DOWN here all the fish are happy, as off through the waves they roll, the fish on the land ain’t happy, they’re sad because they’re in their bowl”.
Lunch for two, excluding drinks
So sang the prematurely bright red Jamaican lobster, Sebastian, in Under the Sea from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. There must be a lot of that kind of piscine ennui at this new seafood restaurant. The fishies should’ve stayed away from those nasty buoys.
It’s the sister venue to Steak eatery, Beer & Skittles and the new Skippers Lounge Bar, all of which are housed in the same townhouse premises. To the be-gilled, the kitchen here must be like a Hieronymus Bosch painting, with their brothers and sisters filleted, cured, griddled, flash fried and skewered. For human imbibers of omega 3, it’s more like heaven. On the tables, there are postcards from Fish’s Edinburgh-based supplier, Welch, as well as mini bottles of Sarson’s. The latter will be mainly for the special tea, which is served until 6:30pm and includes chish and fips for a tenner.
To befit his youth, the head chef of Steak and now Fish, 28-year-old Jason Wright, has designed an à la carte list of irreverent dishes. Even the priciest and potentially showiest course of lobster (sorry Sebastian) is served as part of a chicken and lobster macaroni (£22) with garlic and sundried tomato bread on the side.
Our starter of rollmops (£7) was cheekily presented in a spruced up tin, complete with ring-pull. Marinated in vinegar that was as clean and clear as witch hazel, these parcelled up fillets came with a pool of bright yellow mustard and dill sauce and four cornichons in a Lurex-like weave of golden batter that was as fine as 15 denier.
The Coronation shrimp salad (£6) took two retro classics – the prawn cocktail and Coronation chicken – and spliced them. Result: a mound of shredded dark green leaves, with plenty of chunky shrimp, a turmeric-spiked curry sauce, and a sprinkling of pancetta shards.
A main course of sea bass (£13) came with, in clothing terms, what would be the equivalent of a snood, ear-muffs, long-johns and vest (aka silky potato purée, a few beefy quarters of chestnut mushroom, a caramelised-tasting spiced cabbage and a pool of melted garlic butter).
Just as tasty now, as it will be in the bleak mid-winter. Texturally, this assemblage was super comforting.
The halibut Kiev (£15) was a great idea in theory. “The sort of thing you’d eat when you were a kid, watching Gladiators on telly,” said our waiter, immediately prompting us to imagine him in a wrestling singlet.
We lanced this offering and braced ourselves for a torrent of garlic butter to spring out of the stocky cylinder, as if there had been a well in its centre like the inside of a coconut. There was barely a trickle. Sad face. Still, the breadcrumbed fish was meaty and the accompanying crab baked beans, in a sweet and smoky stock, added some lubrication and depth. There was also a pair of slightly anaemic playing card-sized potato waffles, which needed a bit more time in the oven.
The rice pudding brulée (£6) was like a healing vanilla balm – milky and rich, with a layer of wet stewed grapes. Lovely. And, though the chocolate and marmalade tart’s (£6) filling didn’t appear to have set properly, the pastry underneath was snappy, with a thick layer of Paddington relish and a moussey dark choc topping.
If you want to eat seafood in the capital, there are many places where fish is presented as the ultimate in luxury or the most basic take-away meal. There are fewer where it’s served and priced somewhere in the middle, and none quite as imaginative as this place.
There’s room for one more fish in the sea. Take it to the bridge Sebastian.
“We what the land folks love to cook, under the sea we get off the hook...”