Leslie Williams sampled the seafood at Cavistons in Dublin.
As you probably know by now Dublin has a decent clutch (a creel?) of excellent seafood restaurants (Fish Shop, Michaels, etc), if perhaps not as many as other port cities.
There was a time when there were hardly any, so it was with good foresight that Cavistons fishmongers opened a restaurant next to their shop in Glasthule in 1996 — it was an immediate hit.
Originally a lunch restaurant, they now open evenings late in the week but the best slot is still 3pm on a Friday.
Given it was to be Leaving Cert result Tuesday, that would be too late for the Scholar so I booked 1.30pm via their website.
An anxious phone call at 12.20 from the restaurant, however, indicated I had clicked the wrong button (and not checked my email) — thankfully there was still an outside table free at 1.30pm and my complete screw-up was handled with grace and good humour.
Blankets were provided when we arrived as the weather had become a little changeable but in truth we enjoyed being outside watching the good denizens of coastal South Dublin pass by clutching wine and goodies from Mitchell & Sons, 64 Wines, and of course the deli next door.
Cavistons offer lots of menu choices with a value (€21) two-course lunch, an à la carte with six starters and seven mains, and an additional daily specials menu.
Bread is often an afterthought in restaurants but not here, although it helps they have one of the city’s best delis a metre away.
Sourdough, soda bread, tomato bread, charcoal baguette, butter, and a ramekin of creamy fish pâté disappeared quickly and a second basket was provided gratis.
What I love about Cavistons is that you can be fairly certain the fish will be spanking fresh but also that it won’t be overcooked. So it proved.
Tian of crab with lemon mayonnaise and avocado purée was pristinely fresh with good use of herbs and sauces, chargrilled robust sardines needed their squeeze of lemon but were also clearly not long out of the water.
I think I scored the best starter with 15 or more succulent queen scallops (€14) in a large shell nestling in a punchy chorizo butter (€14) dotted with herbs.
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John Dory (€27) was the most generous main with three decent sized fillets plus samphire, asparagus, and lifting lemon oil.
My turbot fillet (€28) was an inch thick with a light crisp crust atop translucent, delicate flesh and a lightly creamy asparagus velouté with a creamy herbal kick to add focus.
A generous half-dozen properly cooked king scallops (coral included) in a rich coconut and lemon verbena creamy sauce won sauce of the day.
Chunky crisp chips, lightly buttered waxy new potatoes, and a large bowl of well-dressed salad also played a crucial role in rounding out the mains.
The wine list is a solid selection of 22 whites and 15 reds, plus sparklers, dessert wine, and a few bottled beers and cider (Wicklow Wolf/McIvors).
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Prices are fair and range from €26 for a Loire Sauvignon Blanc to €100 for Baron de ‘L’ Pouilly Fumé 2012 (a fair mark-up for a wine that retails around €70) and there are some nice Château Lynch-Bages options if you are feeling flush.
The two Engineers wanted red so I opted for a fruit-driven Puglian Uno Piu Uno (€34) made from Primitivo and Nero di Troia.
This cherry-focused red was a fine match for the scallops with chorizo and the sardines and while an aromatic white wine might have been a little better with the crab or turbot, the bright cherry fruits actually knitted in quite well with most dishes, shocking as this will seem to purists.
We added a half-bottle of youthful and fruity Lacuesta Rioja for a reasonable €15.
We ordered the three desserts on offer — best was probably the chocolate pistachio roulade but there was also a vote for the meringue with mascarpone, and while the berry panna cotta was closer to mousse, it was still properly tasty — all plates were scraped clean.
Charming staff, the freshest fish, solid cooking, if only Cavistons was larger; well good news, a 120-seat space nearby will be open by year’s end.
Cavistons Seafood Restaurant, 58 Glasthule Rd, Sandycove, Dublin, Tel: 01 2809245, cavistons.com/restaurant
Lunch for four including four starters, four mains, three desserts and a bottle and a half of wine cost €202
Tuesday - Wednesday: 12-5pm
Thursday - Saturday: 12-5pm, 6-10.30pm
Sunday - Monday: Closed
In a Sentence:
Cavistons Restaurant is an extension of their excellent Deli/Fishmonger serving supremely fresh seafood simply and well, and at fair prices.