Is the new spot in Festival City catch of the day, or a tiny tiddler?

If we were opening a restaurant in Dubai this year, it wouldn’t be a seafood one.

That’s not because we don’t like seafood, you understand – there’s nothing we like better than a freshly shucked oyster, a hearty bucket of marinated mussels or a perfectly charred snapper. It’s just that the emirate is positively bursting with seafood restaurants.

So, having dined at the new Fish House at InterContinental Festival City, could there be room for one more?

Once a novelty in Dubai, The Fish House’s fish market-style display of the day’s catch is definitely past USP status nowadays. Several competitors – namely Sean Connolly, Riviera Beach Grill, and even Crazy Fish – have already paved the way with their own fresh seafood displays, where customers select from iced-up fresh hauls.

The Fish House probably has the smallest of the lot, but we’re here to judge quality, not quantity, and there are other plenty of other elements that add to its appeal – most notably, the proximity to Festival City’s laser, fire and dancing fountains outside. Sit outside and you’ll be treated to a spectacle that rivals the Dubai Fountain.

Onto the menu, and unsurprisingly, it’s mainly seafood, with a duck and lamb dish thrown in for fun.

With a ‘boat to table’ mantra, we were disappointed by the prawn cocktail (Dhs85). It comes slightly deconstructed with a couple of glass pots full of cocktail sauce, chopped lettuce and seafood spread on a wooden chopping board. The idea is that we construct our prawn cocktail to our liking. It’s a shame then that each prawn is already covered with a dollop of cocktail sauce, and a generous sprinkling of tempura crumbs. They should serve the seafood plain, and let us do the dipping.

Far tastier was a portion of fried whitebait, served simply on a mound of creamy tahini sauce. The thin and crispy batter is perfectly seasoned and the sauce worked well to dull the seafood tang.

Highlights also include classics such as lobster linguini (Dhs165), fish and chips (Dhs85), and more Middle-Eastern offerings including fish kibbah (Dhs75) and hammour saydieh (Dhs105).

Seabass (Dhs120), grilled over coals, was our pick of the fish market display. It’s a serious size that’s perfect for two. The sweet, pearly flesh is bang on and best embellished with chermoula – fresh herbs, garlic and lemon sauce –  and fried potatoes with chilli and coriander. A word, too, for our waiter, who filleted it at our table, and did so with unflustered precision, and a big smile. An unpretentious catch served simply and honestly. Delicious.

So, it turns out that somewhere between The Maine and Aprons & Hammers there is space for a friendly fish house after all – just stick to the simpler dishes and let the catch do the talking.

InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Dubai, daily 11am to 3pm, 6.30pm to midnight. Tel: (04) 7011127. Taxi: InterCon Fesival City.

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