Seapoint Fish and Grill
4, The Crescent, Monkstown, Co Dublin
Tel: 01 6638480
A fabulous fish fantasy at the Grill
The Crescent in Monkstown, Co Dublin, is one of those little fantasy strips that is a perfect example of what would have been known in Tiger times as 'gracious living.' Set one street back from the sea and lined on one side with elegant Victorian villas and on the other with a group of shops that so perfectly represent the middle-class ideal of baked goods and designer clothes it makes me slightly dizzy. You've got Avoca and Salt café, Blooms & Bows, one of the loveliest florists in the whole of Dublin, Searson's Wine Merchants and my own personal Achilles' heel, Seagreen.
So intoxicating is this little strip of shops, and so representative of the aspirational life, that you will have spent half of next month's rent on a little piece of silk before you've come to your senses and realised that this is actually not your beautiful life but someone else's. It's a dangerous place for an impressionable person like myself and so, for this reason, I decide to take the car to Seapoint Fish and Grill (formerly Seapoint Restaurant) on a Thursday night, as who knows what kind of impulse-buy bankruptcy a glass of wine could lead to in Monkstown.
Seapoint Restaurant is celebrating its fourth birthday by rebranding, redecorating and renewing its menu. Seapoint Fish and Grill is funkier and more casual, with a cool new orange and blue sign outside and the colour scheme is carried through in small, tasteful touches inside.
It's a great space, with a wall of windows making the front half of the restaurant feel airy and light-filled, a canopied outdoor space with heaters and blankets and the back part of the restaurant has a very cosy feel with a wood-burning stove and 'snug' tables nestled on each side of the fireplace.
You can imagine how amazing this would be on a wild and stormy winter's night with the sea crashing outside, but that will have to wait.
We are welcomed by a sunny head waitress, who is warm and efficient and shows us to our table. The corded velvet seating feels luxurious and a matching bolster provides an armrest as well as a border between neighbouring tables (I'm a bit territorial, so I like this touch). They have what they call a 'blackboard' menu, which is a cute plastic pin-board with white letters, the kind you used to see in old-fashioned fish 'n' chips shops.
Around the restaurant are paintings by Dalkey artist, Laura Cronin, featuring scenes from Seapoint.
One of the changes implemented along with the name-change is a more competitively priced menu. It still feels a little pricey, but on closer inspection you can see what you're paying for. Their produce is all locally sourced and the fish is supplied by Wright's of Marino. Using artisanal suppliers is going to push prices up, but the proof really is in the pudding here. The fish is truly excellent, which is what you want from a restaurant with 'fish' in its name.
I decide to go for an old favourite -- sardines on toast, in Monkstown Crescent speak that's grilled sardines and tomato relish bruschetta with pesto (€7.50), which is just gorgeously rustic and full of flavour. The boy is my date for the night and he has pan-seared scallops with minted pea purée, pea shoots and pancetta. The scallops are done to plump perfection.
For mains, he orders baked cod with tomato and chorizo and creamy mash (€18.50) and I have the hake (a giant lump of it) with artichoke risotto and sautéed spinach (€24.50).
The chef's skill really shows here. Both our dishes are served in wide shallow dishes with quite a bit of jus, which could send it all to hell in a hand-basket at high speed, but everything on the plate holds its shape and flavour, which is very tricky stuff.
The fish is perfectly cooked with a crisped skin and the flavours work really well together, the artichoke cutting sharply across the creaminess of the risotto, an original combo that works very well with the fish.
The service is efficient but perhaps a bit too quick between courses -- after 40 minutes we've got our mains and starters behind us.
The atmosphere is friendly. The couple at a neighbouring table were clearly regulars and the woman has a discussion with a waitress about the dreaded 50 Shades Of Grey, which perforates my Monkstown Crescent bubble a little. The bubble is reinflated with some 'infinity' water, also known as sparkling water.
The wine list is really interesting and I'm raging I took the car now, but remind myself of the reasons it was necessary.
They even offer dessert wines and I force the boy to order one so I can taste it. I know he hates dessert wine but I figure he's already had a Satan's Whiskers cocktail, a deliciously potent gin-based drink. (Endearingly, one of the younger waitresses presented it to him as Satin's Whiskers.)
I like to think it is the secularisation of our society that has left her oblivious to Old Nick, but there there is a voice in the back of my head -- the devil on my shoulder perhaps -- that suggests something less generous.
Seapoint Fish and Grill was a finalist in this year's Irish Restaurants Best Casual Dining Awards and they're now offering a limited menu for take-out too, but don't be fooled.
This is the dining equivalent of the smart-casual dress code, or perhaps the Monkstown Crescent interpretation of casual. It's still very smart and sophisticated and the food is way above the grill standard.
We finish with an apple and berry crumble that I had thought I didn't want but one bite led to another, as so often is the case.
We leave and I successfully scuttle past Seagreen and Avoca without making a single purchase and hot-foot it back to the safety of my real life, outside the magical zone of Monkstown Crescent.
TYPICAL DISH: Baked fish of your choice
RECOMMENDED: Anything from the specials blackboard, but the hake is particularly good
THE DAMAGE: €93.25 for two waters, a cocktail, a glass of Château Court-les-Muts, Semillon, Saussignac, two starters, two mains, a dessert and a coffee
ON THE STEREO: Unintrusive burbling, the kind you hear in health-spa reception areas
AT THE TABLE: Families and couples
Day & Night