Fish restaurants in fishing harbours always do it for me, the proximity of the freshest ingredients puts me in a good frame of mind. The Oar House restaurant in Howth ticks this box and others besides, fresh ingredients, simply prepared, friendly staff and a great atmosphere, even at lunchtime in October.
This is the brainchild of John Aungier who has been busily feeding the citizens of Howth across the way in Casa Pasta for years now. This is a new departure, situated in an old smoking shed on the side of the pier and while it lacks the views from Aqua, Oarhouse makes up for it with it's buzz. The room is neat rather than small and the decor is traditional. The kitchen is open plan and there are two boards dispalying the specials of the day. On this day, incidently, I was eating alone, having arrived by accident rather than design. I got a table near the kitchen and sat back to have a look at the menu, even though one of the specials had caught my eye on the way in.
The menu is long and just about everything on it can be ordered as a tapas or main course portion. The choices are numerous, but include three soups to start, prawns in various guises, grilled sardines, crabcakes, mussels, peppered smoked mackeral, oysters, fish pie and just about every other variety of fish. The specials board had caught my eye. Two salads were offered, one with scallops, one with Dublin Bay prawns, both served with pumpkin on a bed of rocket and pine nuts. I asked my waitress if it would be possible to combine the two? No problem at all. A bowl of home-made chips and some sparkling water completed the order.
Service is brisk so I wasn't waiting that long, but had a chance to have a good look around. It was starting to empty out, but still half full. Conversations flowed, everyone looking relaxed and happy. The chefs were busy tossing their pans, containing no doubt my scallops and prawns and in no time the dish was in front of me, complete with the bowl of chips.
I believe it is hard to mess up good fish, or shellfish on this case. I know it happens, but really fresh ingredients, a sympathetic hand and not too much added, and hey presto, a meal fit for a king. This was the case today, perfectly cooked scallops, succulent prawns, peppery rocket and the tang of the pumpkin all drizzled with a lime dressing. Wonderful. The chips were very good also, and mopped up any juices left behind. I finished an excellent lunch with a coffee, and a promise to myself to return for dinner. The bill was under 20 and as I walked along the pier afterwards wondered why we have nothing like this on the southside. The nearest would be Cavistons, but Oarhouse has a more natural quality found so rarely in Dublin's increasingly bigger is better is brasher food scene.