Expert at eating and kitchen connoisseur, gourmet grandiloquent Conor Neville of The Daily Shift reviews some of the finest dining to be had on Dublin’s, O’ Connell Street…
The Burger King on O’Connell Street is very much the company’s marquee establishment on the island. Founded in its spiritual home of Miami in 1955 by David Edgarton and James McLamore, it has been described by American observers as “McDonalds greatest rival.” And it has been described by a Mayo friend of mine as “America’s answer to Supermacs.”
Adjacent to the O’Connell monument, it offers, from the upper floor, splendid views of the nearby O’Connell Bridge as well as clear views of the less splendid O’Connell Bridge House, with its evocative Heineken sign.
Inside the place is luminous, the predominant colours being red and yellow. The doorman, a massive Eastern European gentleman, wore a more watchful, surly and suspicious demeanour than I’m used to. His eyes bore into me, as I sauntered towards the counter in ‘en regardant autour de’ mode.
After pondering a while before making my selection (in truth the waiter stared at me rather impatiently while I was thinking, hurrying me a little), I opted for the well-regarded, much heralded BK Angus Premium. The waiter responded robotically and swiftly, asking whether I wanted medium or large (the head of operations at Burger King has decided that the word “small” has negative connotations). I plumped for the former.
The Angus, which is made from 100% Irish beef according to the company’s loud advertising, looked more emaciated and shrunken than it had in the lustrous picture on the wall on which it was showcased. The chips, as per the North American preference, tended toward the slender but they were not in the least damp or soggy.
The music consisted of a selection of techno-dance hits, almost all of which contained a female vocalist sneering into the microphone that no man had it in him to satisfy her sexually. This grew repetitive after a while.
The staff take a refreshingly non-intrusive, laissez-faire attitude to customer service. Not once did a waiter or waitress come up to me saying “Is everything all right?”, “Can I get you anything?” Burger King, recognising that this can become somewhat grating, eschew this practice altogether.
The chairs, pokey, determinedly functional, little red chaises, rather make you hunch over your food. The traditional posture when tucking into one of Burger King’s celebrated plat principles is a kind of hunched, scoffing motion. One of the kids sitting nearby demonstrated this in exemplary fashion where he proceeded to shove as many chips into his mouth as was possible in one foul swoop.
Unfortunately, he hadn’t quite evolved the hand to mouth co-ordination to manage it. A number of chips missed his mouth, slid down his cheek, bounced onto the table, with a portion of those cascading onto the floor. The staff greeted this development with remarkable insouciance. Indeed, their refusal to panic was such that the chips remained on the floor even as I was leaving.
Satisfied, I approached the counter and told the waitress to offer my compliments to the chef. The waitress, who on closer inspection was from south-east Asia and not Ireland, looked at me as if I was in possession of more than one cranium. I tentatively repeated my request. She responded by nodding at me even more tentatively, still looking rather uncertain. In all truth, I left the establishment doubting whether my message was transmitted.
On the whole it wouldn’t quite rank up there with the three finest dining experiences on this island, which are, to my mind, L’ecrivian on Baggot Street, Caviston’s Seafood Restaurant in Sandycove, and the Supermacs on Eyre Square.
But it was refreshing and moderately effective all the same, a bracingly demotic slice of modern Irish living.