Life's simple pleasures
If you fancy fresh fish cooked simply, you can't beat the efficient and friendly Cavistons
For a city by the sea, Dublin has always had an unusual paucity of decent seafood restaurants. Historically, the Church's insistence on fish as penance on a Friday is part of the reason, but that still doesn't explain why the situation hasn't improved.
When renowned fishmongers Cavistons opened a restaurant in the tiny space beside their fine delicatessen in Glasthule in 1996 it was an instant success, proving that there was indeed a demand for fresh fish cooked simply.
The only thing that has changed in the past 16 years is that you have a slightly better chance of a booking thanks to the fact they are now open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
We arrived on a typical Irish summer day of torrential rain and were warmly greeted and quickly seated.
Staff here are equally efficient and friendly but this is a very busy lunch restaurant with three sittings between noon and 3pm, so if you want to linger make sure you book the 3pm sitting.
A minor difficulty with the staff's efficiency is that things happen quickly.
My bottle of Cotes du Rhone turned out to be red rather than white as I expected, but it was whipped away as soon as the look of confusion was spotted on my face.
Yes, it should have said it was red on the menu, and it should have been shown to me before it was opened, but mistakes happen and this one was dealt with instantly with good humour and an apology.
The bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from the Brissac Co-Op in the Loire that replaced it was pristine, fresh and crisp and a bargain at €19.95.
My starter of a couple of dozen seared queen scallops with roasted red peppers was virtually perfect.
The ngineer's dozen or so crab claws in garlic butter were equally generous and tasty. It was all we could do not to lick our plates.
Turbot with wild asparagus in a rich hollandaise sauce was three good-sized pieces of fish all cooked to perfection, never easy with small turbot.
Cod was also perfectly cooked and had the better of the two sauces -- a light Dijon and green peppercorn cream that had just enough tang from the mustard and peppercorns to enhance the flavour of the fish.
New potatoes tossed in a little butter and a well-dressed green salad came with the mains, and we polished off the lot in what seemed like mere minutes.
The berry tart we shared for dessert was loved by the engineer for its freshness but I would have preferred a hint more sweetness.
So another successful meal in Cavistons, but the more I go the more I worry about the rather genteel nature of the food (or maybe that is the customers). Either way, you won't see anyone sucking on prawn heads here (strongly recommended by the way).
I think Cavistons could push itself and its customers a little more. I would love to have been offered the corals with my scallops or seen my fellow diners pulling apart the claws of their prawns, but no tools are provided.
For now, Cavistons is probably still the best seafood restaurant in the city, let's hope it doesn't rest on its laurels.