If you like seafood, you will have heard of Fish Shop in Dublin.
Founded by husband-and-wife team Peter Hogan and Jumoke (known as J) Akintola, Fish Shop initially began as a stall in Blackrock Market, before the couple expanded to a full restaurant on Queen Street in Dublin. So successful was their initial venture that the pair opened a second venue on Benburb Street which offers small plates with a focus on wine.
Here, we spoke to J and Peter about the ethos behind Fish Shop, how they have grown their business and more.
How did Fish Shop come about?
PETER: "We were living in London and working as primary school teachers while running a street food stall on the weekends. It was going well in London, but we had started to look for a change. I had always wanted a restaurant, that was always the dream."
J: "We shared a love of cooking and we had a big house in London, so people always came to us for meals. Pete would usually be the one cooking and I was always pouring drinks and talking to people. Eventually, our roles reversed and I ended up better at cooking for service, while Pete seemed much better with people. We wanted a change and Dublin wasn't too dissimilar to London, so we decided to come here."
PETER: "It made sense for us to come to Dublin, so we opened up in Blackrock in 2013. There were only two restaurants making waves in Dublin at the time, Etto and Forest Avenue, so we were able to make a bit of an impact. We had a bit of a hunch that it was a good time in Dublin, especially because we were coming out of difficult recession times. Blackrock felt like a bit of a halfway point for us between street food and a restaurant, but it felt so luxurious to not have to move around and have our own space. Blackrock was quite a seasonal business so when we came to another winter, we realised it was time for a change and we needed to strike while we had some momentum."
Provenance seems to be a big focus for Fish Shop. Can you tell us more about the ingredients you use?
J: "We used what we learned doing street food, but decided to focus on one thing and do it well, which was fish. We knew that if we could find something we believed in that it would work. That's why we went with fish and chips because it's something accessible and easy for people to enjoy, but it can also be elevated."
PETER: "It was a conscious decision to use Irish ingredients, as they are so important to us. We don't use any imported fish at all. If we don't use great Irish fish, then we don't have anything. That's the difference between us and other seafood restaurants; our menu is shorter, but it's all Irish.
J: "Restricting yourself is good sometimes because it forces you to be creative and gives the place an identity. Ireland shellfish, like mussels and cockles, is so well-known and it’s the best in the world.
The produce is what drives me. Our food looks quite simple on the plate, but it's full of flavour. Sometimes I don't know what I'm going to do with the fish until it actually comes into the restaurant. It depends on its quality and I always try to keep it simple. If the fish is good enough, I will keep it raw and just dress it. I don't come from a chef background, so it is not about techniques and skills, it's about the produce and the flavours. I base my menu on what is coming in and what is available. It's all about the ingredients."
The wine is a big focus in the Benburb Street location, so tell us more about how you curated the list.
PETER: "I look after the wine here. The response has been really good. People come to Dublin now as a food destination, which is very cool. It's nice to give people a reference point on what a tapas bar might feel like and what good wine is. There is a bit of escapism here. We want people to enjoy a glass of wine here and they do, which we think is a success.
"I mainly picked the wines because they go with the food and I didn't want to restrict myself, so we have lots of different types of wine. We didn't need big heavy red wines so we have the best of what we could get to complement our food. We have amazing wines from Greece and Santorini because they really complement seafood. It's sort of an educational experience because people can try different types of wine of the same grape to find out what they like. Everything on the list is geared towards the food. We don't have any traditional training but all of our suppliers are great and they really want to help people learn. They have a real interest in educating and showing us the way."