The Seafood Restaurant
(01334 479 475, www.theseafoodrestaurant.com)
Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £97
I was slightly nervous, however, as, shortly before my visit to this eatery, which has two AA rosettes, they posted something on their Facebook page.
“Good article about critics and blogging,” it said, before linking to a piece implying that, unless reviewers can do what a chef does (that is, work in a roasting hot kitchen 24/7 until they’re covered in blue plasters and their family have left them), they should moderate their views.
This lot are feisty, I thought, before donning a disguise (handle-bar, pince-nez) and crawling, paratrooper style, down the darkened path that leads to this fishy fine-dining establishment. It is, essentially, teetering on the edge of a cliff, so the views could be amazing if you added light. On our visit, beyond the reflections on the glass windows, you could only just pick out a stretch of sand, dappled by rain.
We were solo diners for the first 30 minutes, then there were two other tables of two, which threw the fact that there were around six chefs and three front of house into stark relief.
But there’s enough work for them to do. My starter of seared tuna, on the three courses for £48.50 dinner menu, featured three fat slices of rose-centred meat, with a coal black poppy seed crust.
These were placed on top of what appeared to be a sheet of raw tuna and some minuscule cubes of syrupy-flavoured pineapple. It didn’t quite work. Until I discovered the blobs of wasabi at the side. Aha. This was the ignition key. Separate = blah; together = dynamite.
Our elegant-looking red mullet dish was also rather challenging, but in its subtlety. It came with charred cucumber, broccoli, almonds and buttermilk, which spotted the leaves and flowers that decorated this dish like dewdrops. There were also neat neep cubes in the mix.
All very pleasant, but whisper-y quiet flavours. Not so great if your taste-buds are a bit deaf.
In contrast, mains were loud and fantastic.
Some might complain that there was too much going on, but simplicity is for simpletons.
Both options were like exploring a rockpool, and finding interesting stuff amongst the fronds, including a few new species.
The stone-bass – pure white flesh, with skin crisped up like pork crackling – came with a fennel mush, with the texture of stewed rhubarb. This contrasted with crunchy flecks of black quinoa, which were dotted with soft, fairy-sized mushrooms. Then there was the buttery sauce – antiseptic-tasting with saffron, and prettified by tiny micro-herbs. And there were three gummy-centred scallops. A jolly seaside adventure.
The John Dory was equally interesting, with a pea purée, pine nuts, crispy salsify strips, kelpy bits, wrinkled chanterelles, and a yellow crabby paste that tasted as sweet as old-school coronation chicken, all of which was piled up in organised chaos, with a foamy black butter over the top. Beautiful.
Puddings were equally special.
A strip of chocolate pave was topped by sesame-seed biscuit sails, pineapple chunks and blobs of citrus gel. On the side was a globe of orange sorbet and a pile of cakey chocolate soil. Much deliciousness.
The pineapple tarte tatin featured a chunky juice-logged ring, with sticky caramel and the prerequisite pastry coaster. One of us wasn’t sure about its accompaniment of intensely flavoured treacle ice-cream, topped with pieces of candied lime, and the other (me) loved it.
So, there you go Seafood Restaurant, us critics aren’t so rotten, are we? Can I take off my disguise yet?