I wonder why Dublin restauranteur Joe Macken and Irish international rugby player Jamie Heaslip decided to call their new joint venture "Bear"? A vision of carnivore masculinity perhaps? In fairness, this unholy alliance is not totally unexpected given the proclivity displayed by Leinster rugby players for the protein-fest burgers and chicken served in Macken's Jo'burger and Crackbird.
Bear is all about the beef, although other meats do get a look in. Old-style cuts such as bavette, onglet and flank are front and centre here, all cooked on the grill or passed through the impressive Imperial broiler, where an intense infrared radiant heat finishes steaks to perfection.
|You have been warned!!|
The premises on South William Street was home to Crackbird, before its move to Dame St, but it has received a real facelift to prepare for Bear. A bar has been installed that runs the length of the upper area, the walls are darker, the ceiling is finished and it's all far more grown-up. One consistent complaint from my peers about Crackbird was in relation to the hipster staff, but the wait staff at Bear are less "Too kool for skool" and it's all the better for it. However, Bear maintains certain familiar themes such as a no reservations policy, low hanging bare bulbs and large communal tables.
|Dark and chic interior|
Once we'd read through the menu, we quickly got an order into the kitchen for the flank steak for two (€34.95), which would take 30 minutes to cook. That done, we went back to the start and ordered some toasts to keep us occupied. However, despite all this intense planning on our part, the steak was still the first to arrive. It was even taken back from our table, as no one could believe that it would be out so fast. But it was ours, and it was quickly followed by our starter dishes.
A spicy pork, carrot & pistachio slice (€5.95) was delicious despite not being spicy, served with a homemade chutney. A little pot of smoked haddock skordalia (€5.95) featured generous haddock chunks mixed with mashed potato but it just didn't shine in the same manner as the pork terrine. For the money, these were two generous portions.
After the toasts, we turned our attention to the steak. It was served sliced, in it's own juices, with a scattering of salt flakes, and two Opinel steak knives tucked underneath. The outside bits were cooked through, but the inside remained pink and juicy and Joe recommended that we start from the inside out. It was incredibly juicy, tender and flavoursome. We had ordered a selection of sauces (€2 each or three for €5), so we slathered on rich oily chimichuri, red wine & tarragon butter and an intense orange habanero. In addition, we also received a little pot of creamed fresh horseradish.
|Spicy pork, carrot and pistachio slice|
|The flank steak for two|
In anticipation of the carnivore orgy, we ordered just a single side between the two of us. But we chose big, plumping for the millionaire fries (€6.50). These are not regular fries, but instead are gently fried, golden blocks of sliced dauphinoise potatoes, which are surprisingly not heavy at all, but extremely moreish.
|Millionaire fries (a new dimension of gratin)|
|Belly full - compliments to the chef|
After eating, Joe himself came over to chat and give us a view of the world through Bear-Vision glasses. There are plans to serve breakfast, targeting people on their way to work with a selection of light, office-friendly dishes. The bar will offer daily special sandwiches and salad, limited to just one option per day. And there was even mention of a bakery! The more grown-up attitude shown by Bear will expand to include changing monthly wine specials and perhaps a few surprises.
I was kindly allowed to take some photos of the kitchen and pass, including the beating Bear heart, the special Imperial broiler. Standing near it, I was struck by the intensity of the heat - working the grill at Bear must be like taking several Bikram yoga classes each and every night.
|The team at work in the Bear kitchen|
|Imperial - where the magic happens|
|Delicious sauces waiting to go|
The total for our meal came to €60.85, including a small glass of pilsner. In my opinion, this was quite good value for the food we enjoyed. Bear isn't a steakhouse in the traditional sense, but a modern lighter take. The addition of toasts and the trademark creative sauces and sides make it fun, as well as deliciously tasty.
Bear is a perfect continuation of the creativity that is Joe Macken. But it's also deadly serious, with plans to target the breakfast and lunch markets. Bear is most definitely for grown-ups (although kids are welcome).
A final word of warning, please use caution when googling "Bear Dublin"...
Bear, 34 South William St, Dublin 2