A welcome addition for fans of the new wave of Dublin wine bars, this refreshing opener is what the city has been crying out for without even realising
Set the scene
The address listed for Bar Pez is ripe for confusion, and flailing interpretation. In some kind of brain fuzz, I had convinced myself that it was set in a Lock's-style location, airily taking in the dappled light of the canal, not the bottom of Kevin's street sandwiched between Dash Burger and down the way from Boojum, a road I cycle past most days. Painted a shade of brown that is reminiscent of some of the Holy Order's most pugnacious school uniforms, with shutters down til the afternoon it's easy to pass by. Opening time brings with it, a bench carried out the front for the invariable queue that will form, shutters pulled and the light switched on the faux oil lamps.
What's it like inside
Stepping through the glass doors with the name picked out in gold leaf, it's clear you are about to remove yourself from the crush of Dublin and step into a different dimension- The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe-style. Inside, it resembles the local haunt that you stumble upon on your Spanish holiday and return to every day, working your way through the menu with a smattering of shoddy español. Eyes for detail, owners Peter Hogan and Jumoke Akintola have recreated their very own slice of Spain with Bar Pez- Spanish for fish bar. Terracotta tiles, brass finishes, stained wooden counters, kitsch secondhand prints, half-set cream blinds which are just the right level for people to have a peek through (which indeed they do). Everything is completely open-plan, with a tight galley kitchen and a section dedicated to wine (complete with shelves so high they require a substantial ladder). But the light is one of the more abiding things about the place, soft almost tinted, further lends itself to the feeling that you are away enjoying a break from the routine of your life.
The space previously held by the cafe Hanger Management has been completely transformed. Bar-high seats looking out at Kevin Street have been pulled, wood replaced, tiles laid, and the space is completely unrecognisable from before. Bar Pez is a sister spot to Tramore's Beach House and the ever-exquisite Fish Shop on Benburb Street, whose high-quality pared-back fish menu has been made legendary over the last few years.
Small plates are the order of the day, read from the chalk on the blackboard above the kitchen. Unsurprisingly given the team's proclivity to the underwater realm, it's mainly fish-based. Some of the dishes could nearly act as an emblem of Spain, Gilda wet with the slick of salty preserved water whence it came and thick cut (Fumbally) bread, sitting in a pool of yellow olive oil with the slender little licks of anchovies placed to the side. With some surprises in the form of the liberally applied fresh ricotta with thin slices of preserved courgette. Bucking the curve of saturating oysters with deafening flavours of lemon, chilli and vinegary onion, instead, these sweet Kelly Gigas are paired with lightly pickled fennel, which lets the creaminess of the young oysters shine through tasting like a mouthful of Atlantic seawater when the head invariably ducks under during a swim. Lobster toast with creamy seaweed might have caused some folks to scratch their heads, so used to treating lobsters with kid gloves, untouched, pristine. Unafraid of forgoing tradition the team at Bar Pez expertly mix it with unctuous seaweed-flecked mayo, creating an almost earthy bite.
As with its big sis The Fish Shop, simplicity is key here, flavours long considered and agonised over, many dishes paired back to fewer than four ingredients. Even if you don't understand fine dining, many will understand the self-control and confidence it takes to keep things simple. Head chef Éanna McAtamney has that in buckets, the man who has done stints down under, across the pond in London and closer to home in Forest + Marcy.
Much has been talked about the wine list in this place, cleverly grouped based on the wines' terroir, by 'oceans' 'rivers' 'Mountains', 'Hills & Plains' with Burgundy deservingly receiving its very own section. This is a refreshing way to display the list and a shaking up of the traditional method of selecting wines based on the place or grape variety. You won't find any Pinot G or Cab Sav on the wine list, but you will find knowledgeable staff readily suggesting their favourites and politely enquiring about yours. There’s no judgment if you’re not the most experienced sommelier in the vineyard, just good vibes and delicious white, skin contact and red bottles for all.
With a whopping 16 bottles available by the glass, this is a sure way to try any wine that tickles your fancy- and judging by our experience there are many. Just a heads up the team is opting for the UK-style approach of small or medium-sized glasses, so flag the size you want at the time of ordering in case you want a shock at the end.
Much like Fish Shop, Bar Pez is run by whip-smart professionals who know the menu and the wine list inside and out. They are generous with their recommendations, a guiding hand negotiating the hefty wine list.
The location of Bar Pez does lend itself to the creative young professionals working off Camden/Aungier Street and indeed the polished professionals coming from Stephen's Green direction. Its walk-in only leads to a lot of heads peeking over the blinds wondering what's behind the gold leaf emblazoned door.
The place we didn't even know we needed in town. Your new go-to place for an after-work glass of wine, with small plates designed to be languidly eaten.