Marco Pierre White Courtyard Bar and Grill, Donnybrook, Dublin 4, tel 01 551 0555
Chef: Philip Boyd
The latest restaurant to open in the Marco Pierre White chain is located in the Courtyard in Donnybrook and as the MPW brand has many fans on Dawson Street, no doubt they’ll be keen to try this latest location, as I was.
I’d booked a table on a Friday night with two long standing members of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild so the restaurant was in for a thorough examination. Firstly, the décor has radically changed, the ceilings have been lowered and enormous leather banquettes combine with subtle lighting and dark furniture in creating a very clubby feel. Our first table in the centre of the restaurant was summarily rejected as too noisey and our wonderfully efficient maitre d’ whisked us off to a banquette.
The menu here is solid and reliable with a range of beef steaks in various sizes and types from €26 to €34, nineteen options in total. You’ll also find grills, roasts and fish. We went for the early bird of two courses for €21.95 or three for €26.95, it represents good value for early diners but you need to get your order in before 7pm.
I had the smoked mackerel brandade as part of the set menu. This came in a kilner jar and won high praise from all. Thick chunks of fish allowed the smoky, flesh texture to have its say and the horseradish kicked roguishly along beside it, thin crisps of bread were an ideal foil instead of over-sized hunks of bread.
I matched this with a refreshing glass of Verdejo from Rueda, by Jose Pariente (€10), though it did make me wonder if there was a link between my Verdejo addiction and my gout.
The chicken liver parfait with raisins, Madeira jelly and toasted brioche was another winner of a dish. From the very first taste we discerned a depth of flavour which suggested some classic craftsmanship from the kitchen. The brioche was a sweet cloud-like delight too, always such a perfect match with a parfait.
Other choices included a salad of beetroot, Ryefield goats cheese and a walnut dressing as well as a soup of the day. There’s also fresh asparagus with a sauce hollandaise: fresh it may be, but not seasonal, so I would have thought it was an unnecessarily expensive addition to the menu.
Between courses we considered ordering ear trumpets as a gang of rugby boys and their chic girlfriends arrived beside us adding to the high volume. Why they couldn’t just text each other across the table I really don’t know.
For the main course we had fish and chips, haddock and triple cooked chips to be precise. All were pronounced perfectly cooked though I felt the accompanying sauce could have done with some chopped, boiled eggs to cut through the strong favours.
I ordered the veal liver with bacon and mash. The liver could have been thicker as the thin slices were very well done. There’s a world of a difference between liver just below à point and liver cooked beyond that. The agricultural portion of mashed spuds will please some but lacked some finesse for my delicate frame.
The Pinot Noir I’d ordered worked well with the liver, a glass of Kim Crawford from Marlborough / Central Otago in New Zealand, well worth the €11.50 per glass.
We struggled to get attention throughout the meal, the corner table is a bit of a black spot when wait staff scan but we finally ordered our dessert. The sticky toffee pudding delivered on the sticky part but the pudding was less than moist and oddly textured.
The seasonal crumble was very bitter, indeed too bitter, which is saying something coming from me, and the vanilla custard was in need of vanilla. A sad little coda to an otherwise satisfying feed of grub.
Marco Pierre White restaurants are essentially doing middle-brow food for conservative palates in vibrant venues. Nothing wrong with that. I’m all in favour of a decent steak and some of my best friends were Tories but I’m beyond high-volume chat in a restaurant, it’s time for the return of the carpet. Verdict? MPW fans will be delighted: the Michelin guide will sweep past.
This first appeared in The Sunday Business Post, November 2013.