Out of the Blue has been a fixture of Dingle’s dining scene for so long that it’s hard to imagine that it too had its difficult start-up phase. However, owner Tim Mason has no such difficulty in remembering that time.
“We opened in 2001 but there was no dining room and my landlord wouldn’t let me put in windows,” he says. “So I set up a fish shop.”
By the second year, he was serving simple lunches of mussels and smoked salmon sandwiches. Two years later, he was also serving dinner.
In time, the landlord relented and windows were installed, but one thing has remained the same since those early days. Out of the Blue still is a seafood-only restaurant, where the menu changes according to the catch of the day.
In a way, their location dictated this approach. “We’re right across from the fishing boats,” says Tim. “What else would you do here?”
The size of the building was a factor too. “Our kitchen is tiny and there would have been problems with cross contamination had we worked with anything other than fish,” says Tim.
A good working relationship with local fishermen has been vital to the restaurant’s success. “Fishermen would bring boxes of fish to the front door and my chef Eric and I would sort through them right there,” he says.
[pull_quote_center]We couldn’t do that now. Instead, I’m at the pier or in the fish factory every day, constantly planning ahead, with an eye on the weather, ensuring we have enough fish to keep us going for a few days at a time.[/pull_quote_center]
Tim’s refusal to use anything but fresh fish is part of what has made Out of the Blue so popular. The restaurant was named as one of the 100 best restaurants in Ireland by the Bridgestone Guide in 2004 and it’s won virtually every major award in the country in the years since.
The casual atmosphere is another factor in its popularity. There are simple wooden tables and the service is friendly rather than formal. “We don’t need linen tablecloths here in Dingle,” says Tim. “Instead, we focus on good food, good service and taking time to talk to our customers.”
Tim considers himself lucky to have never had a need to market his business. “Everyone who comes to Dingle passes by our door and we’ve always relied on word of mouth to do the talking for us,” he says. “It’s worked so far.”
It’s worked so well that Tim is now thinking of expanding. “I’m thinking of opening an Out of the Blue Light, a place where you could get a simple lunch of mussels or pollack in a potato crust for €15 to €20,” he says. “That’s the next plan.”
[quote_box_center]For more information on Out of the Blue, visit their website.[/quote_box_center]