Most of you are probably familiar with Howth, the well-to-do little fishing village nestled into a rocky peninsula on the coast of North Dublin. Long has it been the go-to for great seafood but, over the last three or so years, it's become a rather cool player on the foodie scene.
Crabby Jo's is a new venture by the folks at Wrights of Howth and is tacked onto their famous fish shop on the village's West Pier. With time on our side for once and a hankering for some top quality fish, Kev and I met in Howth one afternoon for a little lunch date.
Given that the restaurant is housed in one of the restored fishing buildings (warehouses?!) along the pier, the interior is largely open plan; the expansive kitchen opens out onto the entryway where diners can watch the chefs at work and get a sense of just how fresh their fresh fish is. The interiors junkie in me loved the beamed ceilings, tufted leather banquets and dark, heavy tables made of reclaimed wood - it all felt very authentic and not at all contrived shabby-chic-nautical as some seafood restaurants can look.
Obviously fish is the name of the game here and the guys at Crabby Jo's use the huge selection of seafood from their store next door which means a) it's fresh as can be and b) it's high quality. To start, we had the Crabby Jo's Seafood Chowder and, my personal weakness, French Onion Soup with Gruyere Toast.
The chowder was particularly special; lightly creamy, perfectly seasoned and chock full of chunks of smoked haddock, fresh cod and salmon as well as a good six or seven mussels. Ultimate comfort food and all for just over a fiver!
I have a rule. If Dublin Bay Prawns are on the menu of a restaurant in Dublin Bay, you simply have to get them. Ignore the price, they are worth every single penny you will pay and the ones at Crabby Jo's, where they douse them in garlic and serve them swimming in butter, are no exception.
On the other side of the table? Fish and Chips. Incredibly fresh, flaky cod is dunked in a crispy, salty batter and deep fried until bronzed and brittle. It comes served with the most perfect chipper chips, heavenly homemade tartar sauce and a light pea and mint purée.
Just when we thought we couldn't possibly eat another bite, a friendly waiter suggested we might like to pop over to the counter and look at the desserts. I went - just in the name of blog research, of course! The pastry chef was busy filling customer orders of Christmas mince pies and keeping the display stocked which was no mean feat given the amount of windswept walkers who were popping in for coffee and a cake to take on their travels!
Somehow, a piece of warm Chocolate Fudge Tart wound its way onto our table (I swear I had nothing to do with it!) and was quickly joined by two decent Americanos. The cake, though sinful, was divine with sticky fudge sauce sandwiched between layers of moist chocolate cake that was rather festively spiked with cinnamon.
They were busy the day we visited but, no one rushed us off the table which made a refreshing change to the norm. We were in need of a catch-up-and-chill-out afternoon and that's what we got. Lunch, which included three starters (my prawns were off the starter menu), a main, a dessert, two coffees and a bottle of wine came to just under €70.