Phibsboro Shopping Centre

Dublin 7

So…. It’s been a while….

You may (or may not, my ego isn’t *that* big) have noticed that over the last wee while I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from burger blogging. Several months of weekly burgers started to take it’s toll. I wasn’t enjoying myself. I put on weight. Most importantly insofar as a burger blog is concerned, I really began to dread eating burgers week in week out. It couldn’t go on. My last attempt at writing for the blog was abandoned in a fit of pique after a disappointing burger outing.

Visit 1 (2)

So… I took a break. I joined a Fat Fighters group. (Well, actually a local Slimming World group, run by the lovely and very slightly disapproving Sarah-Jane) I stopped the weekly burger meet-ups and moved myself to monthly meetings. I saved burgers for ‘cheat days’ so when I did eat them I could really enjoy them.

With that in mind, this is actually attempt number two from me at reviewing Smokin’ Bones. I think it’s only fair to go between the two attempts for the purposes of today’s blog. We first went to the Phibsboro Smokin’ Bones way back in April. That time, the whole gang plus a few headed out and took over a chunk of space in the restaurant. Our first visit was based on the recommendation of occasional member, and one time writer, Suzy. Plus, they had conveniently opened a new location just around the corner from my house. Bonus!

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I don’t know if it was early teething troubles, as the restaurant had been open for only two weeks at the time, but to be frank, this first trip was the proverbial straw that ended my full participation in Burger club events. Harsh maybe, however I was bitterly disappointed at the time that I’d wasted a cheat day on that meal.

Visit 1 (1)

Service was abysmally slow. There were only six of us, and though we did all order burgers and sides, it took about an hour to finally get to eat. When our food did arrive, half of the burgers were so charred that they were actually crunchy. Not that I could even taste that on mine, the Feckin Hot burger, smothered as it was in creamy cloying sauce and avocado. In my opinion it needed something sharp and fresh to cut through all that creamy fatty avocado. Like a piquant salsa. Not more creamy, yet blisteringly hot mayo. Dirty fries, which were the recommendation behind the visit, were drenched in an insipid, thick cinema nacho-style plasticky cheese sauce, which completely masked the taste of both the beans and fries. Cornbread (which no longer appears to be on the menu) was a bright spot, though, it was agreed, was enjoyed by me and me alone.

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As it was a cheat meal of course we ordered dessert. Well… I ordered dessert. Of course. Which unfortunately also took 15 minutes to arrive. This seems like a very long time to cut a single slice of cheesecake and throw it on a plate. When it finally did arrive, it came with what I at first thought to be an odd sort of garnish, rather than the promised drizzle of raspberry that failed to appear; but actually turned out to be stray coleslaw. By then, everyone else had already been finished for twenty minutes and I was starting to feel the raw impatience to leave seeping from the group. If I wanted to escape with my life, I was not sending that back to wait for a new one. Taking one for the team, I dutifully scraped it off and ate. I wish I hadn’t. Maybe the coleslaw would have helped. Did I mention it was a cheat day I’d wasted?

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After this, you’d think we’d be crazy to go back, but here in Burger Club, we like to give everyone a fair chance. The Phibsboro branch had only just opened. They might have just been having a bad night. There could have been any number of disasters we didn’t know about in the kitchen at the time. Plus, they are right on our doorstep. Get a really tall ladder and you can totally see my house from there!

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Magnus was very impressed with the bag.

The second time we decided to try them out was on a Saturday night after a long week at work. It was raining and miserable and no-one felt much like going out in public. Thank God for Deliveroo. Happily, second time around service was considerably faster. We got White Alabama wings out of sheer curiosity. I’d never heard of White BBQ sauce before; no-one had. And let me tell you dear reader, honestly, what a revelation! I could eat them again now first thing on a Sunday morning. Ryan was equally impressed with his Gobstopper burger. The pulled pork was amazing, soft, yielding, tasty and wasn’t messy (Which for Ryan, notorious in his hatred of drippy food is super important) and for him one of the best burgers he has had since we started. High praise indeed.

My burger experience was somewhat marred by my choice of sides. No stranger to heat, I chose the Feckin’ Hot Fries. This description does not do the level of heat justice. There are at least three levels of burn. The tingle as it hits your tongue, the unrelenting heat as it coats the inside of your mouth and then the inescapable fire as it begins to burn itself out through your esophagus. One burger clubber mentioned that they thought their nipples were burning… these fries are not for the faint at heart. More, I feel they would be suitable for a macho dick-swinging contest down the pub. Who can be the hardest and punish themselves the most? Which is sad. I like a good spicy meal. Whenever I see a chilli burger option its usually my first choice, but I felt that these were just too hot to be pleasant. This also meant that I couldn’t taste my burger. As it was, Amanda and I went for the Pittmaster, and the Blazin’ burger, differing only by their choice of sauce and we literally couldn’t taste the difference, because all we could taste were the unfortunate fries.

I can comment on the bun, which was good. Not the ubiquitous brioche bun everyone seems so fond of, but a sturdy bap, which held up well to a range of potentially messy fillings with just the right level of chew.  Service was fast and delivery was prompt. When the delivery arrived everything was fresh and piping hot. We also had the added bonus of not having to go outside and see other people, which is always good.

Visit 2 (1)

That being said, the bits that were good were very very good, but the bits that were bad; they were awful. I might not come back for the fries, but there were occasional touches of brilliance. There seems to be some real thought behind the actual barbecue flavours and it might be worth a repeat visit for something that isn’t burgers.

Wings: 10/10

Sides: 4/10

Service visit 1: 4/10

Service visit 2: 9/10

Burgers visit 1: 4/10

Burgers visit 2 : 8/10

Overall: 6.5/10