On a warm summer evening in June 2016, I ate a wonderfully satisfying meal in Boqueria Tapas restaurant in Stoneybatter, which I wrote up for this page. Not every dish worked perfectly that night, but the hit rate was well over 80% and there was a sensitivity and generosity in Matt Fuller’s cooking that I loved.
Fuller has been off my radar for the past year or so but I was delighted to hear that he has taken over the kitchen of a new venture called Bart’s Bar, which is located in the old Eden Bar and Grill space.
We arrived at Bart’s at 6pm and were ushered into the back room, which contains large hanging plant pots more than a metre wide and almost as deep. In previous incarnations these large plants with their trailing greenery and the high glass ceiling above them made the space seem light and airy.
Perhaps it is the season, but the plants now look withered and dry, with only a few wispy sprigs of green visible. In addition the lighting is simply awful, as dark and miserable as I would imagine the back room of a Berlin club in the 1980s.
The drinks menu has cocktails, a large selection of macro beers, and a smaller selection of craft beers from the likes of Rascals and Blacks of Kinsale. The wine list is minimal, with a choice of just three whites and reds — the Flor de Crasto Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) from Portugal was decent, however, and fairly priced at €32.
The food menu is split into three categories — snacks, dishes, and desserts — with prices ranging from €2 for smoked almonds to €16 for deep-fried turbot.
Parmesan crisps (€4.50) sounded intriguing and I wondered if the chef had conjured crispy savoury thins from parmesan and flour — I suggested this to our waiter and he seemed to agree.
Clearly, I explained this idea rather poorly as what arrived was standard potato crisps with grated Parmesan on top.
The crisps were homemade, I should add, and the dip was perfectly fine, although the Parmesan was not particularly pungent — a solid enough bar snack but not something I would have intentionally ordered as a starter.
Croquette of the day was Italian sausage and we were urged to order two as a portion contained just one croquette.
In fact there were two in a portion and it turned out to be not sausage per se, but Nduja from Calabria. The lime salsa on the side did help lift the croquettes but couldn’t stop them being rather heavy.
In addition, Nduja has a very particular flavour and I don’t think it has any place in a Spanish Croqueta — yes I’m nit-picking, but I suspect Calabrians would agree.
Lobster fries was a decent sized pile of crispy chips mixed through with small pieces of rather firm lobster and a pleasing creamy sauce on top — the best dish at this point in the meal.
Service had been welcoming and friendly throughout but by now, little mistakes were beginning to pile up and we had multiple dishes fighting for space. After a short requested delay, the best dish of the evening arrived and we forgot our first-world problems for a moment- perfectly cooked battered turbot with a sesame glaze and excellent coriander salsa for dipping.
Sweets of the day was a selection of well crafted petit-fours and we finished with a shared chocolate ice-cream with candied crispy sourdough bread, which our waiter finished by drizzling on some fruity olive oil.
Initial impressions were good but the ice-cream needed more heft to cope with the pungent oil. Despite some flashes of excellence, this was a rather disappointing meal and I know the chef can do better. If I do go back, it will be for a Rascals IPA and some battered turbot.
A meal for two including three small plates and two desserts plus one cocktail and one bottle of wine cost €107.50.
How to: Sunday-Thursday: 5pm-12.30am; Friday-Saturday: 4pm-1.30am
In a Sentence: Despite some flashes of excellence this was a disappointing meal- Bart’s is best approached as a pub with some good tapas available if you choose carefully.
Tel: 01-6706764; www.barts.ie