Marco Pierre White Courtyard Bar and Grill: The price is White

Marco Pierre White’s new D4 eatery transports you back to a time of ordinary, overpriced food

Sat, Nov 23, 2013, 01:00


Marco Pierre Whites Courtyard Bar and Grill

  • 1 Belmont Avenue , Donnybrook
  • (01) 5510555
  • French

Let’s try to ignore the elephantine ego in the room. Forget the ceiling lights angled to light the caricatures on the wall. Ignore the lifesize face with fag dangling from his lips on the placemat in front of you. Feel the relief that they haven’t put his picture in the loos. I can’t vouch for the gents. There’s a giant M on the door of the gents so maybe it’s a tribute cave where a cardboard cutout hands out the facecloths you can use to dry your hands.

Let’s take Marco Pierre White out of the picture. We know the London chef is not in the kitchen here in his second Dublin restaurant, in partnership with the Fitzer restaurant family. But everywhere are signs of a man in love with his own legend: once rock star, now older, stockier (pun fully intended) god. So lionised is the image you feel he might write menu suggestions in squid ink on the bodies of flunkeys, or carve them into Parmesan wheels and pitch them down steep mountainsides to roll up at the gates here at Marco Pierre White Courtyard Bar and Grill. It’s a mouthful of a name, seven words where one (Fitzers) would probably do.

Anyway, baggage stowed in the overhead locker, what’s it like? Well, it’s a lot like 2005. Inside this Donnybrook redbrick is a smart Londony-New Yorky fitout in 50 shades of brown. Outside is a courtyard with fires burning in glass boxes and a garden-centre label still attached to at least one of the trees.

Expensive as it looks inside, with its Jules Verne diving-bell lamps, the mock-mahogany tables have a slidey finish. This means the cutlery skitters like a compass needle on a stormy ship rarely fastening on true north. The service, like the place, is more solid, handsome and smart.

The a la carte menu is strikingly pricey, even for Donnybrook. So we’re taking the Jack Sprat approach, one early bird, one splurge.

It’s a meat- (steak six ways) and fish-fest kind of menu. He-who-shall- not-be-named takes pride in not offering a vegetarian main course. So if you’re not inclined to order anything with a face, you can eat six spears of indifferent asparagus with a tablespoon of hollandaise over them for €8.95.

This is all predictably macho so I’m surprised by the matronly touches dotted throughout the meal. There are dolls’ house copper pots of sauces on the side, as if a D4 dieters’ club had a hand in the mission statement. My Castletownbere crab comes with “sauce mayonnaise” in a piped splodge on the side. The crabmeat is fine but the muslin-wrapped lemon it’s served with isn’t particularly juicy, which seems like a waste of effort. There are surgically scissored micro-chives and a tangle of micro-basil and parsley. This is not the last we’ll see of these garnishes. Carol draws the short spear with the asparagus starter. It’s a Ronseal dish: asparagus, hollandaise. The end.

Her herbed chicken is probably the best dish of the night. The meat is juicy and chalk-pale as if it’s been brined and then finished with a herby crust, with yet more sauce on the side and some decent fondant potato.

My rack of Wicklow lamb (which is five cent short of €30) is disappointing. The meat is sinewy, fatty and a touch watery. The fiery mustard dressing, with more micro-chives, is way too punchy for the lamb. The lowest point is a €4.95 side of five onion rings, so drenched in oil that they drip when you bite down. There’s another €4.95 “beef tomato basil salad” side and it’s just that: a single beef tomato, sliced with yet more micro-herbs and some finely diced shallots.

Desserts are decent but small. My plum crumble has salty nuts in the crumble topping, which is a great touch. Carol’s bread-and-butter pud is an excellent rendition, but thinking about the mark-up that turns such a small portion of bread, eggs, cream, sugar and raisins into an €8.95 dessert hurts my brain.

The only wow of the night is the bill. We’ve had just a glass of wine each, and a lot of tap water. One of us had the early bird and it’s come to almost €60 a head. Good food is worth the spend and I’ll happily put up with catering quantities of guff from chefs if they put something gorgeous on my plate. But that’s not what’s happening here. It’s 2005 again, folks. This place is jumping on a weeknight. Forget green shoots. Ordinary, overpriced food is back.

Dinner for two came to €117.05.



THE VERDICT: For these prices there are better places
Marco Pierre White Courtyard Bar and Grill,
1 Belmont Avenue, Donnybrook
Facilities: Mercifully Marco-free
Music: Background pop
Food provenance: Lots of place names for the fish 
Wheelchair access: Yes