Eating out: Lucinda O'Sullivan at Mourne Seafood Bar
When Lucinda O’Sullivan visited the new waterfront Mourne Seafood Bar, the flavours were so intense, she almost experienced a ‘When Harry met Sally’ moment.
Wooden, double-bench-style picnic tables of the 'throw your leg over' variety, complete with booze-company-endorsed umbrellas, didn't create a great first impression as we walked down the boardwalk to the new Mourne Seafood Bar.
They were definitely more rural beer garden than urban-chic waterfront restaurant. To the right, as we went in the door, was an industrial-style bar, which seemed a bit dark for the location.
Backing out, we found the real star of the show - the light-filled, glass-box-style contemporary room overlooking the water, which makes you feel you could be in Sydney or San Francisco.
Looking out, we watched as a chirpy-yellow Viking Splash amphibious vehicle gave its passengers the tour.
You might say there is an amalgam of two stories here. This was originally the home of a short-term venture of Conrad Gallagher's some years ago, called Ocean.
It went on to different ownership, but it strikes me now as finally having the right crew on board.
Despite the awful picnic tables, the Mourne Seafood operation, owned by Bob and Joanne McCoubrey, has considerable experience running two very popular dining operations in Belfast and Dundrum, Co Down.
There is something here for every fishophile at every price. A "Raw Bar" menu (€8-€30) offered oysters, straight up or Japanese-style; crab stuffed peppers; langoustines; dressed lobster, scallop ceviche and a seafood platter.
A further all-day menu sported popular seafood numbers, such as beer-battered fish 'n' chips; pan-fried crab claws with chilli butter; piri piri prawns; and a seafood casserole. This menu was topped up with dinner specials, such as roast fillet of hake, cod, and lobster.
My abiding memory of the Mourne Seafood Bar is the outstanding flavours permeating each dish. Very often, I sit down to beautifully presented food where not enough focus has been put on adding to, or bringing out, the flavours of the ingredients.
At MSB, chef Andy Rea - of Paul Rankin's former Roscoff/Cayenne restaurant in Belfast - imbued each element with flavour that sang out. "I am here," they seemed to say, "sit up and take note." We did!
We kicked off with starter portions of prawn and chorizo risotto (€9), plus seared scallops with linguine (€11). The risotto texture was perfection - laced with smoked paprika butter, it lovingly enveloped the prawn pieces in its deep, rich, smoky, delicious flavour. The scallops were ace. Cut in half, honed into angular shapes, they were crusted with sea salt, seared in chilli oil and arranged like diamonds, set on al dente linguine. These were almost a When Harry Met Sally moment!
Mains were equally orgasmic. Crisp-skinned fillets of sea bream (€18) sat on a divine, chunky, crab risotto cake, atop wilted spinach and a sauce vierge - pure Nicoise-style cooking at its best.
I had a half lobster (€17), which had the crustacean's precious cargo of meat folded in a mouthwatering shellfish and basil cream - I had them crack the claw and add it to the shell for me. It was superb, as were crispy salted fries. What can I add, save to say, push the boat out and have the whole lobster, at just €28.
Desserts were €7, and we shared a pretty, lemon- scented mascarpone tart with sweet chopped strawberries. A dozen or so wines are available by the 185ml glass and 375ml carafe, plus there is a wide selection by the bottle.
With bottled water (€4.50), two coffees (€5.20), and a bottle of Finca Montepedroso Verdejo Reuda 2012 (€28), our bill, with optional service, came to €110.70.
This Mourne really sweeps down to the sea.
Mourne Seafood Bar, Millennium Tower, Charlotte Quay, Dublin 4. Tel: (01) 668-8862 www.mourneseafood.com
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