The smart and iviting facade of Catch 22, the latest addition to the growing number of fish restaurants in Dulbin, on South Anne Street

ISN’T it odd that when thinking about Dublin gastronomy the mind doesn’t peruse what should be a lengthy list of great fish restaurants? A travesty in the coastal capital of an island up to its wellies in seafood…no? Fishy hotspots have long been the preserve of more rural seaside destinations like Kinsale, Dungarvan or Dingle.
The tiger years may have brought an influx of fancy fusion options to rival the London or New York food scenes but many closed in a case of style over substance and whopper prices.
It seems, however, that in our pared-back recovery something fishy is going on and not in a bad way! Yes, fish is making a welcome comeback to our seaside city.
Recent openings like Klaw, Lobster Pot and the brilliant Fish Shop sending the right kind of fishy aromas over the Liffey and now the smart and inviting façade of Catch 22 on handsome South Anne St is marching a pescatorial parade through the streets of Dublin town. Molly Malone would be delighted.
We were off to a gig at 8pm so it’s an early bite at 6pm in Catch 22 and the place is already packed. The menu reads breezily of all the usual suspects prepared simply using the freshest of fish and includes muscle pots, calamari, beer battered cod and chips, crab claws, fish cakes and scampi. All starters are under a tenner and mains under €20, the easy-on-the-pocket prices reflected in the casual mix of locals, tourists, hipsters and couples.
The menu is quite interchangeable, which I always like, and you could easily have two starters and not feel like you’re missing out on a main course. The mussel pot can be ordered as a main with a side of sweet potato fries or mushy peas.
I’m thinking of the night ahead and want to eat light so opt for crab claws and a pan fried fillet of plaice with shrimp butter. The mate goes for the mussel pot and the tempura scampi.
An enamel mug of whitebait fried in a light polenta crumb arrives moments later, which we didn’t order but it seems everyone was getting; a nice touch.
Starters were out soon after and the mussels were soft, plump morsels steamed just right in a creamy broth of zesty lemon and garlic.
I would have added a touch more garlic; though mopped up with the generous hunk of crusty bread it was more than adequate.
The crab claws were, in a word, amazing. Ten or so soft meaty claws of straight-off-the-beach freshness in a subtle chilli and garlic butter; the standout of the meal.
After a clatter of empty enamel clearing, out came the mains. The service is prompt and efficient with what seems like a swift turnaround, though we didn’t feel rushed for a second.
My plaice was just as I’d expected for a lighter option, two fillets of delicate flaky and pearly white meat topped with slightly sweet shrimp butter and salty samphire. Probably not the most exciting dish on the menu but the flavour was all there and executed well.
The mate was half way through the tempura scampi by the time I looked up and I managed to grab one in the nick of time.
They were a close second to the crab claws with light as a feather batter as crisp as a box of Pringles and with not a hint of soggy doughiness underneath.
I gave in at this stage and had one of her chips; OK 16 of her chips and they were as good as I’ve had.
We opted out of dessert and the bill with three glasses of the exquisitely fish accompanying Picpoul de Pinet wine at a competitive €7 a glass came to a sustainably sourced €71.
So what’s the catch? Sorry, I hate myself for that but I had to. Well, there isn’t one.
Simple and unfussy cooking and fresh-as-a-January-morning fish make Catch 22 a perfect option for a casual fish supper and you can’t say fairer than that.
Shane Rigney
is a food blogger
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