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Monday, 16 April 2012

Out Of The Blue - Out Of This World

How can a shack with a corrugated iron roof and a kitchen so small that the proverbial cat would get concussion, on the Western edge of Europe become a global destination restaurant - rated as one of the places you must visit before you die?

The answer must lie in the perfect combination of clear vision, great ingredients and superb cooking, where the ingredients are treated sensitively and are shown at their best.

Forget the fact that Out Of The Blue is a single story corrugated roofed old cottage and look at the signs on the walls. “Seafood only”. “Nothing Frozen”. “If there’s no fish we don’t open”. Equally important from my perspective is the one that says No Chips, this is cooking as it should be and, when the harbour is the other side of the road you can be sure that the fish will be at its absolute peak.

Naturally the menu reflects what has been caught that day so it’s on blackboards not printed and will vary not only seasonally, but daily. There is no “Specials” board, everything here is special.

Owner Tim Mason says that the decision to open some 10 years ago was a bit of a gamble, no one else had tried to open a restaurant that only served seafood that was always fresh, never had meat on the menu and would open only if the boats had landed. It was a gamble that paid off handsomely as the number of award plaques on the walls demonstrate.

The place is small, even with a recent extension that allowed an extra 2 metres in the main room, so eating is as much a communal event as private and the buzz about the place is terrific. On our visits we have never failed to get into conversation with adjacent tables and that is part of the charm of Out of the Blue.

Once seated we were given the blackboard with the menu for the evening, the Wine List –the only printed item in the restaurant, and a plate of fresh breads, butter and a Smoked Mackerel pate to consume whilst we considered the menu. Actually the bread and Mackerel was so good that we ignored the menu and tucked into the pre-starter and had to ask for more time to choose!

Tim sources his wines from his brother Ben who runs the Wicklow Wine Company and the list, though short, is ideally matched to fish, we chose a house wine a crisp Cuvee Orelie D’Ardeche 2011 which went well with all of our selections.

Tearing ourselves away from the delights of the Smoked Mackerel pate we chose starters: Salmon cured two ways for Mrs K and the Fish Chowder for myself. I am a huge fan of chowder and tend to order it whenever I see it on a menu and OOTB make the best I have tasted. A good mix of Smoked and Unsmoked white fish, Salmon and Mussels came in a creamy soup with a background hint of anise, Dill perhaps or Pernod?. Small pieces of Carrot and Leek added to the mix and I must admit I did ask for a little more bread as an accompaniment.

Janet’s Salmon came with a lemon dressing and a small salad, in which the beetroot really sang out.

Mains were a hard choice, we both could have managed everything on offer but the Seafood Platter was ruled out when we saw the huge portions delivered to the next table. I opted for the Langoustines flambéed in Cognac and was presented with 8 big Langoustines with sides of Beetroot, Carrot, Beans. Cauliflower and Broccoli, Potato and a Potato Salad. I was also given the requisite tools to extract every ounce of meat from the shells and a near record 4 wet wipes alongside the finger bowl. A rich langoustine sauce came with the meal and the fish, cooked to perfection, made a rich, creamy mouthful that I was happy to repeat until the last of the body was eaten and the claws and heads picked clean.

Janet’s John Dory came with sides of Couscous, Beetroot Salad, Celeriac Julienne, Tapenade, Cauliflower and Broccoli, Courgette and Potatoes and Puy Lentils. As with the Langoustines the vegetables added to the dish and the clever presentation encouraged the eating of every last scrap.

We needed a short break before considering the Dessert blackboard so I took off to the kitchen,

Tiny, smaller than many domestic kitchens this really does define galley kitchens, and it is amazing that such a small space can turn out the volume of high quality food that it does.

Jean Marie Vaireaux and Eric Maillard vary the menu between Lunch and Dinner so only the freshest fish gets to your plate. Eric was cooking the evening that we visited and, between cooking several dishes at once he found time to talk to me and even pose for a photo – armed with a can of beer from the fridge.

My kitchen odyssey had allowed Mrs K time to digest her meal and decide that Dessert was definitely on the cards. Checking the blackboard she decided on the Dark Chocolate Brownie whilst Espresso sufficed for me.

The Brownie was epic, I know because I was allowed a taste! Rich dark and gooey with a crisp crust, it was served with a tuile biscuit, whipped cream and Strawberries on the side and two sauces. A tour de force.

On our way out I wanted to speak briefly with Tim, but on returning to the Bar he was nowhere to be seen. “Don’t worry, he’s just slipped to the pub to get some beers for the kitchen” I was told and seconds later Tim returned with a tray of beers for the chefs to enjoy as service ended. You don’t see that often but it shows how much Tim thinks of the staff who deliver such quality food.

To make a great restaurant you need several elements: a clear vision, great ingredients, consistently good cooking and a front of house team who are fully behind the concept. Out Of The Blue has all of these in spades and the regular winning of awards demonstrates this clearly.

Out Of The Blue is an absolute must if you are in Dingle and an essential even if you have to travel there.

Often imitated, never equalled.
Truly Local and Great.
Contact Out Of The Blue (+353) 066 9150811 - omit the 0 in 066 if calling internationally

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