Beast review: 'Vegans deserve better than the meat substitute at this plant-based restaurant'
Beast, 41 Victoria Quay, Dublin 8
'They are going to say that you're in the pocket of Big Meat," says my son as we drive home from Beast after our depressing vegan meal, concerned that I might be about to come in for some online flack when this review appears.
He has a point. Back in 2013 I co-authored (with butcher supreme, Pat Whelan) The Irish Beef Book and I'm currently working on another food book with a meat focus. Over the St Patrick's Day weekend, I made progress towards perfecting my Etto-style côte de boeuf technique at home, using great meat from The Village Butcher in Ranelagh. (I'm not quite there yet.)
I eat lamb, pork and chicken too, but I'm picky about sourcing. I eat fish, but not every fish. And, increasingly, like many others, a lot of the meals that I eat, both at home and in restaurants, are vegetable-focussed. Some of them are even - accidentally - vegan.
Filling the fridge with good organic greens (and yellows, reds and purples) from McNally Family Farm each week grounds the way that we eat as a family, and the longer that we've been doing it, the better we get at understanding the order in which the various crops need to be used to minimise waste. It's the next best thing to growing our own. Actually, it's better.
So I've nothing against plant-based food... If it tastes good. And I've no wish to slag off vegans and vegetarians for their chosen way of eating, so long as they are respectful of mine.
Like many teenagers, I flirted with being a vegetarian. I put my poor mother through hell for a couple of years, before forsaking my principles for a Big Mac when McDonald's first opened its doors on Grafton Street. In fairness, she gave back as good as she got, wearing me down with tins of TVP (textured vegetable protein) sausages and mince. I wasn't sad to see the back of them when I re-embraced life as an omnivore.
Recently, the two best plant-based meals that I ate in restaurants were when Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy in New York was the guest chef at JP McMahon's Aniar, and Frenchie London head chef Adam Purcell popped up at Forest Avenue. On both occasions, the food was so good that you didn't miss the meat.
Beast is a new vegan junk food restaurant located on the south city quays close to Guinness on the way to Heuston Station that looks as if it's been done up on a very short shoestring.
The 'wings' are made of VFC (Vegan Fried Chick-Hun), some class of protein-enriched plant-based material that reminded me of the TVP of old. The leaden nuggets are doused in a hot sauce that's grand, not great.
The same VFC crops up again in the Garlic Butter Chick-Hun - "deep-fried in crispy (sic) batter" - which we get in taco form (in a wrap) and again in the Monster Burger, which comes with Badass bacon, a spongy strip that tastes vaguely smoked.
The CheeseSteak Glory - "like a Philly Cheese Steak but better" - is made with a different kind of fake meat, doused in a heavy sauce. There's another strip of sponge that perhaps is 'cheese', but I can't distinguish it from 'bacon'. On the plus side, the coleslaw is pretty good, and the roastie fries are great.
A soy-based Whiskey Chocolate Orange Cheese Cake is a mess of goo with some puffed rice (I think) for texture that's pleasant, as chocolatey orangey goo goes. We can't detect any whiskey.
Beast is co-owned with vegan food truck Eat My Veg and vegan food brand Moodley Manor, which makes a great garlic mayonnaise. The menu features many of the ingredients that you'll find on their website.
I don't have any strong feelings about fake meat, but vegans deserve better.
The bill for dinner for four including soft drinks and a banoffi shake came to €62.
ON A BUDGET
A portion of wings - #VFC (Vegan Fried Chick-Hun) strips coated in hot sauce or garlic 'butter' - costs €8.
ON A BLOW OUT
The Breakfast Burger Meal - #SavageSausage burger with hashbrown, #Badassbacon and 3AM Garlic Slaw - served with fries and salad, with shakes and cheesecake will cost €46 for two before service.
THE HIGH POINT
THE LOW POINT
The fake meat.