LOCAL FISH is the star at this Dubai creek eatery, with CHEF Mark Clarke sticking to what’s in season

Fresh seafood while overlooking the waters of Dubai Creek: it’s as simple as that at the Intercontinental Festival City’s newest restaurant. By day, The Fish House’s terrace offers sweeping views out over Dubai Creek and the Festival City Waterfront. At night, you’re front and centre for the mall’s light, fire and water show , seemingly this end of town’s loud and energetic answer to the Dubai Fountains, which will punctuate your dinner by the hour. Inside (where we’ll be sitting now for the foreseeable future) is spacious and airy – not least because we’re the only people dining at 12.30pm on a Saturday –but also due to the cool cyan colour palette and high ceilings.

But in a city that’s having a bit of a seafood restaurant moment right now, how does The Fish House stand out? Well, for starters, the concept.The restaurant’s ethos speaks to both the old and the new, being inspired by local heritage, and the Emirates’ history of fishing and pearl diving. The fish is locally sourced, and is purchased from the Sharjah Fish Market from local fisherman, and the vegetables are sourced from a sustainable farm in Jebel Ali.

“Over the last century fishing and pearl diving have been at the heart of Emirati life, with The Gulf playing home to a wide variety of fish and sea treasures,”  James Koratzopoulos, regional general manager at Intercontinental Hotels Group, says. “The Fish House is the proud recipient of this daily bounty and we are extremely excited to be able to share this boat to table dining experience.”

At the restaurant’s fresh catch bar, you can choose from a small selection of the day’s fresh haul, and also how you’d like it to be cooked (poached, oven baked, breaded, deep or pan fried or barbecued), and what side and sauce you’d like it accompanied with.

But because those are far too many choices for my Saturday midday mind to deal with, we settled on a selection of starters and the locally sourced sea bass (Dh245), cooked in rock salt and filleted at your table.

But it’s the pre-starter that really sets the tone for what’s to come; a bowl of lightly fried and salted whitebait served on a generous mound of whipped tahini. Delicious.

The charcoal grilled octopus (Dh70) is a close runner-up, however, served on a  quenelle of carrot hummus, marcona almonds and chilli. The octopus is about the most tender we’ve t

asted, and we’re told it’s down to the method of preparing it, slow cooking it to start, and then perching it briefly on the barbeque for smoky flavour.

The main comes to us in the form of dinner and a show, as our plucky waitress sets about taking to the sizeable salt-encased fish with a hammer, and makes quick work filleting and serving it up for us.

Accompanied by small portions of saffron rice, harissa potato salad, rocket leaf salad, chermoula, tahini remoulade and mango salsa, we’re initially left wondering if we’ll need something else to balance the fish-to-sides ratio, but mid-way through we’re thankful nothing else has arrived. The moist, flaky fish is perfectly cooked and doesn’t need an ounce of salt or lemon, nor any heavy sides to detract from what is the star of the meal. Admittedly, we did find a few bones in the fray, but only one made it as far as being found mid-chew.

For dessert, we’re too full for anything other than some fruit and chocolate, and that’s exactly what we got, splashed across our table.  The mix up (Dh45 per person) is basically an invitation for your waiter to put down a mess mat and live out their artistic dreams. Sauces, berries and other fruits are decorated flamboyantly across the mat, before hot chocolate arrives to melt the large centrepiece of a white chocolate ball. Better yet, there’s no one judging you when you spill chocolate all over the table.

The Fish House, Dubai Festival City, Saturday to Wednesday 12pm to 3pm and 7pm to 11pm, Thursday and Friday 12.30pm to 3.30pm and 7pm to 11.30pm. (04) 7011127. thefishhousedubai.com

Doing Some Good

Mark Clarke, chef at The Fish House, on responsible sourcing

Can you tell us about how you source seafood and produce for the restaurant?

We try to work with what is in season, whether from the European market or the Australian market. Monthly we receive various produce catalogs from our various suppliers and that also aids in our decision making. Ninety per cent of our fish is local or from the Gulf Region, supplemented by a few imported shellfish such as our parloude clams from France or our salmon from Norway.

How do you balance the responsibility to source locally with striving for the best quality?

We have very strict standards. For example, we never use fish which is out of season as it is unethical, in addition all of our fish must have bright red gills, clear eyes, no blemishes on the skin and be free from any foul odours. Sustainability and quality are paramount.

What are you hearing from diners about the sustainability aspect?

I’d have to say I have not heard much feedback about the sustainability aspect. However most of our diners, if not all, are quite keen and commend us on our availability to deliver consistently fresh fish of a high quality.

What products are you still not able to get that you want, and how do you deal with that?

At times we have had issues with sourcing specific types of sweet potatoes, for example, varieties other than the typically orange-fleshed variety. That was challenging during the first few months of the operation. However after  searching around the market and meeting with various suppliers, we were able to source a preferred variety coming from Central America/ Caribbean.