As restaurants are closing, so too are they opening, and mainly by players already in the field. The Butcher Grill in Ranelagh is a case in point.
It is the sister restaurant of Dillinger's, which is located nearby in Dylan McGrath's erstwhile Mint. I liked Dillinger's when I visited, and haven't had a chance to return, but it seems popular with the Ranelagh set, which is comprised of young professionals and those about town.
However, I have reservations about The Butcher Grill. To my mind, it was an expensive experience for what was on offer, and it struck me as being just that bit too greedy in certain regards. It's a small place, and they may feel that their rent and expenses justify the prices, but I am not sure the punter is interested in either of those elements.
Located on the main drag in Ranelagh village, the walls, featuring murals of jointed beasts, are appropriately white-tiled.
If they had extended the name to The Butcher Grill Bar, then we might have got the drift that most of the seating is excruciatingly uncomfortable. The high wooden bar-chairs leave the back of your thighs with a dent from keeping your feet on the table rung, and leave your backside paralysed for 24 hours. The only pleasant place to sit is on the side banquette, though your opposing partner will have the aforementioned treat on a stool.
I would expect to sit up here and eat a burger, or a hot dog and a smoothie, and be gone in 20 minutes, but not be facing starters generally priced between €10.50-€12, a rib-eye steak at €26, with chips and other sides at a pricey €4 a pop; unless, of course, Ranelagh is in an IMF-free, protected bubble.
The cheapest house wine was €24 -- Bovine 1 -- moving up to €29 for red Bovine 3. There are no half bottles or carafes available, and the house wine is by the glass at €6/€7.50.
For that money I don't want to be hanging off a narrow table, as I would be in a railway station caff, or on a high stool stuck out beside the door, and clutching my bag between my knees.
I have no beef, if you will forgive the pun, with the actual food or service, which was very pleasant, with that studied, laid-back, hippy-dippy feel Dillinger's has.
Gambas with a dollop of Romesco sauce at €11 consisted of four grilled, skewered prawns -- simple enough.
A "starter special" of a prettily presented slice of smoked salmon, topped with a teaspoon of crab at €8.50, was a money spinner.
Mains included ribs with coleslaw at €17, an oxtail hotpot at €19, hake or halibut, both at €23, veal striploin at €24.50, rib-eye at €26 and cote de boeuf for two with hand-cut chips was €45.
Rena's excellent rare rose veal striploin (€24.50), on a little spinach and wild mushrooms with Madeira sauce, was topped with a crispy truffled egg.
Roast hake fillet (€23) with mussel, chorizo and butter-bean stew had the fish, which was a tad overcooked and flabby, sitting on a big bowl of mussels and clams, which were overkill. The mussels and clams were also on the menu as a special stand-alone dish.
"Did I get this as a mistake?" I queried. It had three or four teeny specks of chorizo, three butter beans and some jus: the balance was wrong, and impossible to negotiate. They removed the mussels, put the clams in a side bowl, and threw in a few more beans, but it was not a winning dish. Side orders of cauliflower cheese and fries were €4 a pop.
At money time, the credit-card machine was not yet in -- there was a mention of the hole in the wall -- or they would be happy to take my details. I'm sure they would, but I really object to not being told on booking, or before I climbed aboard.
At €90.50 with just two glasses of wine (€7.50) each, without service and puds, this is off the clock nowadays in this sort of casual eatery.
The Butcher Grill,
92 Ranelagh Village,
Tel: (01) 498-1805
Sunday Indo Life Magazine