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Bar Pez

The Fish Shop team bring seafood small plates and all the wine to the city centre


8 Aug 2023


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Written by:

Lisa Cope

What should we know about Bar Pez?

It's a new wine bar on Kevin Street Lower (just after Aungier Street when you're walking out of town) from the same owners as Fish Shop in Smithfield and Beach House in Tramore.

They are very keen to stress that this is a bar, with seafood-focused wine and small plates, and while there's no doubt that the wine list is the star attraction here, we (and everyone else) clearly had high expectations for the food, based on Bar Pez's siblings.

Where should we sit?

The interiors are reminiscent of a ski lodge, with timber-lined walls, faux oil lamps, and mismatched artwork. There are four solid tables for four (which can't be adjusted for smaller or larger parties), and counter seating on high stools. This is not a venue that's going to work for groups, unless some of the party are happy to stand, or be split across different areas.

(Bar Pez)

Counter seats either face into the basic kitchen, or onto a wall of wine. There's also a perch in the centre of the restaurant that two or three could stand at if you just wanted a quick glass and a plate of something tasty on route to somewhere else.

What's the food like?

There's been a bar and/or a kitchen menu depending on the day over the last few weeks, the kitchen menu appearing more towards the weekend. The bar menu is basic, with almonds, anchovies, gildas and a couple of toasts, while the kitchen menu adds some mostly fish-based small plates.

A gilda to start is compulsory, and it's the same olive/anchovy/pickled green pepper one as you'll find in Fish Shop, but 50c more expensive at €3.50 (Fish Shop's are €3 each - the rents must be higher around here). On the gilda index it's cheaper than Uno Mas (€4) but more expensive than Row Wines (€5 for two), and it's a strong, salty, pickled mouthful to accompany your first drink.

Anchovies on toast (€4.50) consisted of three, half, salty, Cantabrian anchovies, generously doused in good olive oil, with a piece of toast for spooning on top of and mopping up with. Simple but satisfying, and a great accompaniment for the UBE by the glass (more on that below).

Lobster toast (€9.50 from the bar menu) was easily the best thing we ate here, with lobster meat, mayo and what looked like espelette pepper flecked through it, and chives on top, the little additions enhancing the lobster's flavour and not masking it.

Peas, broad beans and ricotta was a light, summery combo, with mint tossed through it and deep green olive oil pooled at the bottom, but a bit more seasoning would have made it even better.

Courgette, crab and basil was another of our favourite dishes - akin to a courgette sandwich stuffed with a perfectly seasoned mound of crab meat, and sweet, pungent basil. We noted on a second visit that it had increased in price from €12 - €13, and the portion was less generous - margins not stacking up perhaps.

As you would expect from the people who gave us Fish Shop, the fried fish and aioli was battered and cooked to five-star standards, but it needed better draining, and we found ourselves blotting it with serviettes to take some of the oil off. We'd buy their smooth, ultra-garlicky aioli in jars if they'd do us the courtesy of starting a retail line.

Mackerel with peach and fennel (€19) had exactly-cooked, clearly fresh fish, but missed a trick with the flavours. While the peaches were beautifully ripe, mackerel is better suited to a more tart companion, like gooseberries or rhubarb, and without the acid to cut through the fish, it tasted more flabby, and wasn't lifted up like it could have been.

Expect one dessert, and when we visited it was a beautifully moist yet burnished apricot and almond tart (€9.50). The tart had deliciously short pastry and excellent flavour, but the fridge-cold, single cream poured around it felt lazy. This tart deserved a blood-temperature crème anglaise - even a whipped cream with vanilla would have been an improvement.

What about drinks?

The by the glass list features plenty to keep you occupied over a few hours, including electric ATF favourite 'UBE Miraflores' from Cota 45, the flinty, volcanic 'Trenzado' from Suertes del Marqués, and a couple of grower Champagnes, as well as rosé, orange and red options. There's a 125ml and 175ml price, so be sure to tell them what size you want, or you could end up with an unexpected €17 glass of wine on the bill. There's no sherry, by the glass or bottle, which feels like the missing link. Maybe they'll add it in time.

If you consider yourself a wine devotee, the very lengthy bottle list may stop you in your tracks, with sections on 'Oceans', 'Rivers' and 'Mountains' to pore over. There's little under €50 though, and the same punchy margins as most other places around town. There did look to be better value in the very high end of the list, with some bottles not a lot more than retail prices (e.g. Etienne Sauzet's Puligny Montrachet 2020 which is €102 retail but €150 to drink here, or Arnuad Ente's Bourgogne Blanc 2018, which we found in Hedonism Wines in London for £298 but it's €360 to drink here - a relative bargain if you've got the desire and the funds).

There's also a Coravin list for those wanting to try spennier wines without committing to a full bottle. We tried the delicious Vincent Dancer Bourgogne Blanc (€20 for a 125ml), but on our first visit glasses went as high as €70.

How was the service?

Great at the start when it was quiet (around 5pm) and generally very pleasant, but derailed as they got busier. They don't take bookings (it's just a bar remember), but every few minutes the door opened and faces walked in hopefully, to be told there was nothing available. They weren't taking names or numbers, prospective diners were just told to wait outside, and looking out the window at the growing, unmanaged crowd was anxiety inducing.

As the bar filled up our wine glasses remained empty, and we had to strain and crane to get anyone's attention for anything. We sat there at least 30 minutes longer than we'd planned, due to delays in calling the bill, and then the card machine. Surely the growing crowd outside would encourage the quicker turning of tables, but no one seemed in a hurry, and we ended up feeling guilty that we were unwillingly hanging onto a table that other people really wanted to be sitting at. By the time we were leaving most of them had given up, with only two remaining. We couldn't blame them.

What was the damage?

€106.50 with two glasses of wine and a soft drink. Needless to say if you delve deep into the wine list you could double that bill pretty easily.

And the verdict?

We love that the Fish Shop team have managed to bring their skills closer to the city centre, and the wine list at Bar Pez is one of the best, most extensive around - if you've got the deep pockets needed to pay for a lot of it. The food isn't quite as impressive as their Smithfield sibling (which we paid a visit to the same week and found it better than ever), and the service needs tightening at busy times, but we'd be very surprised if they don't get there considering the team behind it.

Bar Pez

Unit 3, College Court, Kevin Street Lower, Dublin 8

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