanently reserved. That good.
Of course, it's not for everyone. If you want meat and three veg, a starter, main course and pud, the usual bloody suspects (pasta, chicken, pork belly), table cloths, a predictable all-things-to-all-people wine selection, forget it. You won't be short of options for that class of thing.
Frank's was, until recently, a butcher's shop and it still looks like one from the outside. It's easy to miss. Inside, there's a long Corian table surrounded by stools and dark green walls. At the back, there's a minute kitchen where Chris Maguire, who used to create magic at Lock's, prepares everything in front of your very eyes.
The menu is very short, the platefuls are small and designed for sharing (although solo eating here could be a lot of fun too). And this is what we had (i.e. most of the menu)...
"Watermelon, cucumber, almond, herbs," it read, like a telegram (remember those?). It ate deliciously, tasting intensely of Summer and freshness with hints of herbs and Balsamic and purity. And, yes, a very happy combination of textures.
Then ham hock terrine, but not as in the bistro staple (which is fine and dandy in its place). This was two little cylinders of dense meat with a splendidly hot and spicy jalapeño purée drizzled around the small plate. There was also the crunch of pickles and the deep savouriness of Parmesan cream.
Onwards to confit king oyster mushroom, meaty and - yes - umami on a plate, with even more in the shape of anchovy and Parmesan, the whole symphony counterpointed by the sticky richness of a barely cooked egg yolk.
Then we had slices of raw sea bream with a tart, fruity smoked tomato broth which combined with that potential thug of a herb, lovage, to make another dish that tasted firmly and convincingly of Summer, and lightness and the proof that savoury can be almost gossamer light when it wants to be.
We finished with a little slice of Durrus in impeccable condition, with biscuits almost as good as the cheese and a fresh chutney of apple and apricot that made the Durrus taste even more of Durrus. How about that for judgement?
And a pudding - or, if you prefer, dessert - that was as simple as it was a perfect combination of flavours and textures. Supremely ripe nectarine, unpeeled and cut into rough cubes, served with ricotta that had been enriched with brown butter, scattered with shortbread crumbs. The brown butter may have been in the latter but the point is that it was one of the simplest and best things I've had in ages.
Alongside these delights - not a word I find myself using very often - we had excellent filtered still water and several glasses of wine including a brilliant Bouzeron 2012 from Louis Jadot for €6 (sic!) a glass (125ml), a nutty dry Amontillado and a brilliant sticky which is outlined below.
The bill? It barely breached the €100 mark.
Frank's is not just brilliant, it's generous almost to a fault.