Three years ago Sibella and I were in Italy, dining in a restaurant that purported to have more class than the ones we normally frequent on holiday. We had been lured there by the enticing and affordable table d’hote menu displayed in the window.
Once inside, we were handed the a la carte menu. Our request for the table d’hote was immediately met by a stare halfway between bemused and hostile. We stuck to our guns and were rewarded by the maitre d’ peeling the menu of our hearts’ desire from the glass. Clearly, we were not meant to eat from this carte. He laid down a stringent set of conditions – there was to be no variation, we had to chose three courses from A, B, or C, with no mixing’n'matching. The restaurant’s choice of wine to accompany the dishes was likewise set in stone.
I plumped for menu C, as it contained the magic words ‘sucking pig’.
By the time the dish arrived I was in a high old state of salivation. I stuck the fork in, tasted a morsel and frowned. My tastebuds told me that this was not sucking pig. I hailed the maitre d’ and enquired in friendly fashion “Is this the sucking pig?” He replied in the affirmative. “Are you sure?” I pressed. He turned on his heels and went into the kitchen, returning a moment later to proclaim “Chef says it is a young pig, speciality of the region.”
I recommenced eating. Another mouthful and I was utterly convinced that this was not sucking pig. I summoned the maitre d’ once more. “Any chance we could have a word in private, please?” We stepped outside. “Are you sure this is sucking pig, I asked, firmer this time. “Chef says it is young pig, speciality of the region,” came the pat reply. “Well, Chef is a lying bastard and so are you. This is not sucking pig, is it?” “Chef says….” I cut him short. “This is not sucking pig is it? This is f*cking fish.” “Yes,” he admitted, “It’s fish.” He had the grace to blush.
In my time as a restaurant reviewer and dedicated diner I’ve had some heinous deceptions practised on me. I’ve been palmed off with chicken as guinea fowl; farmed salmon as wild; pork fillet as rose veal. But swordfish masquerading as sucking pig is surely the emperor of all gastro-scams.
I hadn’t eaten swordfish since; that is, until last Bank Holiday Monday when I had dinner at Seapoint. Monkstown’s Crescent used to be a hotbed of decent dining but latterly it’s been pretty mundane. Still, one lives in hope and I’d heard good things about Seapoint from people whose opinions I’d respect. We arrived at the tail end of early bird time, the place was packed and the kitchen clearly under pressure. There wasn’t much of a meet’n'greet and though we were invited to sit at the bar until the earlier couple had vacated our table, no one asked us would we like a drink. There didn’t seem to be anywhere to put wet coats and, indeed, no one available to take them so we draped them over spare bar stools when we went to table.
A strategic bowl of rather good bread kept us occupied while the kitchen struggled to get back on terms. Then the starters arrived and from there on in it was all smiles. Sibs took the tian of crab tian, with a celeriac remoulade and a tangy pickled cucumber dressing, beautifully fresh and nicely presented. I went for a big bowl of mussels, having spied the one that went to the adjacent table, steamed Thai-style with coconut, chilli and coriander. We both took fish for mains: she, the pan fried honey and mustard monkfish, ingeniously teamed with spicy spaghetti fritters and a lemon and ginger jus; me, the grilled swordfish, quite a substantial chunk, came accompanied by baked fennel and garlic, a spicy tomato salsa and a lemon olive oil dressing. I was somewhat relieved to find the swordfish wasn’t sucking pig! It also came with chips, good ones too.
The wine list, like the cooking, is eclectic. Unlike the cooking, it’s slightly hit-and-miss. €48 for the less than whelming Pierro LTC sauv/sem really is not on. We shared a bottle of Senorio de Cruces, an Albarino, from Rias Baixas, Spain, crisp and decent, with enough weight to counter the glitzed-up fish dishes.
Sibella picked the winning dessert, a truly excellent lime and ginger crème brulee, served with balsamic and strawberry ice-cream. I opted for the selection of organic Tickety-Moo ice-cream of which I’d heard good things. In truth it was a disappointment, seeming a tad deficient in flavour. This was but a small blemish. Overall, we liked Seapoint for the ambience, adventurous cooking and truly excellent service.
The damage: €111.30, ex-service, for 2 x starters/mains/desserts, 1 coffee, bottle of wine
Verdict: Good to find a restaurant that does fish well.
Seapoint Restaurant, 4 The Crescent, Monkstown, Co. Dublin, 01 6638480