The combination of great Irish seafood and classic Iberian cooking methods could never be wrong.
Here at this publication, we have a lot of love for all things quintessentially Dublin (it's in the name), but we're also definitely here for the recent trend of Spanish-style cooking and small plates arriving on our shores. Two things can be true at once, and all that.
A prime example and, dare we say, a trailblazer of the trend is the freshly opened Seafood Bar at the corner of Dorset Street and Blessington Street, a new venture for local restauranteur Joe Oualadi.
Joe is half Moroccan and half Italian, with an evident flair for Spanish cooking. He also owns Wood Fire Café on the same street, but at the moment it's the Seafood Bar that has everyone talking and rightly so.
Taking up residence at the corner spot formerly occupied by Vish, and briefly vegan deli Pretend, The Seafood Bar is a small but mighty space comprising of just five tables inside and more dotted out the front. Natural light bounces off the vigorously polished tiles, and the interior is nautical in theme without verging into hack/gimmick territory.
The vibe is extremely relaxed when we arrive on Tuesday afternoon - punters read the paper while chowing down on pulpo, and wine flows and overall it seems like a great spot to while away an hour or two.
Freshly caught shellfish chills on ice atop the bar, with friendly wait staff moving deftly through the space topping up water and complimentary jamon-flavoured crisps (which are immense, by the way - satisfyingly smokey with a coconut aftertaste). Wine bottles are stacked neatly on floating shelves above the bar and while we won't be the first or last to point this out, The Seafood Bar feels more like a place you'd stumble upon on a Valencian side street than at the intersection of D1 and D7.
The size of The Seafood Bar lends itself well to not-so-subtly surveying food being expertly seared and shucked behind the bar, and peeping every dish as it makes its way to its expectant owner causing you to frantically reassess your own order because of how incredible theirs looks. But you can rest assured - it's unlikely you'll be disappointed by anything this menu has to offer.
After resisting the allure of the €34 whole Irish lobster with garlic butter and chips we decided to keep our order as Spanish as possible with gambas al ajillo and seared scallops with ink risotto to start, and the Valencian monkfish paella with an obligatory side of lightly-charred padron peppers served with homemade aioli for mains.
The gambas - which are a top seller - arrive sizzling in a cast-iron pan doused with oil and thinly sliced garlic, which continues to cook as we mop everything up enthusiastically with the fluffy, lightly fried bread that accompanies. The prawns are juicy, and buttery, becoming caramelised at the bottom as time passes, it's a dish that you won't forget in a hurry.
The highlight of the scallops dish is definitely the bed of ink risotto, unlike anything you'd find in Dublin with an umami hit brought to life by a squeeze of lemon and a generous coating of parmesan. We hear the familiar sizzle of the paella dish which evokes plenty of "wows" as it's placed in the centre of the table, with the edges crisp and gently caramelised to assure you you're in good hands. You could easily share this between two with a couple of side dishes - it's generously packed with clams, mussels and of course, the titular monkfish, but every individual ingredient still gets its chance to shine.
On the ice counter, trustworthy names like Kelly Gigas and Flaggy Shore populate the oyster offering, with peel-and-eat gambas and cocktail sauce for dipping on the go too should the spirit move you.
Those who know seafood tastes best when paired with four ingredients or less will definitely want to add the pulpo a la gallega to their order - a traditional dish from the region of Galicia with rich, tender octopus, high-quality olive oil, floury spuds and a smattering of paprika. A highlight for sure.
For dessert, the Spanish answer to creme brulee, Crema Catalana is creamy and lightly sweet with a zing of orange and a satisfying, crunchy caramel top.
We opted for the house white (a Picpoul de Pinet, which is an interesting and welcome change to the sea of sauv blancs elsewhere in the capital) - it's fragrant and flowery with trademark acidity cutting through and priced at €8 per glass or €34 per bottle. Prices range from €32 to €49 per bottle, with offerings from Spain, Italy, France and New Zealand.
Starter dishes range from €14 to €22, with mains starting at €22 for moules frites and working their way up to €34 for the whole lobster. Side dishes are all around €4 and €5, and crying out to be added to your order.
The Seafood Bar is walk-in only, and once the outdoor tables are packed away for winter the competition for indoor seats will no doubt be fierce. It's definitely worth queueing though, and is sure to quickly become a go-to for Dublin seafood lovers.