Style over substance: Matt The Thresher,31-32 Lower Pembroke Street,Dublin 2
The new seafood bar and grill that has emerged from the former Pembroke pub looks spectacular, but it's an illusion, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, who finds the food miserable and the portions small
We were impressed walking into the D2 version of Tipperary-based Matt The Thresher's eating and drinking emporium, in what was the former Pembroke Pub on Lower Pembroke Street. Billed as a Seafood Bar & Grill, MTTD2 is an urban-chic gastropub with spectacular chandeliers -- which I seem to recall from the Pembroke -- raised seating areas, and a mezzanine with a grand piano.
We were greeted by a smart man in a brasserie-style long apron, who showed us to a nice table by the window. He was enthusiastic about their "own great beef" and "fresh fish". It seemed the world was our oyster.
The menu impressed further, offering something for everyone, kicking off at 9am with bacon butties, through lunch up to 5pm, and rolling into an evening menu up to 9.30pm. Birdhill traditional lamb stew featured along with beefburgers, fish pie, fish and chips, scampi, steak, and a seafood platter, at €9.95-€25, while six oysters, rock or native, were €8-€14.95. Tapas featured too, at €3.95 each, or four for €20 including a glass of wine, while 2/3 course menus were €19.95 and €25. The specials of the evening were pan-fried mackerel or plaice, and they didn't appear to feature the more expensive fish such as sole or turbot.
We decided, it being a seafood bar, to kick off with "succulent crab claws in hot garlic butter served with brown bread" (€12.95) and a Dublin Bay prawn cocktail (€9.95). I always maintain that if you cook whopping great seafood simply, and forget mucking around with it, you are on to a winner.
However, at MTTD2 it seemed that size was everything all right -- small, that is. Rena's prawn cocktail, in a big cocktail glass, looked brilliant -- there was nothing wrong with the presentation -- save that illusion played a big part. The glass was topped up over the brim with that crispy shredded lettuce that's only good for stuffing mattresses or feeding rabbits, and laid across the top of this was the icing on the cake -- namely, very small prawns in Marie Rose sauce. My "succulent" crab claws were a misnomer, being eight small and smaller, thin, dry crab claws laid out in two rows: miserable at €12.95. "Do we get any brown bread with these?" I asked our waiter. "I can get you some," he replied. "Does it not come with them?" "Only if people ask."
Bangers and mash with onion gravy (€9.95) was sad. Two ordinary-looking, overdone, breakfast-sized sausages sat on a tian of mashed potato with a little ramekin of onion gravy beside it. Nothing else. Where was the hearty, rambunctious dish that bangers and mash should be -- big bangers and unbridled mash bursting out like a fat woman's corset. "The onion gravy is horrible -- sweet and cloying with an aftertaste," said Rena. The first thing I noticed about my "Scampi and Chips -- Dublin Bay prawns in a light beer batter, homemade chips and lemon mayo" (€19.95) was the size of the plate.
Weight watchers would love it -- you think you are getting more than you are.
An oval breakfast, or starter-size plate, on a charger plate had possibly the smallest 'scampi' I have ever seen, sitting beside a section of lemon and a ramekin of thick, thick, gelatinous, commercial-style, cheap mayo -- horrible. The scampi batter was horrible, too, and it was like eating cardboard. I abandoned it. The brown bread and few jumbo chips were the best part of the meal.
We looked at their wet fish display on the way out. With just some flat and smoked fish and a load of ice, surrounded by decorative empty shells, it looked more like a chef's service area rather than one brimming with shellfish to whet the customer's appetite. Likewise, the half-a-dozen salads on display just looked dreary.
With just a glass each of Gruner Veltliner (€6.50 per glass) our bill with optional service came to €72.
Our experience was all illusion and no substance.
Matt The Thresher,
31-32 Lower Pembroke Street,
Tel: (01) 676-2980
Sunday Indo Life Magazine