The Fish Shop
6 Queen Street
Phone: 01 430 8594
Irish Daily Mail
16 July 2015
Okay, I seem to be on a bit of a roll here. If you want a negative review, you’ve come to wrong place once again. This Saturday sees another salute to how Dublin is rapidly becoming a place in which it’s becoming easier and easier to find good food.
God knows, it was not always like this.
The fact that The Fish Shop is worth considerably more than a detour may need a word or two of explanation for the uninitiated. If you still harbour the notion that good food goes with crisp linen, sparkling crystal and heel clicking service you are living in an earlier age. For every restaurant in Dublin that attracts the attention of Michelin and their astonishingly random stars, there are several that do outstanding food without any nonsense, fripperies or anything else that (a) adds to the bill and (b) makes a lot of people uncomfortable.
The Fish Shop is a new incarnation of an idea born in an old shed at the back of the Blackrock Market where Jumoke Akintola and Peter Hogan, a pair of teachers who met in in London, started selling fish and chips. The idea is that good food, especially seafood, is all about freshness and not messing about with it.
Some people may be surprised at how rare this concept is, despite being as obvious as the nose in your face. Jumoke and Peter started The Fish Shop on Queen Street last year as a very basic but rather brilliant restaurant and now they have expanded.
The Queen Street premises is where you go for a set menu and an extensive wine list and phenomenal attention to detail. Benburb Street is where you for fish and chips (as most of us have never experienced them before) and a decent selection of wines. How brilliant is that? And, by the way, it’s in what was once Seven Social.
Queen Street is still basic in terms of how it looks but the focus is, as it should be, on the food. It has a directness and a simplicity and a sheer confidence that immediately announces that you are in safe and caring hands.
An amuse bouche of deep-fried oysters is just cooked, simply impeccable with the crunch of green apple; fritters of queen scallops are hot, sweet and perfect. Cured (just salted, I think) raw gurnard is extraordinarily good: as fresh as the dawn, served with crisp celery and apple and tiny dots of intense walnut mayonaisse.
Then came mackerel but not just any old mackerel. For a start they were spelled correctly (a real rarity in Dublin restaurants) but, much more importantly, small, young, tender and incredibly fresh to the point of having snow white flesh.
With fruity olive oil and salty, explosive depth charges of capers, this was a dish to conjure with. It certainly made me think of mackerel in a new light. Just because it’s a plentiful and therefore cheap fish doesn’t mean that it can’t be completely brilliant.
Small West Cork mussels, as sweet as various fresh nuts, had been cooked with very dry cider and shallots. Again, a dish of absolute simplicity and something very close to perfection.
Then on to slip soles, simply cooked on the pan and dished up as innocently, almost, as the day they were born but with a touch of sharpness from a salsa verde. There was also an indecently buttery mashed potato which was, therefore, delicious.
Puddings were equally simple but yet outstanding. Strawberries were sliced and folded into thickly whipped cream along with little fragments of sweet, crisp, buttery shortbread. Perfect.
A moist almond tart tasted intensely of itself. What more can one say?
The Fish Shop is all about confidence, the confidence that comes of dealing in the rare currency of sensationally fresh produce and not messing around with it. It’s a tiny restaurant, a very personal space and they do remarkable things here. The wines are chosen as carefully as the fish and the whole place represents a new trend in Irish food. Very new, and starting to chime with more and more people.
Our bill, including wine (all ordered by the glass) came to not very far north of €100. And that covered some of the best seafood, I’ve ever eaten, cooked with such delicacy and tact (so to speak) that I’d happily pay more.
Don’t expect anything even remotely resembling “faine daining” here. It’s the wrong place for that but so very much the right place for what really matters. Beat a path to the door.