Delicious down to the marrow
EAT OUT:Whitefriar Grill has perfected its meaty offerings, especially the divine bone marrow starter
Suddenly the design of a dog’s tongue makes perfect sense. A long length of flexible muscle with taste buds is what’s needed to get the most of this starter. In its absence, I make do with a teaspoon to scrape the last meat jelly morsels out of their thick bone casing.
Walking into Whitefriar Grill on Dublin’s Aungier St out of the bone-chilling cold you are greeted with the two great things: a blast of warmth and the smell of meat. The small restaurant is in the building that used to house Conrad Gallagher’s Salon des Saveurs. And we are now digging into one of the best starters you can eat in Dublin on a winter’s night, the €8 roast bone marrow with oxtail marmalade and salsa verde.
It comes on a wooden chopping board with three thick beef bones chopped like tree branches, their hollows filled with the roasted marrow. It’s simply an essence of meat. There are wobbly bits of brown jellied fat and marrow that you fish out with your spoon and drop onto good griddled toasts. A small pot of oxtail marmalade adds a firmer meat texture. Then you top each mouthful off with the salsa verde, a thick vinaigrette with the freshest of blitzed herbs – parsley, tarragon and rocket, I reckon. The marrow, meat and herbs combination performs a little bit of magic in your mouth. Nose-to-shin eating doesn’t get much better than this.
Whitefriar Grill has a cafe feel with bare wooden tables, jam-jar lamp shades hanging from the ceiling and nightlight candles set into the nooks in the wall. Despite the warmth and cave-like lighting it’s not a luxurious or cosy space. The bar in the middle looks like it might have had a former life as a garden shed. Tonight’s patrons are almost entirely made up of young couples.
A Mount Callan twice-baked souffle is a quietly great starter that suffers a little in the shadow of the marrowfest. A firm dome that comes in its own ovenproof pot, it’s finished in the oven with melted cheese. The twice-baking means there’s no hot air involved so it’s a reliable way to wrap this tasty Irish cheddar in eggy flavour.
Mains take us in two different directions. My slow-cooked rabbit leg is good, the pale meat delicate with a musky top note that tells you this leg did some kicking in its day. It’s served on mashed potato with a mix of pancetta cubes, celery, carrots, griddled spring onions and a mustardy light gravy. Liam has resisted ordering steak and gone for the hake with a crab and chilli linguine. It doesn’t work. The hake is dry and the crab pasta tastes thin as if the three separate flavours each stayed firmly in their own boxes rather than rubbing up against each other to create something lovely. Go with your instincts, is the lesson here. When in a grill house, order the meat.