Kerry. What a beautiful place. Rolling mountains, cliffs, blue seas, spectacular vistas. It’s a feel-good place. And what you need in a feel-good place is some feel-good food. So became our mission.
Word of mouth led us to a tiny restaurant about 50 metres from the harbour in Dingle. But to be honest, we couldn’t have missed it. Garishly bright blue and yellow, Out of the Blue (OOTB) is not a shy and retiring wallflower of a place to eat. It’s tiny and ferocious. I’m surprised we couldn’t spot it from the mountain on the way down there… a beacon of primary colours in the sunshine.
A sign displayed a grave warning: “If there’s no fresh fish, we don’t open”. In block letters below: “NO CHIPS, NOTHING FROZEN, ALWAYS FRESH OR ALIVE”.
Panic started to set in. What if there was no fresh fish?! There were wobbly bottom lips, there were furrowed brows. Upon poking our heads round the door, we were told that they didn’t serve lunch, but as there was a good catch available for dinner, we could have a table at 5pm.
So, relieved and slightly emotional, possibly feeling somewhat chastised by the rather assertive signs, off we went in the searing heat (it was 33C that day) to see if we could see Funghi the dolphin. Not as back-up in case the fishing boats pulled out of the transaction, you must understand. I always, always check my tins of tuna for dolphin abuse.
We searched for about 3 minutes, got a bit excited about some mildly-dolphin-shaped seaweed, decided we might melt and about-turned to find a beer garden and some tasty cold beverages. Life sometimes is very difficult, isn’t it?
Aperitifs administered and taking effect, we meandered our way back through the pretty Dingle streets to OOTB for 5pm. We were offered a table outside but there was absolutely no shelter and it was still very hot. A few parasols would have been ideal. Alas this was not to be, so we took the only alternative which was a bench at the window in the front of the restaurant. It’s clear that in peak season, you can’t just wing it with this place – get in and book early. The sun, I’m sure, is not something you’ll have to worry about too frequently.
There’s a definite maritime theme to OOTB with some lovely seaside-themed art on the walls, fishy books strewn about and the tanks of oysters and lobsters by the door. It’s very busy. Absolutely nothing minimalist about this place. There are more plaques and accolades on the walls than you could shake a fishing rod at, including year on year mentions in the Michelin and Bridgestone guides.
Our table worked out nicely with being in warm breeze from the door and close enough to the lobster tanks to hear the comforting watery gurgle of the aquarium. Atmospheric.
The staff are efficient. Not overly friendly, but the service was fine. The menu is chalked up daily on a board and diners can either choose from the full á la carte, or selected dishes from that which form part of the Fish Deal.
This place really is about the fish, the whole fish, and nothing but the fish. Our Friday catch gave us a fantastic selection from lobster to gurnard to pollack to mussels to monkfish… too many fishies to mention, spreading across eight or nine starters and the same for mains. Fish heaven.
Please don’t watch Finding Nemo before you visit. It’ll just end in tears.
It’s the kind of place you wish you could stage an eating marathon in. There are just so many good things to choose from. You will want to taste them all. After much debate we chose a selection: starters of lobster and langoustine bisque with aioli and a chargrilled gambas kebab with curry, followed by black sole on the bone meunière with almond butter, a duo of turbot and seabass fillet on a bed of fennel, red pepper & coriander sauce and a whole chargrilled plaice with anchovy butter.
The bisque was ever so slightly disappointing. That’s just picking fault – it was tasty, especially with the addition of the aioli – but it lacked just that little bit of depth. From that slightly wobbly start, things just got better. The prawns were delightfully fat and juicy, cooked to perfection and the kebabs spices perfectly judged.
All the mains were outstandingly fresh, cooked beautifully and up there with some of the best fish dishes I’ve ever eaten. The fennel was braised and delicious and was the perfect accompaniment to the turbot & seabass. All dishes were served up with cute tiny little sides of various things – a red cabbage coleslaw, a celeriac remoulade, fruity couscous, to name a few – which provided just the right amount of acidity and crunch to the buttery fish.
The stand-out dish of the evening was the black sole. Without question, it was unanimously declared to be the finest meunière eaten ever. The almonds worked, so so well. The levels of butter and frequent trips to your cardiologist would prevent you from eating this day after day after day, but you’d still want to.
The wine list is varied (in a good way), not badly priced and we had an excellent bottle of Picpoul. Desserts were simply out of the question, given the fact that we’d eaten a whole fish each.
You will probably pay a bit more for OOTB than a lot of restaurants in that area, but for the standard of cooking you’re getting, for fish that has been treated beautifully, straight off the boat that day, sometimes you really get what you’re paying for.
Two starters, three mains, bottle of Picpoul, two coffees and at least six months worth of Omega 3′s… for €138, not including service.