"Fish & Chips with Cocktails" is the strap line of new Dublin restaurant Bite. Simple concept, but can the execution match the statement? There's a very experienced hospitality team behind Bite, including Ronan Ryan and Anthony Remedy (of Town Bar & Grill and McGrattan's bar respectively) while the kitchen is headed up by Malcolm Starmer (former head chef at The Dining Room in La Stampa).
The concept of Bite appears simple - take a single element (fish) and build a menu around it. Locate the restaurant in a classy Georgian building on South Frederick Street, add modern signage, the now-obligatory social media campaign and you have the elements of a very modern Dublin restaurant. It's a far call from the bags of fish and chips from Cork's Jackie Lennox's that I enjoyed as a child in the backseat of the family car, with the windows cranked open to drive out the chip smell.
We arrived on a sunny summer evening and received a very warm greeting from the host. Getting to our table involved a trip up and down steps, out of the first dining room, through the outdoor area and back into the second dining room. Bite has expanded to fill every nook and cranny of the space available, and nearly all tables were taken.
Once seated, we were given the menus along with a free bowl of popcorn for snacking. This was a mix of chilli squid popcorn, plain chilli popcorn and buttered popcorn and it was addictive. It was warm and buttery with little kicks from the chill and squid, with a pool of buttery goodness sitting at the bottom.
|Mixed bowl of free buttery popcorn|
I must admit that the first view of the cocktail list was a bit disappointing. The cocktails mainly feature gin and vodka and while I love my gin, I am more a fan of darker cocktails. That aside, we started with an Ellison - Hendrick's gin muddled with mint and cucumber, lime and soda (€8.95). This was cool and refreshing but disappointingly light on the alcohol.
The menu at Bite is short with a handful of options in the main sections. Our starters of pil pil prawns (€6.95) and classic crab cocktail with beetroot purée and a marie rose sauce (€7.95) were both pretty good with some minor faults. My crab cocktail was light, with a lovely sweetness from the beetroot purée, however the large wad of shredded iceberg lettuce stole the flavour from the delicate crab. In his case, the oil had been richly infused with garlic and chilli, but there was a serious lack of bread with which to mop up the tasty goodness.
|Classic crab cocktail|
|Pil Pil Prawns|
Moving on to main courses, we ordered lemon sole in panko breadcrumbs (€13.95) and grilled sea trout (€14.95). Skinny fries can be added to most dishes for just €0.95 extra or you can indulge with the extensive range of side dishes which cost €3.95 each or two for €7.00. Our choices were the fat truffle and parmesan fries and mushy peas with pancetta. All fish dishes come with a sauce of your choosing, so we ordered chermoulla and rouille but we were also delighted to receive two additional pots of bitter lemon sauce and grain mustard and dill (additional sauces cost €0.95 each).
Both fish dishes were quite nice, bearing in mind that ultimately, they are fish & chips. Accompanying little jars of pickles were tasty and the side portion of skinny fries was very generous, forcing me to leave about half untouched. The burnt lemon sauce was a winner, reminding me of a bitter lemon curd and the fat parmesan and truffle fries were very fat indeed. Overall, we were stuffed
|Lemon sole with skinny fries & pickles|
|Grilled sea trout|
I ordered one more cocktail, the aptly titled Stephens Green. This was a mix of kiwi muddled with ice, vanilla vodka and apple juice (€7.95). Again, it suffered from feeling light on the alcohol, but it was a perfect summer cocktail.
Our overall impressions of Bite was quite good, once the hype and celebrity spotting is subtracted (we were limited to a glimpse of Brendan O'Connor). A simple plate of fish & chips is substantial and quite affordable, leaving the decision on extras up to the diner. I think the Fish & Chips part of the strap line has been nailed, but the Cocktails part is lagging behind. I'd personally prefer a cocktail menu that featured a little bourbon, whiskey or cachaça. Right now, Dublin diners are flocking to restaurants that are simpler, affordable and fun. Bite ticks all the boxes.
Bite, 29 South Frederick Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 679 7000