Review: a disappointing one-trick pony

There are good things about this beef eatery but more excellence is needed

Sat, Feb 3, 2018, 06:00

   

Boeuf

Boeuf is French for beef. It can be French for “whatever” when delivered with a shoulder shrug and world weary sigh. It’s also a steakhouse on Dublin’s South William Street. I’ve never noticed it before but someone put their head in the door recently looking for a last-minute table and was taken by the place. “It smelled of marrow,” my spies (okay my husband) told me. And with those words I reached for a website. 

The promise of a place that smells tasty is getting me past the “Hugh Heifer” character that tops the online menu with his personal message of welcome. This medallion-wearing old beefsteak feels clunky even if you ignore the small fact that a heifer is a girl cow. I guess Hilda Heifer wouldn’t have the same bovines in bikinis ring to it. It’s a reminder of why steakhouses don’t rock my boat: the nostril-snorting overload of muscle. 

In real life, the first impression of Boeuf is its Frenchness rather than its bullishness, and yes it does smell great. Bentwood chairs, a white marble floor and blood-red table tops glossy as a bullet-proof Shellac manicure contrast with white metro tiles on the walls. Above them are distressed mirror metro tiles, which is a collision of design eras that’s a new one on me. (They must be based on the tiles they used in that metro station under the palace of Versailles back in the day.)

Other bits of that vague era known as yesteryear are attached to the wall in the shape of meaty looking cleavers, their blades dulled to slate grey and an array of antique cork screws on the wall below the wine rack.

The restaurant is small and noisy thanks to the clank and sizzle of cooking, a loud soundtrack and hard surfaces everywhere. There are footpath tables in a covered-in space outside but the heat lamps are set to stun, to combat the night chill, so I’ve opted for a corner table inside. 

Boeuf is a one trick pony (sorry heifer). There is only steak, with many sides, sauces and “crusts” and for the vegetarian who insists on going to a steakhouse there’s a tofu steak. “In the interests of research I might have to order it,” I threaten my friend. “Please don’t,” he begs. 

First to the good things. “You’re gonna have to help me with this,” I predict when my “New York striploin” arrives on its scratchy black cast-iron plate. But no. Turns out meat this luscious makes me Joey from Friends not sharing food, eating with one arm curved around the plate. 

The service is another high point, solicitous and French, with plenty of free house sparkling water and a forgotten phone returned with twinkling charm as we chat outside later. But Paul’s fillet mignon is less good, though it’s been advertised on the menu as a tenderer piece. It’s chewy and a bit lumpen and by the time it cools it’s no hardship to leave the last large chunk behind. 

A starter of sauté Atlantic prawns have not been flashed in a hot pan with foamy butter and then served as the description might lead you to think. They are served in a mealy bisque and are rubbery rather than fluffy. Parmesan and truffle fries have a snowfall of dried cheese on them but no truffle and the French beans are watery. 

Desserts

In the “we-only-do-one-thing” school of desserts they only do crème brûlée here, which feels like a nice relief from the overload of choices we navigate in life. It’s a fine rendition of the classic (you can order a salted caramel version), but the blowtorch used at the table to turn the sugar lid into a scorched lid has all the ferocity of a tealight with notions. So instead of the fast and furious physics of crunchy sugar turned to molten liquid cooled to crisp lid we get a slow melt that leaves a gritty rather than glassy finish. 

I like Boeuf more than its website. But when you’re a one-trick pony the trick needs to be bloody good. More excellence is needed. Ditch the cartoon bull, bring a serious farmer to the table who’s growing her beef on an organic and entirely grass-fed farm and serve with eye-closingly good fries. That would bring me back in the flick of a cow’s tail.

Dinner for two with shared starter, two desserts, free water and a glass of Côtes du Rhône came to €70.30

Boeuf: the lowdown

Verdict: 6/10 Left feeling un-mooved to return

Music: Loud but nice pop

Facilities: Small and made of marine ply

Vegetarian options: That tofu steak with sides

Wheelchair access: No

Food provenance: “Irish” beef as detailed as it gets.