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Deep Restaurant Howth.

Med image image1170708026

West Pier, Howth, Co. Dublin.

+353 (0)1 806 3921.

Price: € 60-120 (for two with wine)

Hours: Lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Sunday.

Review

Deep has a welcoming air, it has a pitched ceiling of painted clapper board, one wall is entirely mirrored, which gives a sense of space, and I noticed from a sign on the door that the chef is called Vincenzo Coppola, as Italian a name as you're going to find. Call me prejudiced, but Italians take cooking fish very seriously, so I expected that we'd get well-cooked fish.

Unusually, the menu is a combination of the set dinner and an à la carte. All the dishes are priced individually and some have 'eb' (early-bird choices) against them. If you choose from these dishes, you can have two courses for €19.95 or four for €24.95, otherwise you pay the marked price. I suggested that Susan and Isabella pick from the à la carte, and I'd choose from the early-bird choices.

There's a whole page of starters, including plenty of fish dishes and options such as paté, deep-fried Brie, an aubergine Parmigiana, baked goats' cheese and chicken wings. However, we were there to eat fish so we ignored all of those.

It was hard to choose from all the fish choices, but then our waitress suggested we could try a mixed seafood platter for the three of us. Perfect, a taste of most of the starters, and all we had to do was choose our main courses.

Susan and Isabella both chose fish-based pasta dishes: seafood linguini for Isabella and ravioli with crayfish and basil cream for Susan. I chose the grilled hake with creamed leeks and croquette potatoes.

With two cars outside we had a glass of a house white each, an acceptable Sauvignon Blanc, and a couple of bottles of sparkling water. Our starter platter arrived, and here's a piece of advice for you: don't order this unless you're very hungry. The platter ran half the length of the table and was filled with oysters in tempura, mussels Provençal, prawns in tempura, crayfish, fish cakes and calamari rings. Honestly, I could have stopped eating right after this. Particularly good crayfish, and the rest all delicious -- a platter like this could send any fish-loving Italian gastronome into raptures.

So we approached our main courses with a lot less appetite than we might have. Susan did well with her ravioli, finishing her plate by the simple expedient of putting it on to my plate; Isabella ate rather less and took the rest home with her in a doggy bag, while I ate the perfectly cooked fish, some of the creamed leeks and none of the croquette potatoes.

From tasting all three of these dishes, two things were clear: first, here was a chef who can cook fish well; second, this a chef with a skilled hand at sauces. You may think sauces are easy, but they're not. Some chefs seem to forget that a pasta sauce isn't just about flavours, it also needs something else -- the ability to coat the pasta. These sauces did exactly what they were supposed to: they coated the pasta well and gave both dishes really well-balanced flavours.

While we were thinking about dessert, I was talking about synchronicity. "Just think," I said, "this afternoon I was talking about fish with Sean Moncrieff, and here we are eating fish. What about that?" "Not very impressive," came the reply, "hardly a world-shattering coincidence." Just then, a tall figure passed our table. "Are you stalking me?" asked Sean Moncrieff, who had just arrived with his wife. Now that's synchronicity.

Between us we managed one dessert from a choice of seven, the crème brûlée. Very good it was too, and as we finished it I met the chef, who has been in Ireland for more than 10 years. He very kindly insisted on buying us espressos to finish this excellent meal, while we chatted in Italian.

I'm old enough to remember when Howth had only the King Sitric, so it's a real delight to know that there's now a whole pier full of fish restaurants waiting to be explored. I really liked what Deep has to offer -- good fish dishes and good prices. I'll be back, I'm sure.

This time the bill came to €119.25, not including service.

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