Thursday, May 9, 2013

[Review] Electric Fish Bar, South Mall, Cork

I remember visiting ACC Bank on Cork's South Mall as a child, in tow at my mother's side. I was gradually beginning to cotton onto the fact that my mother was some kind of extreme saver (and couponer too, way before it was cool). For my mother, it's a case of neither a borrower nor a lender be, but instead be a saver. She did try to instill this worthy habit in me by signing me up for a Henry Hippo saving account in Ulster Bank which came with a suitably cool money box. It was a decent effort on her part, but you can only go so far with me.

Little did I know then what I know now. Over the space of 20 years,  I would acquire several novelty money boxes, proceed to spend my childhood savings in college and start my career, all while Ireland's banks would crest and crash. ACC has long been gone from their premises on the South Mall, which have been occupied by bar and restaurant Electric for several years.

For my first blog post about Electric, we dined outside on the upstairs terrace. That terrace is now closed up and remodeled into the beautiful Fish Bar. This dining room is a sharp, slick affair. Crisp blue glassware and stunningly white wall tiles cause the room to sing with light, but all attention is drawn to the open kitchen area.  It's all thoroughly modern Millie, but still reminds me of a long ago holiday eating tapas in ancient San Sebastian bars (thankfully sans napkins wadded on the floor).
The open kitchen area in the Fish Bar
Sharp touches - copper napkin rings, bone-handled knives and the iconic menu
We ordered a selection of small plates to start, perfect for sharing amongst friends. Ceviche, or a Peruvian dish of marinated raw fish, was light but substantial, served alongside sweet plantain chips (€8.00).  I would have preferred it to be sharper, but a squeeze of lemon fixed that nicely for me. A half dozen oysters were silky smooth, and while he likes his oysters au natural, I definitely appreciated the sharply sweet mignonette dressing (€10.00). Seared tuna was beautifully cooked, and had us running our fingers over the plate to get every last drop of the wonderful sesame ginger dressing (€9.00).

Our fishy delights were accompanied by two dirty martinis (€8.50). Some cocktail purists pooh-pooh the addition of olive brine to the martini, but I'm big fan of how the oily gin is transformed by the salty brine. It really is one of the best cocktails, and I've always thought that it suits me pretty well. Turns out that it also suits seafood pretty fine too.
Ceviche with cracked pink pepper and plantain crisps
Half dozen fresh oysters
Seared tuna with sesame ginger dressing
We decided to get in the mood for our upcoming Portugese holiday by ordering the whole grilled sea bream, which came with herb pesto and roasted cherry tomatoes (€16.00). Perfectly cooked, the flesh came away from the bones with little persuasion and was sublime when dipped in the cooking juices. I particularly liked the charred lemon, but I would have preferred to see the gills removed from the fish. 

Over the last few years, I've felt that the dining scene in Cork has fallen behind the vitality and pace of Dublin. Yes, there are some really good restaurants in Cork, but it's also felt a little staid at times. The Fish Bar is fresh like a brisk sea breeze, and a celebration of all things fishy.  The construction of the menu means that dishes can be shared easily between groups, or hoarded jealously by the gluttons amongst us. Word of warning, the Fish Bar does not take reservations, so get in early to get your seat.

Electric, 41 South Mall, Cork
Tel: +353 (0)21 4222 990
URL: www.electriccork.com
Twitter: @ElectricCork
Electric on Urbanspoon

No comments: