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Matt the Thresher Seafood Restraurant, Pembroke Street, D2.

Thresher 03

Pembroke Street Dublin 2.

+353 1 676 2980

Price: € 0-60 (for two with wine)

Hours: Breakfast from 9am, lunch and dinner seven days.

Review

Matt the Thresher occupies the space that The Pembroke did, so it's just between Baggot Street and Fitzwilliam Square. It has an outdoor seating area where I met Gavin, and inside it's spacious and airy, the tables well spaced in the room.

There's a long bar counter and at the front end of the bar is a display counter of fish and seafood, the sort of display you see at the entrance of many continental fish restaurants.

We stood there for a while, looking at the live lobsters and crabs, the mussels, mackerel, hake, monkfish -- all very fresh and all very tempting.

We found a table beside a turf fire, just what you need on a cool Irish summer evening, and read the menu. Fish dominates on the menu, not surprisingly as the head chef is named as Stephen Caviston, of the aforementioned Cavistons of Glasthule, a man who has grown up in the fish business.

Starters run from €5.95 for soup to €13.95 for a proper, classic Dublin Bay prawn cocktail made with langoustines. Main courses are moderately priced, running from €11.95 for a pot of mussels to €30 for a large seafood platter, although the majority of dishes are under €20.

It's not just fish, though; there are plenty of steaks and burgers to choose from if fish is not for you. But fish was exactly what we wanted, so we ordered three starters to share: the grilled mackerel, the scampi and a bowl of mussels.

We ended up ordering the same main course, because we'd seen the handsome and fresh hake on the counter and couldn't resist it. It's a much underestimated fish of the cod family, with firm, tasty flesh.

And then we turned to the wine list. Our waiter, Justin, was also the sommelier, and the wine list is his work in progress. There are about 30 wines listed and a few interesting choices to be had.

Justin suggested the Meyer-Fonné Gentil d'Alsace, a cépage which included Pinot Gris, Gewürtztraminer, Riesling and Muscat grapes. An unusual blend and a very good white wine to accompany seafood, it transpired. It was on the list at €25.95.

Our starters arrived and the mackerel was simply and well done. I'm very partial to mackerel, so I enjoyed it a lot, as I did the mussels, which were Meunière with cream and a Chenin Blanc white wine.

But the real star of our starters were the scampi, for two reasons. First, they were firm, fresh and not overcooked, and, second, the batter was quite simply perfection. I don't think I've ever had such a good batter -- crisp, light and free of all oiliness. Apart from the three starters, we were also using the toasted bread to dip into a really flavoursome tartar sauce, supposedly to accompany the scampi, but good enough to eat on its own with bread.

Main courses arrived and we both were presented with two very fine hake steaks. Again, simply but well done. We could quote Van Gogh here: "Why is simplicity the hardest thing to do?" But when you have excellent and fresh produce, it's at its best when it's as simple as possible. Let the produce do the talking, not the chef.

This was an impressive meal, and now I know where I can take visitors in the city centre when they want fish. Our bill came to €108.55, without a service charge.

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