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The Seafood Bar

The perfect little restaurant to gorge on the best of Irish seafood


25 Jul 2023


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Written by:

Lisa Cope

What's should we know about The Seafood Bar?

It's the second restaurant from the team behind neighbourhood favourite Wood Fire Café just off Dorset Street. Owner Joe Oualadi is half Italian, half Moroccan, and says he's "mad about seafood" and loves to cook it. He couldn't understand why an island surrounded by fish doesn't have more places to eat great seafood (Amen Joe), and with a loyal clientele already on Blessington Street, he decided to take the site left vacant by Veginity (and briefly vegan deli Pretend) and get to work.

Despite Wood Fire Café's many D7 fans, we've visited in the past and didn't leave with a need to return - maybe we caught them on a bad day - so we weren't expecting to be first in the queue for this one, but between strikingly good reviews on Google and the total lack of a website/social channels for information, we thought it needed a once over stat.

Can I book?

Nope, and this is the one real drawback. With only 10 indoor seats we get it, but it's not very conducive to travelling across town or booking a babysitter. If it's dry and/or sunny you might be able to pull up at a barrel outside with some olives and a glass of cold white wine while you wait, which wouldn't be the worst way to pass the time.

Where should we sit?

There are three low tables of two, which can be put together for a four or a six (but you'd be lucky to find all three free at the same time, especially once the good word travels about this place). There are also two high tables at the counter, seating two at each. This is where we'd pick if we had the choice, to see all that seafood being prepped and cooked in front of you.

Outside has another four tables of two (which again could be made into a four, possibly a six with some pushing and pulling), and a couple of barrels you could stand at. It feels very Spanish, and if we ever get sunshine again we can see this having a cracking atmosphere on a summer evening, those waiting for a table standing around with some olives, almonds and a glass of Loxarel Cava.

What should we order?

The menu has a strong Spanish slant to it, but with other cuisines like Italian and even Hawaiian (poke) thrown in. There's a cold section to start featuring peel and eat gambas with cocktail sauce, oysters, tuna salad and more, but our hearts fractured a little to hear that Ensalada Rusa with Cantabrian anchovies wasn't available, and that they're taking it off the menu. The rest of the menu features 12 starters and six mains, and expect to agonise over what to order, because this is a hell of a menu, with Porupine langoustines, Irish native shrimps, and a whole lobster with fries for €34 among the dishes you might feel the need to try.

Getting over our Ensalada Rusa disappointment, we started with crab on toast - three pieces of thick, chewy, very lightly toasted bread covered with a mildly curried, lemon-scented, sparklingly fresh white crab meat mixture, topped with finely sliced radish. Adding unadvertised curry in here is a (possibly risky) curveball, but we loved the fresh, mildy spiced flavours, the contrast between the sweet flaky crab and the chewy bread, and the generous hand in plating this up.

You can't come to a Spanish seafood restaurant without ordering fried fish, so deep-fried calamari and Native Irish Shrimps with tartar sauce were up next. According to the Irish Times, only 200 tonnes of these prawns are landed each year, and all (until now) are shipped to top restaurants in Spain and Portugal where they're sold at very high prices. That might explain this dish's €18 price tag, and why you only get two of the shrimp, but we loved it all the same, and it's a novelty to try something so rarely seen here. The batter was perfectly light and crisp, the tartar clearly homemade, and while a couple of calamari rings were chewier than we would have liked, there was no debating the freshness yet again.

If you order one thing in here, make it the clams with garlic and salsa verde (€14), which has dive-bombed onto our "best things we ate this year" list. A sizzling cast iron dish arrives with bubbling olive oil (the good stuff) filled with caramelised, chewy, sweet garlic slices, clams floating above dressed with a generous spoons of zesty salsa verde. If sharing, expect to lose the run of yourself trying to dig out each little piece of fish, dunking it in the garlicky oil and smearing some salsa on top for one of the most perfect mouthfuls you could imagine. We had to ask for bread to mop up the sauce, and you should do the same.

The paella (€26) was another knock me down dish, the saffron-scented rice with a perfect bite, seafood lavishly dispersed across it. Prawns, monkfish, mussels, and clams were not in short supply, and the roasted peppers and dollops of aioli pushing the perfection level even higher. It was missing the slightly crispy base, but from other reviews online we can see some people's did have this, and with or without it, it's as good a paella as we've tasted (here or in Spain). The portion is also huge - you could easily share one between two.

Seafood linguine is yet another knockout, again with the generosity of seafood feeling almost shocking in comparison to other restaurants. Simplicity is often the hardest thing to get right, but this simple sauce of garlic, white wine and cherry tomatoes let the flavours of the gambas, clams, squid and mussels gleam, and it almost felt like more seafood than pasta. How often can you say that? At €26, you could not complain about value for your euro.

Sides were a low point and we'd skip them next time and just focus on the fish. Hand-cut chips didn't look or taste like they were done in-house, and weren't crispy enough, while patatas bravas came with that delicious aioli and a roasted red pepper sauce, but the potatoes tasted more confited than deep-fried, and weren't remotely crispy.

Desserts are a total mismatch with everything that's come before: 'Classic Tiramisu'; Crema Catalana; and a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice-cream and caramel sauce - is there anyone in the country who wants a chocolate brownie after a seafood feast? Please raise your hand so we can see you.

The only acceptable choice was the Crema Catalana, but our hearts broke once again to be told they didn't have it, but had a cheesecake with red berry sauce in its place. They told us all desserts were made in the Wood Fire Café, and it did taste homemade, but it was a dull, heavy ending to a dazzling meal. A silky-smooth, flan-like Basque cheesecake would have been a far better fit.

What about drinks?

Wines are a mixed bag, with some decent bottles on there like Zarate's Albariño, Domaine De La Pépière's Muscadet, and the brilliant co-op Les Vignerons d'Estezargues' Southern French red blend, 'Cuvee des Galets', for €32. It's a bit muddled though with no theme or thread running through it (e.g. Mediterranean), and they're in desperate need of some sherries/Vermouths/aperitivo offerings.

By the glass options are very limited, but we tried the Jurtschitsch Grüner Veltliner which was a nice easy drinker served very chilled, and a perfect match for the seafood. There are also some beers on tap, and flavoured San Pellegrino as well as the usual soft drinks.

How was the service?

Lovely, friendly, and the food came out at a good pace. They didn't charge for the extra bread, or a juice they poured from their own staff stash - a nice touch.

And the damage?

€128 for a generous feast for three (who rolled out after lunch and could barely face dinner that night), with one glass of wine. We'd throw it at them every day of the week.

What's the verdict?

We love The Seafood Bar. We can't stop thinking about The Seafood Bar. We want to move into The Seafood Bar and have Joe feed us all day - crab on toast for breakfat, clams for lunch, that big dish of paella and a cold glass of wine for dinner.

It's not an inexpensive place to eat, but there's a big difference between cheap and value for money, and we thought that what we got for our spend was remarkable. Sometimes places open with a serious generosity of spirit (and ingredients) and then reality (and bills) hit and everything gets pared back. We really hope that doesn't happen here, because right now it's the perfect little restaurant to gorge on the very best of Irish seafood.

The Seafood Bar

1 Blessington Street, Dublin 7

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