On Dublin’s Camden Street, the former bar area of The Village nightclub has been replaced by a sleek, cosmopolitan interior. Where once it was late-night dancing and gigs, Opium restaurant has emerged. However, the interior has been revamped completely to reveal low lighting, exposed brickwork and leather seating. In the main area, a large semi-circular, curved bar now takes centre stage. A live DJ spinning a mix of retro and modern tunes completes the London or New York vibe. There are booths and seats out near the main entrance, which offer a quieter space to dine but if you’re going to Opium for a quiet time then you’re in the wrong spot. This is a lively, fun place and certainly the music suited our Saturday mood.

With over three pages of cocktails, including their signature ones, it’s clear that Opium is positioning itself as a destination bar, and rightly so. We went a little off-menu with our choices opting for a classic strawberry daiquiri (€9.90) and a margarita (€9.90), which arrived adorned with fresh fruit (daiquiri) and in a chilled, salted glass (margarita). Mixology and bar skills are in evidence here: our spot across from the bar gave us prime position to observe the guys in action. Deft and precise handiwork produced a steady stream of colourful concoctions as the night drew in.

Staff are friendly and knowledgeable, keen to ensure you are enjoying the food – a simple question so often overlooked. Billed as modern Thai/Vietnamese cuisine, there are various ways to dine. You can go for small or large plates, sharing options or a set menu if in larger groups. The menu offered a generous mix of the expected, for example crab cakes and Vietnamese rolls, as well as the more unusual like a Thai sausage and sticky rice or scallop and halibut ceviche. It seems that Opium like to do things with a twist.

My carnivorous companion couldn’t resist the baby back ribs (€7.50) with a house rub, which had been slow-roasted in a coriander, guava, honey and hoisin baste. These had been marinated intensely and so produced a really flavoursome bite. I went for the gyoza (€8), three different Asian style dumplings of shrimp and snow pea, pork and ginger, mushroom and smoked garlic. This variety of pairings really worked with the accompanying dipping sauce of black vinegar, sweet soy and sesame.

My steamed sea bream (€22) was served with spring onions, leeks and bok choi in a chilli and ginger sauce. It was good but I found myself eyeing up my companion’s dish with envy. The stir-fried prawns and scallops (€19.95) were definitely a highlight. Plump juicy prawns, unctuous scallops and crunchy sugar snaps in a light soy and XO sauce. It was by far the tastiest seafood dish I’ve sampled in a long time.

Although some inviting desserts were on offer (€5.95 each), we were happy to linger over drinks and enjoy the people watching.

It can be difficult to get right all the quality of all the elements of food, ambience and cocktails, but in this case Opium is displaying mastery across all three.

LORRAINE GRIFFIN

We loved Opium-style seafood in a zingy Asian sauce

We spent Bill came to €100 for two cocktails, two starters, two mains and two drinks plus tip

Opium
26 Wexford Street
Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 526 7711
www.opium.ie