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Bijou's lost its sparkle

OPENING a successful restaurant sounds easy enough. You find a nice room, hire some competent staff, source and cook good ingredients with a bit of creativity and wait for the punters to arrive. The trick is to be consistent and pay attention to every single detail, and that is where things always go wrong.

Bijou Bistro in Rathgar has been successfully serving the citizens of D6 for a number of years and is particularly popular as a "girls' night out" venue, a spot for family parties, and for older couples to treat themselves mid-week. Bijou is never empty and indeed they served us some nice food on the night I visited. However a lack of consistency and some downright horrors mean I am unlikely to visit again.

As is probably appropriate for its location, Bijou's menu is awash with comfort food -- sausage and mash, slow-cooked lamb, fish and chips and char-grilled burgers. And given that I was treating a picky teenager for his birthday, traditional food suited us just fine.

Prawn cocktail (€12.50) was four plump prawns sitting on iceberg lettuce with a nice smothering of Marie-Rose sauce (mayonnaise and ketchup) - so 1980, and so far so good. The lettuce was nicely dressed and the prawns well cooked, but as I bit into my last prawn I noticed it had not been de-veined.

The black intestinal tract is technically harmless provided the prawn is well cooked, but remember that it is effectively the waste collector for the prawn and is referred to as "the sh*t sack" by some chefs.

Was it just this prawn that was missed or was it all of them? I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, but at €3 per prawn this was a warning sign.

The teenager's rib-eye steak was cooked rare as ordered, and had been hung long enough so that the fat slipped away from the meat easily and had good texture and flavour (as you would hope for €26.95).

The green beans were crunchy and tasty and my beer-battered haddock was crisply fried and the flesh just cooked, so this is a kitchen that can shine given the right ingredients.

Sadly the tartar sauce with my fish was revolting, thanks to miserable-quality mayonnaise and the mushy peas were weirdly sweet and inedible. The chips had been cooked partially in their skins which might look attractive but ensured they were soggy as the skin had caused the potato to sweat.

Whatever about the quality of the chips, what stopped me eating them was the discovery of marble-sized pieces of jet-black crud from the bottom of the fryer nestled underneath.

I pointed these out to my waiter and she was suitably embarrassed and, a few minutes later, the Maître d' came to the table to apologise. The apology seemed genuine but little explanation was offered and nor was there an offer of compensation or of reducing the bill.

Desserts were competent enough - reasonable quality ice-cream and a spongy, sweet bread and butter pudding - but my appetite was long gone.

All the faults I found are easily fixable; let's hope they do so quickly.