Restaurant review: 'Small plates and subtle flavours are the staple at Frank’s'
Frank's, 22 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2. Instagram: @franksdublin
Frank's Pork Shop is the legend on the old canopy over a small-plates and wine bar that opened in a former butcher's premises on Dublin's Camden St back in May, a sibling to Delahunt a few doors away. As has become the norm with any new restaurant opening, there was a flurry of media interest in the early weeks and an amount of breathless enthusiasm.
Apparently, there were queues around the block. I held off to see how things would settle down once the hype had subsided. There is always a new restaurant opening somewhere in Dublin these days, but for every one that opens, another closes. The city is in danger of losing fine establishments that have been around for years because there are simply not enough customers to sustain them all, and there is a natural tendency to flock to the new. There is hand-wringing whenever one closes, but the simple fact is that if we want restaurants that we like to stay in business, then we have to eat in them. Every day I hear rumours about the imminent demise of well-known establishments.
Anyway, what about Frank's? We are waiting outside the door at 4.55pm on a Wednesday because it's a place that doesn't take bookings and we're not minded to spend hours queuing for dinner on a drizzly autumn evening. As it happens, not only are we the first people in the door when it opens at five, but remain the only customers until 5.50pm, when others start to arrive. (By the time we leave, just before 7pm, the place is full.)
There are no tables, just a wide central island topped in silestone (so much less trouble than pesky marble) with stools arranged around it and the chef's assembly station at one end; the actual kitchen is tucked away at the back.
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The menu offers 10 small plates, including nocellara olives and almonds with almontillado. We order six. Two hungry people wanting the equivalent of a full dinner should be prepared to order one of everything.
Our first plate is 'purple sprouting broccoli, hazelnut, parmesan', which comes with unannounced plump (Ortiz?) anchovies, without which it would have been infinitely less interesting. As it is, we like the combination of flavours and textures very well.
Next, 'crown prince pumpkin, kale, curd' - three slices of gently griddled but not hugely flavoursome pumpkin sitting on a puddle of kale pesto, topped with bland curd and a couple of crisp leaves of cavolo nero. There's a gel made from the whey that I think may have been smoked (and is delicious), but extracting detail from the staff about what's in the dishes is like getting blood from a stone. (I have complained in the past when restaurant staff talk too much about the food and wine they are serving, but the opposite is also a problem. At Frank's, no information is forthcoming unless you ask for it.)
'Salsify, walnut, pear' features roasted roots accompanied by salsify crisps, paper-thin slices of fresh pear and an emulsion of walnuts with a flurry of grated walnut on top. The flavours are subtle, perhaps too much so.
Our favourite plate, and, no coincidence, the most flavoursome, is 'quail, plum, chanterelles', featuring a tiny leg and a tranche of terrine; the chanterelles anointed with chive oil. Some sourdough for mopping the tasty sauce would have been good, but Frank's doesn't serve bread.
The only sweet plate is a combination of 'chocolate, peanuts, banana' - good ganache accompanied by slices of torched banana, a loose, mousse-like peanut sauce and some whole nuts for texture. Cheese is a whopper piece of 16-month Comté which comes with firm poached pear and a potato farl smeared with an unannounced salty onion marmalade, a decision that we would have preferred to make for ourselves.
With a kombucha, a glass of Hobo Pinot Noir from California (€8 for a tiny 125ml) and three of Weingut Blaufrankisch (€7), our bill comes to €99.50 before service.
ON A BUDGET
The broccoli with a glass of the cheapest red will set you back €14.50 before service.
ON A BLOW-OUT
Two people sharing everything on the menu - which you would need to do if you wanted a full dinner equivalent - would spend €104 before drinks or service.
THE HIGH POINT
There are good options for vegetarians.
THE LOW POINT
Frank's feels just a little too cool for school. We missed bread.