A CARNIVORE’S CAVE IN TEMPLE BAR?
YES, AND I’M FEELING QUITE AT HOME...
2-5 East Essex Street
Phone: 01616 9564
Irish Daily Mail
4 November 2017
Isn’t it a wonder that we don’t really do steak restaurants here in Ireland, home of the best grass-fed cattle in the world? There’s Shanahan’s, of course, where developers and visiting Russian oligarchs like to go and feed on the familiar. And the somewhat cheaper Marco Pierre White’s with which the man himself has about as much involvement as I have in the Department of Finance. And there are the steak “deals” in pubs, featuring implausibly cheap bits of meat which invariably turn out to have been “needled” to make them chewable.
The problem is that a proper steak restaurant has to be expensive because the best meat comes with a hefty price tag.
These were the thoughts that ran through my mind as I headed down the quay to Tomahawk, a new carnivorous establishment that is part of Dollard & Co, the redevelopment of the eponymous old printing company’s splendid premises beside the Clarence Hotel.
You may remember that I reviewed Roberta’s, the restaurant at the top of the building a few months back and was underwhelmed. Tomahawk is the ying to Roberta’s yang, so to speak, in two respects. It’s in the basement and it’s good.
Tomahawk’s fit-out is very striking. It’s all dark wood and tightly buttoned plump leather banquettes in reassuring red. Lighting is low, seats are comfortable and designed to hold the amply upholstered bottoms of the kind of men who will want to eat here. Details are exceptional, right down to the glass rail on the bar which is straight out of New York in the 1930s.
In fact, Tomahawk is very New York but with grass-fed beef not the seriously inferior grain-fed stuff that Americans love (because they know no better). It’s the New York of the Knickerbocker and Harvard Clubs, very Ivy League and Brooks Brothers, not the New York that most of us know.
You don’t have to eat meat to come here (there’s a vegetarian starter and main course), but it really does help. They even do steak tartare, a rarity in Ireland because environmental health officers hate it, and there’s a 600g “double Barnsley chop” which is a strange way of putting it. A Barnsley chop is double anyway. Maybe this is quadruple?
Anyway, to table. Or, in our case, to the long bar with a fine view of the wood-fired grill. We started with oysters, declining the “warm merguez sausage dressing” and taking lemon instead. They were fine, pleasantly presented and a little smaller than I’d generally expect. Especially at €13.50 for six.
Scallops, nicely seared, came with strands of fennel, both raw and crisped, and a bright green chimichurri which tasted equally green and tart and fresh but, to quibble for a moment, had been blitzed into a very smooth sauce. Chimichurri is always better with a bit of decent texture.
And then came what we simply had to order. This was the 850g (or 30 ounce, in old money) rib-eye steak for two and it was magnificent. Cooked medium rare, sliced and presented on a board with a vast tangle of floured and crisped onions. A large bowl of skinny fries, a ramekin of Béarnaise and a little jug of meat juices accompanied.
The meat was properly seasoned, cooked to exactly the optimum shade of pink and had exceptional flavour. The Béarnaise was a little over-whisked a needed more acidic and salt kick. I’m still looking for the perfect chip in Dublin and while these ones were decent, the search goes on. I suspect that cooking in beef dripping may be the secret, so why not do so here? I think there would be a market.
Dessert? You must be joking. We had one pretty terrible coffee lots of sparkling water, a glass of white with the starters and we shared a bottle of underwhelming red with the vast amount of meat and the bill came to just over €150. Despite the quibbles, we loved it. So, considering the bill, that’s just as well.