By Aoife Lawless
Seafood lovers of the nation, stop what you’re doing and listen up! If like me, the edible bounties of the sea linger first and foremost in your ideal culinary experience then I give you; Matt the Threshers of Pembroke street, Dublin.
I had heard of this restaurant many times and was aware that it promotes fresh fish and seafood in a fine dining and elegant arena, yet it was only recently that I had the joy of beholding its fishy wonder and wares first hand.
Being a coastal native, I’ve grown up with an inherent respect for all the delights our ocean has to offer. As a child collecting periwinkles and crab fishing was a common pastime during summer months. The sight of crates of whelks by the pier, wafting their fresh and salty odours as they squirmed helplessly by the basin in Courtown is a vivid memory from childhood.
This being the case, when I crave seafood I will not be sated by pathetic offerings of defrosted king prawns, frostbitten sea soldiers disguised in rich sauces.
It is exactly for this reason that when I visit coastal areas renowned for their seafood, such as Donegal and Wexford that I become positively childlike in my excitement at the treasures proffered in their eateries. In my twelve years in Dublin my expectations for the capital to meet these expectations in the same manner has become pessimistic and positively jaded.
It was then to my absolute delight to stumble upon the online menu for Matt the Thresher upon googling ‘top seafood in Dublin’. While hungrily ogling the menu online, my jaw dropped and quickly reset into grinning even drooling position to read of their ‘taste of the sea’ platter, an oceanic cacophony of oysters, crab arms and toes, prawns, lobster and a seasonal variety of shellfish. My mind was blown! The downside was, oh dear, the asking price of €60. Was I deterred? Was I heck! I may be a student on a budget but I have my priorities. I have been searching for the holy grail of the marine world, so who am I to look it in the face and argue over value. The ‘Phew’ moment came when my companion and I were seated and I enquired as to whether it was a sharing platter, the relieving answer was, “Yes, of course!” Happy days, €30 saved! I’ll have a glass of Sancerre to celebrate and celebratory it should be at €11.95 a glass.
Our waitress for the evening was most intuitive. Once we learned of the sharing aspect of the platter and paused to deliberate over starters, she helpfully suggested the main course crab claws to share which, in our ravenous states we jumped upon eagerly and jokingly noted her telepathy.
The crab toes were a wonder, not purely because of their fleshy goodness, but because of the simply rich and glorious savoury butter that dressed their de-shelled bodies. My palate recognised the usual notes of lemon, dill and chilli within the clarified butter which was a vibrant amber colour. They were served up with simply delicious homemade brown malt bread which was made to marry successfully with all seafood.
When the platter itself was set in front of us, it was indeed a taste of the sea and nothing short of all my wildest seafood imaginings. The bountiful collection of crustaceans and molluscs were ingeniously spread over two tiers, one hot, one cold.
The chilled bottom tier consisted of shucked oysters and little boats of baby gem leaves holding king prawns in marie rose. In the middle lay a small bowl of cold crab meat in a light dressing.
The top tier was filled with steaming mountains of mussels and clams along with crab toes and prawns. Atop this sat huge crab arms and lobster claw and tail. The latter called for the use of the weaponry we had been armed with on ordering, a nutcrackers and a special long and thin fork-like device, used to draw the meat from beneath the stubborn shells of crustaceans. The hot molluscs were deliciously fresh and salty. We plucked them from their shells in quick succession one after another after another, breaking only to tackle the big guns; the crab and lobster.
At this point I should also mention the assortment of condiments and sauces we received with our mammoth dish, these included two flavoured butters, one of which was citrus, marie rose sauce, shallot vinegar (perfect for oysters) and Tabasco. It was after some time that we began to slow down and eventually come to a very final halt. It was with a heavy heart that I looked at the still teeming two tiered tower of uneaten shellfish. My personal mantra of ‘never leave a prawn behind’, instead of encouraging was now taunting. I was defeated.
In retrospect, I think that not alone should this be advised as a sharing platter for two, but for three. The leftovers could have easily fed a third person amply. A doggie bag was never so necessary.
That night I slept with one eye open half expecting a knock on the door from Greenpeace calling me to task for depleting the oceans.
The experience overall was fantastic and I shall definitely return and probably very soon, but next time maybe to try their Dover sole or even just for a bowl of fresh mussels and that tasty brown bread. The best part of it all, guilt aside, was the bill at the end of the meal only came to €130 including various glasses of wine, the aforementioned Sancerre, Chablis and a less costly but much more palatable Viognier. Pretty good considering the excellent quality of the meal, great service and pleasant surroundings.