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The welcome Matt

Memory is a notoriously fickle thing, but I have a clear vision of the Pembroke pub on Pembroke Street as a dark and dull space.

I recall it as peopled by tired-looking office workers sharing plastic bowls of cocktail sausages with their pints of lager while they bitched about their bossWell not any more. Thankfully for Dubliners, the Pembroke was transformed a while ago into a bright and stylish seafood restaurant by the same people that own Matt the Thresher's in Birdhill in Co Tipperary.

Running the kitchen is Stephen Caviston, of the famous Glasthule Cavistons, a family that seem to have seawater in their blood, given how expert they all are in matters of the sea. As well as being brother to Peter Caviston of the Glasthule restaurant/ emporium, Stephen is also the dad of Amy and Rachel Caviston of the excellent A Caviston restaurant/ emporium in Greystones.



ATTRACTIVE

I was dining with Caroline Byrne, the Dublin editor of John and Sally McKenna's Irish Food Guide (for which I also write) and was a little apprehensive given that Caroline had left Matt the Thresher (MTT) out of the current issue, thanks to two disappointing visits in 2011.

As well as a very attractive interior, it is clear some thought has gone into MTT's menu, with an emphasis on seafood classics such as mussels, oysters and fish pie mixed in with all-important 'catch-of-the-day' dishes and well-sourced sausage and steak dishes for the fish-refusniks.

The attention to detail also holds true with the wine list, which opens with inexpensive classics such as Pinot Grigio and Picpoul de Pinet, but also has a decent selection of less commonly seen white wines including white Cotes du Rhone and Austrian Gruner Veltliner.

We chose a wine from the relatively obscure Monterrei region of Galicia in North West Spain made from the local Godello grape from producer Crego-Y-Monaguillo.

This was fragrant and crisp and a fine match for our sushi starter, and an even better match with main courses.

Most of us think sushi is a bit of raw fish on some rice, but, as with all things Japanese, nothing is as simple as it seems and sushi's real art is in subtlety.



freshness

MTT's sushi plate included nigiri sushi, maki and ura maki rolls which were competently made, but clumsily added wasabi rather masked the flavours of the fish.

There was also a very strange shallot and caper dipping sauce which we actively disliked and some rather roughly sliced (but very fresh) salmon sashimi.

These niggles aside, the freshness of the fish won us over and we finished everything on the plate.

Scampi and chips is a Dublin chipper favourite but MTT's version is in a decadent and delicious different league -- a dozen baby prawns in a chunky ultra-crisp batter served with thick crispy chips and fine quality tartare sauce.

C's fish sandwich was a slab of batter-coated haddock on a home-made bun with salad and some guacamole wasabi on the side, which provided both refreshing heat and subtle mouth-cooling refreshment at the same time.

If you have only had the McDonalds' version of a fish sandwich, then you need to visit here to see how it should be done.

We finished with a shared dessert of light crunchy pavlova, piled high with strawberries and drizzled with sweet strawberry coulis, which washed away the fried fish flavours and cheered us with its bright colours and flavours, sending us back on to Pembroke Street with great new memories.


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