I should have known, of course, that outside tables at the King Sitric aren’t quite as outside as you’d expect. I mean, what has Covid ever done for us, as Reg didn’t quite say in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. We now find ourselves with some very cosy outside terraces, and if we learned anything from the past two years it’s that a few woolly jumpers can make a big difference. Which is just as well, because it looks like they’ll be getting quite a bit of wear indoors too, as we curl up on the couch for a spot of darning.
So, for my little jaunt out to Howth, on the northern edge of Dublin Bay, I had booked an inside table, only to land there on a lovely warm day when, of course, outside is where everyone wanted to be. And, to be honest, for relaxed dining in a coastal location, it’s where I want to be just about any time of the year, as long as Storm Betty, Cillian or Khalid isn’t brewing.
The King Sitric restaurant used to be a decidedly posh affair, all white linen clad tables and sole on the bone. Now the upstairs bit is closed, and the more casual seafood bar downstairs, with its wooden tables and comfy chairs, has inherited the lauded name. There’s a bit of a nautical theme with anchors and lighthouses, but it’s not overdone; and I spy a stash of neatly folded blankets for chillier days.
This is not the sort of place that stumbles over the fundamentals
No sooner have I ordered than I feel the pangs of self-inflicted ordering envy. Not because it was a bad choice — shellfish bisque, crab salad, lobster roll, and fish and chips — but I missed the fact that local shrimp are on the menu. Not imported tiger prawns. What they have here are Irish prawns from day boats, fished during the August-to-March season. And they also have the larger Dublin Bay prawns which, no doubt, are sweetness and joy in garlic butter. All of this we contemplate over a pint of Guinness (€5.70) and a sizeable glass of Picpoul de Pinet (€9.50) on a Sunday afternoon.
The shellfish bisque of the day is prawn (€9), and a fair helping of those prawn shells give it a pure, deep flavour, nothing over-extracted or muddy, and a slice of brown soda bread is just what you want with it. The crab salad (€16) is garnished with finely sliced radish and cucumber, and while you might think, oh, that’s not very much, it is sweet, fresh crabmeat, that has been landed by Peter Lynch and handpicked in the kitchen. It’s how I like it, nothing added to stretch it out and make it look larger on the plate. And all the hard work is done.
I’m married to a man who spent his childhood summers in Maine, and introduced me to the joys of cabins in the woods and lobsters on the wharf, so anyone serving lobster roll (€20) comes in for a serious level of scrutiny. No need to hold your breath, they have it spot on here: perfectly cooked lobster, dressed lightly in mayo, in a brioche bun which comes close to the Maine equivalent. We’ll never settle the “which is better, Irish lobster or Maine lobster?” argument, so I guess we’ll just have to keep eating it on both sides of the pond for the rest of our lives.
Fish and chips (€17), is steaming hot hake in a crust of golden breadcrumbs with a very good home-made tartare sauce. And yes, of course it is excellent, this is not the sort of place that stumbles over the fundamentals.
A seafood restaurant that sticks solidly to locally landed fish is rarer than you’d think
For dessert, we share a pistachio and raspberry tart (€8). Dots of nicely tart raspberry coulis increase in size in quite a cheffy arc; the tart could perhaps do with a few more raspberries in the frangipane filling, which is just a little bit dry. But it’s tasty and finished off our meal nicely.
A seafood restaurant that sticks solidly to locally landed fish is rarer than you’d think. There is no farmed sea bass, sea bream or salmon on the menu, no dubious smoked salmon bulking out an Irish abomination of fruits de mer. This makes my heart sing. While a crisp linen tablecloth can be quite the thing for a special occasion, for a more regular dining experience, prioritising the fish over the furnishings is a smart idea. And if it’s a restaurant with outdoor tables, better still.
Dinner for two with two drinks was €85.29.
THE VERDICT I wish this was my local
Music None, just the buzz of chatter
Food provenance Fish from local boats, Kish Fish, Kelly’s oysters, Ray Collier meat, Keelings, Sheridan’s cheese
Vegetarian options Limited, goat’s cheese salad, and vegan option of miso glazed aubergine
Wheelchair access Accessible, with accessible toilet