A friend reports with news from the deepest SoCoDu. Maybe, she says, I have to sit down. It turned out that she had gone to dinner with friends on Saturday night. They ate well, had a good time, shared a few bottles of wine between four and tipped handsomely. They spent €40 each. In Dalke.
A while ago, this news might not have deserved much attention, but needless to tell you, restaurant prices are on the rise. A bill of €100 per head no longer raises eyebrows; many are much higher. We all know and understand the reasons, but they’re cold comfort when disposable income goes the other way. So 40 € is not an inconsequential sum, but it is not an outrageous one either. A trip to Bubbas sounds like a good idea.
The restaurant is quiet early on Wednesday evening. The outdoor terrace, well frequented in summer, is now empty in autumn. Bubbas is open from 12pm to 9pm most days. It also offers take-away and local delivery services, and plans to add a fresh fish counter in the coming weeks so customers can choose from what the kitchen should cook from what’s on offer
Bubbas is named after the three brothers who own it: Stephen, Philip and David Hanley. Her father, Padraic Hanley, used to be behind Ouzos and Fish Shack and now runs seafood wholesaler East Coast Lobster Company, so it’s safe to say there’s form here when it comes to learning a thing or two about fish and seafood to know. Padraic tells me he steps in to help when things get hectic; Bubbas appears to be a family business.
After the busy Dalkey Lobster Festival, Bubbas is a picpoul-free zone. For a seafood restaurant, this is a disaster, comparable to a burger joint running out of ketchup or a ramen joint running out of noodles. Our server apologizes profusely. The week’s delivery of wine hasn’t arrived yet, she explains, and supplies are low. From a short, generic list, we choose instead the Agnusdei Albariño 2021 (€39).
My mate recommended the fish and chips so we’ll definitely eat them, but first there’s Dublin Bay crab and prawns with a ‘dip’ from the ‘snacks’ section of the menu. While both are more likely to be frozen than fresh, I later learn, the crab isn’t pasteurized — unlike the grim stuff you find in most supermarkets. Unfortunately, the crab and shrimp are so heavily smothered in sour cream and a dill and spring onion mayonnaise that it’s difficult to discern the flavor of either.
A fried shrimp appetizer, on the other hand, lacks flavor and the garlic butter is bland. Both dishes come with a doughy, rather leaden sourdough.
Actually, we’re here for the main event. The fish component of the fish and chips — two generous chunks of fresh haddock in a light, crispy, non-greasy tempura batter — is flawless. The sweetish mashed peas is okay (I know my personal fondness for proper mashed peas in vinegar isn’t shared by all, and this is a less challenging version), but the tartar sauce could use more of the elements (cucumbers, capers, herbs, lemon) that make a good, assertive variant fun.
The fries are frozen, and while I understand the challenges of making consistent fries from fresh potatoes since the characteristics of different varieties vary so widely, I would much prefer fresh fries, preferably cooked in roast form.
Our second main course is Sole Meunière. Happy to see Bubbas using Megrim which is underused in Irish restaurants as most of it is exported to Spain. The fish is obviously fresh and well prepared, but the Caper Beurre Noisette, which sounds so good on the side, is lackluster – an easy fix. The dish comes with cucumber strips in a yogurt dressing that’s light and fresh, and baby potatoes roasted with their skins.
We finish with a chocolate and hazelnut mousse topped with whipped cream and chopped nuts. The mousse has a slightly grainy consistency, as if whipped, but is not unpleasant.
Our bill before the service is a fraction of over €100. (Turns out my friend and her buddies only had one main course each to end up with a bill of €40 a head.) There are changes that need to be made at Bubbas and I’m sure these will happen, but they keep getting the most important things right – fresh fish, lovely service – and if you eat fish and chips and a bottle of picpoul you’ll be satisfied.
Fish and chips for two with a bottle of Pinot Grigio is €59 before service.
Oysters, lobster and chablis might cost €100 a head.
Bubba’s Fish Market, 3C Castle Street, Dalkey, Co Dublin, bubbas.ie
https://www.independent.ie/life/food-drink/bubbas-fish-market-restaurant-review-if-you-pitch-up-for-fish-and-chips-and-a-bottle-of-picpoul-i-reckon-youll-leave-happy-41991566.html Bubba’s Fish Market restaurant review: “If you line up for fish and chips and a bottle of picpoul, you’ll leave happy.”