Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

El Bahia - Dublin

El Bahia claims to be the only authentic Moroccan restaurant in Ireland. It's tucked away upstairs behind Brown Thomas and features 4 different room decorated in different styles. Following a chilly day in Croke Park watching Ireland's great rugby win over France, we were definitely in the mood for something a little exotic and warming.

Well, warm was the word for the welcome we received from the host. Once our coats were taken from us (and hung on a series of coat hooks that line the stairs), we were shown to our reserved tables in one of the smaller rooms which is decorated like the inside of an arabian tent. The only problem was that the fabric which covered our bench seats. I just kept slipping right off it!

As there were 6 of us, we chose one of the shared menu options (mezza for parties). For E40 per person, we received a selection of 6 starters, our choice of main course and a half bottle of wine per person. Service was slow overall on the night, but we were quickly served with our wine and some spicy olives flavoured with preserved lemons. This kept us amply entertained until our starters arrived.

The host described each of the six starters to us and then left us to get started. We got delicious grilled sardines, spicy mergues sausages, a Moroccan tossed salad, gently spiced lentils, kobiza (spinach cooked with lemon and herbs) and, finally, zaaluk, a dish made from grilled pureed aubergines. Pitta bread was served on the side and all of us agreed that the flavours (in particular the lentils and zaaluk) were excellent. We just felt that the portions could have bigger as it was hard to divide the plates between six people.

Mains at El Bahia are very much traditional with plenty of tajine and couscous options. I chose the Elham Batata, which was described as succulent lamb cooked with ginger and saffron, served with potatoes and peas. To be honest, I couldn't tell the difference between the tajine and an Irish stew. It was pleasant with tender lamb but it wasn't in anyway different. Or at least I thought so until I found the preserved lemon lurking in one part of the tajine. Once I mixed that through, things improved dramatically.

My partner went for the Chicken Bastilla which is a mixture of sweet and savoury mix of chicken and almonds filling a filo pastry which is then dusted with icing sugar. It sounds a little odd, but tasted delicious and was by far and away the best dish at the table.

Overall, what did I think of El Bahia. There were certain food highlights and I think that it would be enough to convince me to go back there once more. The atmosphere can be very romantic and it's definitely a unique dining space in Dublin. I did feel that the E40 per head was not great value as you'd definitely have a cheaper meal by ordering a la carte. One definite fault was the terribly slow service. Overall, I like El Bahia, but neither am I raving about it.

El Bahia, 37 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2. 01 - 6670213
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