For those who fear change, it can be tough to see your favourite restaurant announce they’re temporarily closing doors for refurbishments. Change is good but not too much change, some might say. Whitefriar Grill closed this spring for refurbishments and I was back to see what had changed since our last Totally Dublin visit in winter 2011.
Truthfully, and what I’m sure many will be happy to hear, not a lot has. That deliciously unctuous bone marrow is still there, as are those fantastically blackened flatbreads. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” Geoff Nordell of Whitefriar Grill explains. “We give the customers what they want and just do it a little differently. They’ve voted with their feet.” The changes appear to be merely aesthetic, with a now open plan kitchen and the absence of the bar to make room for more tables. “The aim was to make better use of the room available”, says Geoff. “The dining room is twice the previous size and the punters can see their food being prepared in the open kitchen; it’s like performance art now.”
My friend Jean and I were in for a bottle of wine, a feed and a chinwag before a Thursday night gig. The place was already packed and was probably why we had made considerable in-roads into our bottle of crisp and cheerful Garganega (€25) by the time our starters arrived. We shared our juicy and sweet slices of cantaloupe melon wrapped in salty parma ham and covered in honey and fought over the the plate of pil-pil prawns on toast. Lip-smacking stuff.
Mains were a roasted piece of hake with a salty and sticky caponata and spuds, a tasty little number of a dish. The pulled pork with the aforementioned flatbreads was a salty, stringy treat of flavour with generous sides of fries, coleslaw and BBQ sauce. I’m not sure if the flatbreads quite work with the pulled pork, which I feel is more manageable in a small, fluffy bun. I do understand the kitchen’s insistence on serving them however as they really are cracking pieces of dough.
There are two types of people; those who like relaxed, laid-back service and those who prefer fast over friendly. I like unfussy, efficient service but I know that some find a casual attitude in a waiter disconcerting. It’s about your expectations of service; I will always prefer welcoming rather than fastidious which I think is executed well at Whitefriar Grill. This breezy buzz did however mean we weren’t left with enough time for dessert before running off to our gig.
We had chosen from the Early Bird menu which runs all night on a Thursday and is still great value two years on at two courses at €19.50 and three for €22. Our bill came to €64.00, and would only have been another €2.50 if we had shared a dessert. Next time we’re in for brunch, we’ll be totally justified in ordering dessert. Even if our brunch is Whitefriar Grill’s infamously gut-busting foie gras waffles.
Keep an eye on Whitefriar Grill’s website for details of special events such as their Monday Corkage club or their Sunday Drag ‘n’ Brunch featuring some of Dublin’s best drag hosts.
16 Aungier Street
Words: Aoife McElwain