Gastro: Scene, Herd – Bovinity


Posted 1 month ago in Restaurant Reviews

NCH – 25 sep-3 oct-22 Desktop

I’m not one to bury the lede, so I’ll get it out of the way up front – I feel quite positively disposed toward this place. The only real beef I have is with the name. It is, hooves down, one of the most abysmally misjudged and cack-handed attempts at brand name-generation that I’ve witnessed for some time. That said, I didn’t see the brief so maybe ‘the team’ totally nailed it like. I get it, tone is tricky yo. It’s also possible that the client was one of those have-a-go-merchants who imagine that copy writing is like, a piece of piss. Sister restaurant ‘All Bar Chicken’ would seem to support the theory. Just down the street it is, to all intents and purposes a chicken place, while the name strongly implies that it is anything such. Maybe a comma disappeared during the creative process. ‘All Bar, Chicken’ could almost feasibly nod to a focus on cocktails with a passing commitment to poultry.

Whatever. Who cares. Perhaps the Bovinity name will itself act as a kind of spur, engendering a steely-eyed ambition to succeed in spite of it, like all of those unfortunate French men who were christened Kevin in the ‘90s and now endure mockery and persecution. I’ve given the phenomenon too much thought, of course, and arrived at an unfounded conclusion that this was born perhaps of a lazy Gallic alternative to ‘tiger parenting’ – just give them a shit, un-French name and let society do the hard yards for you. Merci beaucoup Maman.

Bovinity opened at some point in June and positioned itself right out of the gate as some kind of Gen-Z, internet-addled, ADHD alternative to what used to be called steak houses. The monocle didn’t quite pop from my eye at the news but it did occur to me that the depiction of this cohort as joyless, pallid, vegan abstentionists might be wide of the mark. Three out of four ain’t bad, I guess. The general vibe is one of fair fucks, Dublin ya ride, spicebag memefied basicness. Accessible alternatives to the leather, Cohibas and Cognac model are not new, of course, Le Relais de Venise has been doing its entrecôte and all-you-can-eat frites thing all over (but not here) for decades. Our own Butcher Grill (more later) also manages to serve top-drawer cuts while side-stepping the hoary old tropes.

Nevertheless, putting the words ‘steak’ and ‘house’ together inevitably conjures the kind of place where puce-faced patriarchs would hold forth on politics and pussy for a red-blooded retinue, sluicing down good Claret like it’s going out of fashion. It was never really a Dublin thing, with Shanahan’s on The Green probably coming closest, a shite-hawk’s Hawksmoor. (Yes, I know it’s coming. I’ll see you there.) On a side-note, if you have yet to experience the freshly pedestrianised Capel Street, a word of warning, no cars doesn’t mean no peril. I found myself running the gauntlet of a Deliveroo super-highway, dodging a silent but deadly torrent of e-bikes ferrying tasty filth to the hungry housebound. Watch yer house as the Bovinity social feeds might say.

The room is not going to appear in Architectural Digest anytime soon and that’s just fine. The long narrow space is done over in the chicken-wire and neon industrialism that was a thing twelve years ago. You’ll want one of the tables at the front of house for preference but the windowless rear is not without its charms after a couple of strong drinks. 20-somethings have recently discovered the pleasures of sugary cocktail confections and the bar here is more than happy to accommodate the diabetic shock. I imagine they’ll be slinging a lot of Espresso Martinis and Sex on the Beach(es). The latter will probably be re-branded as crabs by the canal or some such. We enjoyed a couple of well made (if a mite sweet) Negronis.

All starters come in under a tenner and all of them represent good value. Prawns Pil Pil is a faithful rendition of that Basque standard, the russet sauce boisterous with garlic and carrying the sting and heat of both paprika and chilli. Slow Cooked Pork Belly is perfectly rendered and sitting in a bright, fruity, pool of smoked pepper sauce that Balkan folks would probably call Ajvar. Burrata brings its rich, lactic creaminess alongside some sun-sweetened heritage tomatoes. When it comes to the steaks we’re not talking about Himalayan salt-ageing rooms and they won’t be paraded around the dining room before being cooked. All cuts are sourced from F.X Buckley, an outfit who know their beef from the ground up. On my first visit I tried the rib-eye and the ‘Chef’s Steak’, a piece of flank on the night. If I was serving it at home I’d probably refer to it as Bavette. Flank always puts me in mind of a military ambush. Both arrive cooked as requested, sliced and featuring the mineral tang of grass fed beef. At €23 and €17 respectively nobody should be complaining. Get some French fries and dredge them through some Bearnaise. Steer clear of the industrially acrid ‘bone gravy’.

I returned on a Saturday to check out the weekend scene and was gratified to see a mix of sibling catch-ups and family celebrations amid the Tinder dates and abysmal table manners. Yes, it’s designed to drain Revolut rather than expense accounts but it’s a safe space for grown-ups too. The bibimbap looks like an outlier on the menu and it is but it’s also much better than it has any right to be. Every component is just so from the rich slow-cooked beef and the banchan meant for mixing to the lacy-edged egg which tops the plate. It is every bit as good an example as you’ll find in any of the street’s Korean joints. When I enquire about its presence on the menu our server volunteers the intel that one of the owners is Chinese. I let that hang in the air for a moment before changing the subject. There’s a very serviceable double smash burger too although it’s not quite ready to take the crown yet from the Dash savants down the street. Keep trying.

 

I should single out the service too – every member of the floor staff was well-drilled, attentive and affable on both occasions. Kudos. Whatever shortcomings the place has are overcome with a kind of goofy youthful charm. Everybody seems to be enjoying service and that always goes a long way. During the course of writing I joined an old friend who was visiting from out of town for dinner at The Butcher Grill to catch up and chew the (proverbial) fat. I used the opportunity to check in on what was the best place in town to eat beef. It still is. It’s an evergreen restaurant, by which I mean you’ll pay for the privilege of feasting on those flown-in USDA striploins and Uruguayan ribeyes. Bovinity is not trying to compete at this level. It’s a place that Dublin can use. The price point is achievable for most and the welcome is warm – only right and proper on this most democratic of dining streets. Rumours of a follow-up fine-dining venture called Ovinity remain unconfirmed but expect only the finest cuts of hogget and mutton to feature in its eighteen-course tastings. I look forward to being fleeced.

Bovinity

123 Capel St

Dublin 1

bovinity.ie

Words: Conor Stevens

Photos: Dublin Cocktail Lab

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