When I went on a mission to try local Welsh produce to review for Love to Dine, little did I know that I’d end up with something quite surprising and exceptionally toothsome, which is normally associated with much more exotic climes!
Let me explain. I’d heard a lot about Fish at 85, the first consumer retail venture for Channel Fisheries. You may not have heard of Channel Fisheries, but if you like to eat out at good restaurants, there’s every chance you may have tried their wares. As one of the UK’s leading suppliers of quality fresh fish and seafood, they supply a range of high end food businesses including Michelin starred restaurants and major London hotels. Similarly, if you’re a member of the royal family or Gary Lineker (unlikely amongst readers of my blog, but you never know), you will also be familiar: Channel Fisheries are suppliers by royal appointment, and the crisp-eating commentator ate at Fish at 85 recently and tweeted his appreciation of the venue!
Channel Fisheries’ latest venture is Fish at 85 in Pontcanna, where fishmonger John lovingly prepares a range of fresh fish and seafood caught in West Wales, both for the ‘dine in’ audience and for those who want some exceptionally fresh fish to prepare at home.
I went in to see John on a lovely sunny day, and several groups of diners were enjoying what looked like an idyllic and simple meal of fresh fish with a glass of wine in the sunshine outside the restaurant. Diners can choose from the a la carte menu, a day time set menu, or can simply select the fish of their choice from the counter, cooked to their liking, with a sauce of their choice. Tempting though this was (and still is – I intend to go back as an ‘eat in’ customer, especially as I can’t resist trying their dessert of Plum Duff served with ‘Birds’ custard!), I took away a selection recommended by John: a small turbot, a bass and – to my delight – a steak from a Tope Shark, caught the previous day and now proudly displayed on Fish at 85’s already impressive fish counter! I can categorically say that shark never once crossed my mind when I was thinking about locally sourced produce, so this was a really special surprise.
John filleted the turbot and bass for me (although you can take the fish whole if you prefer) and sealed all the fish in separate air tight packets for absolute freshness so I could take them home and cook them. A delivery was arriving while I was there so I was able to see (and smell!) first hand just how fresh the fish is.
Fish this fresh doesn’t need messing around with, so I simply pan fried the turbot and bass in a little butter (Mr W and I had half each of each fish) and served them with new potatoes, steamed asparagus and a lemon and parsley butter on the side. The flavours of the fish were tasty but refined, and you could tell from the texture just how fresh these pieces of fish were. Mr W’s favourite was the delicate seabass – one of the nicest we’ve had – and mine was the very slightly meatier turbot. At the risk of sounding a bit rude, I must compliment John on his boning skills (fnar fnar) as we didn’t find a single bone!
With the shark, I took John’s advice to start off by pan frying the steak and then finish it off in the oven. I’d seen shark burgers on a menu some time ago and always fancied trying something similar, so I decided to get creative, whilst still serving the shark in a way that would let it speak for itself, so I made a fresh salsa of tomato, cucumber and onion with a splash of lemon juice and olive oil and a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper and served the steak in crusty rolls, topped with the salsa (I put some crisps on the side as a tribute to fellow Fish at 85 fan, Gary). The steak was more than enough to share between two of us for a light lunch, and absolutely delicious it was too: meaty, chunky, moist and tasty, and surprisingly light in colour too. Generally I’m not a huge lover of meatier fish, such as tuna, but when it manages to combine a meaty texture with white flesh and a relatively delicate flavour, I’m a big fan – and this hit the spot! It was also really easy to cook – again, with meatier fish it’s sometimes hard to strike a balance between ensuring it’s cooked in the middle and drying it out completely, but this remained moist despite my having to finish it in the oven for a little longer than planned to make sure it was cooked through.
I absolutely love what John and the team are doing at Fish at 85. Wonderfully fresh fish, locally caught and in season, available for you to choose for yourself – with John on hand to suggest ways of cooking or new fish for you to try. They won’t always have everything in stock, as obviously their range is governed by what’s been caught that day, but to me, that’s all part of the experience! The restaurant looks fantastic as well, simple food cooked by experts and served in simple surroundings in keeping with the freshness of the fish. If you want to try something different, or want to get some really good produce for a special occasion or just to treat yourself, then Fish at 85 has to be the place to visit!
Thank you to John and Fish at 85 for my samples of fish, which were complimentary.
Fish at 85, 85 Pontcanna Street, Cardiff CF11 9HS