Posts Tagged With: Fresh seafood

Things have gotten a bit fishy in New Cross: Maddy’s Fish Bar sets up shop

Copyright of Maddy's FIsh Bar. Sourced from Maddy's Fish Bar Twitter

Copyright of Maddy’s FIsh Bar. Sourced from Maddy’s Fish Bar Twitter

Cuisine: British

Address: 397 New Cross Road, SE14 6LA

Area: New Cross

Nearest Station: New Cross

Tel.: N/A

Website: https://twitter.com/MaddysFishBar

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Takeaway, Casual dining, Comfort food, Fresh seafood, Friendly conversation, Seasonal menu

The past year has been pretty tough: sometime in May or June last year, our local chippie in New Cross closed up for renovation works and then never reopened.

Once patronised by Sir Paul McCartney (no, really), Sirius Fish & Chips was run by a lovely Filipino couple who knew me and my brother quite well – courtesy of our mum introducing us to them, without our knowing about it, not long after we moved into the area. Whilst the fish was not the best, it was decent enough to fill the fish-shaped hole that appeared in my life on the occasional evening, but certainly I enjoyed going there for the conversation and the friendliness.

So yes, with the loss of my favourite Filipino-run chippie, I think it’s fair to say that New Cross suffered heavily for it.

For where was one to go for good fish and chips from a proper chippy (I’m going to leave Sefa Kebab out of this discussion, and for argument’s sake the other places at the far, far end of New Cross that no one ever told me about)? The nearest one I could fathom then was Brockley’s Rock, but as the name suggests, that’s in Brockley, not New Cross and certainly not just down the road from us. The round-trip, including bus ride, ordering and waiting, and loitering at the bus stops at both ends, took at the very least a good 45 minutes, if I remember correctly.

Imagine carrying that on the bus home and not being able to eat it

Imagine carrying that on the bus home and not being able to eat it

The cod was absolutely delightful and crispy, the chips that perfect middle point between overly-crunchy and soggy and the mushy peas a great texture – but 45 minutes is too much effort for a ‘local’ chippy. Brockley’s Rock is a gem that neighbouring Brockleyites can keep to themselves – this New Cross boy needed something closer to home. Desperately.

And so, when the news appeared on the grapevine that the London Particular (brilliant café, FYI) would be backing their friend, Maddy Inoue, in opening a new fish bar venture in the empty shell that was Sirius, of course I was excited. There was even to be a Kickstarter campaign to help her purchase a state-of-the-art fryer. Although hesitant that a ‘fish bar’ might entail grossly-exaggerated prices, my cynical thoughts were over-ridden by a stomach desperate for some really good fish and chips. So my brother and I chipped in (haha!) and backed Maddy on Kickstarter.

That was in the last quarter of last year; Maddy’s Fish Bar officially opened a week ago Tuesday. Suffice to say, it has been a long and tortuous wait. One that was thankfully shortened by just a few days, thanks to our Kickstarter contribution and subsequent invitation to a ‘VIP’ tasting session (ballin’) during their soft launch. Over the course of an evening, set in their bright, clean-cut and rather utilitarian space, we were treated to a wide range of dishes from the proposed menu, which is meant to be a modern twist on British classics.

Look who's in the window!! Sourced from Maddy's Fish Bar Twitter

Look who’s in the window!!
Sourced from Maddy’s Fish Bar Twitter

So what is on offer from Maddy, and how does her fare hold up as a neighbourhood chippy?

Rock Oysters: Not your average chippy dish, but certainly what you’d expect from a fish bar. I’m no fan of oysters, so I’ll defer to my brother on this one: “fresh”. So there you go.

Rock Oysters!

Rock Oysters!

Chicken Nuggets: These were delightful. Moist and tender pieces of chicken in a substantial coating (which admittedly could have done with being just a bit crispier), served with a home-made mayonnaise that was very more-ish. I can foresee these being a rather guilty treat.

Chicken (not Mc)Nuggets!

Chicken (not Mc)Nuggets!

Selection of Pickles – Egg in pickling broth and radish: The aforementioned ex-Beatle was apparently a fan of the pickled eggs of Sirius (no, really), so I’d love to hear his opinion on Maddy’s take on this classic dish.

You call that a pickled egg?

You call that a pickled egg?

Sadly, he was unable to comment, so I’ll blunder on. What we got here was a gloriously warm and soft-boiled egg that spilt its yolk ever so generously into the savoury vinegar-dashi bath that the egg found itself in; it was a real treat, and I can imagine that having one of these alongside your fish would be rather eye-opening. The accompanying radishes, on the other hand, were rather under-powered as a pickle and didn’t really add much to this course. Something to work on, I guess.

Salt and Pepper Squid: Continuing with the injection of Asian influences into a British chippy, Maddy is turning her hand to that favourite Chinese staple of ours, salt and pepper squid. She wasn’t so successful on this one – yes, it was crisp, had great texture and did not feel greasy at all; unfortunately, it lacked real bite and flavour. All I think it needs is just an adjustment to the seasoning – a much easier thing to improve upon than trying to rescue dead and limp fried squid.

Salt and pepper squid... with not too much salt or pepper alas

Salt and pepper squid… with not too much salt or pepper alas

Fish and Chips with Maddy’s Slaw, mushy peas and curry sauce: And here we have the pièce de résistance, the whole reason why I welcomed Maddy to New Cross with wide open arms: crispy crisp fishy fish. You can just see from the photo alone how phenomenal that batter was – light, fluffy and crispy, it covered all the bases. It’s good to see our Kickstarter money was used well! The whiting fish itself was cooked just right and was juicy up to the point before fish starts to fall apart. When I went back on opening day, I was able to have the panko-breaded plaice, which again was delightful and crisp – the picture below does not represent a one-hit wonder.

Crispy crisp fishy fish

Crispy crisp fishy fish

As for the chips – although Maddy did say that she had to go through several iterations of her chip recipe, I was fairly happy with where she’d gotten to that evening, for the chips were, like Brockley’s Rock, hitting that right balance between overly-crunchy and soggy. Really good chippy chips then, perfect for soaking up the delicious curry sauce accompanying the dish.

Maddy’s Slaw was a standard sauced cabbage affair, which adds some freshness and vegetable bite to the dish, serving its purpose adequately as a side dish.

The mushy peas, however, I was not hugely wowed by. Whilst the flavours were perfectly fine (good level of mintiness, even if I don’t like mint with peas too much), when I want mushy peas I want, well, a complete mush. Yes, mixing in whole peas with some mushed ones creates a pleasing contrast of textures, but… I’m just a stickler for a real mush of peas that I can scoop up with a chip. No doubt other people will like these peas – they are welcome to them.

Cornflake Ice Cream: You know that pleasing state, right at the beginning of your bowl of Frosties, where the coldness of the milk really brings the sugary flavour and crunch to the fore? That’s what this ice cream is all about. A shot of freshness, first thing in the morning.

Cornflake ice cream. Inadvisable to add vinegar

Cornflake ice cream. Inadvisable to add vinegar

I was able to confirm this initial impression on opening day, and discovered that Maddy had gone the extra mile by putting actual cornflakes on the ice cream. Winner winner ice cream dinner!

 

So, it all looks good, no? But I am sure you are wondering, “A chippy this fancy don’t come cheap”. And you’d be right in that this is no Sirius Fish & Chips – the standard meal of fish, chips and Maddy’s Slaw comes in at £8.50, and the portions are smaller (healthier!?) – but at the same time it is no pricey Fish and Chip Shop in Islington, which is what I feared the most for the local area. So yes, I think Maddy’s has done just about alright bringing these prices to New Cross… it’s a step up from before, but at least it’s a measured step and in the right direction.

VERDICT – A good place. Maddy’s Fish Bar is a more than welcome addition to the neighbourhood, not just because it fulfils the criteria of existing and being an open business, but because it brings some genuinely good fish and chips to the area. Friday Fishdays are back on!

Currently listening to: Battlelore – Beneath the Waves

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A shanty down by the shore: Seafood shackin’ at Bonnie Gull

Copyright of Bonnie Gull. Sourced from Bonnie Gull website

Copyright of Bonnie Gull. Sourced from Bonnie Gull website

Cuisine: British

Address: 21A Foley Street, W1W 6DS

Area: Fitzrovia

Nearest Station: Goodge Street

Tel.: 020 7436 0921

Website: http://www.bonniegull.com/

Pricing: High

Good For: Fresh seafood, Fresh ingredients, Seasonal menu, Place for romance, Smart-casual dining

“It’s okay to eat seafood, as fish don’t have feelings”, roughly goes the little saying scrawled along the top of one of the walls in Bonnie Gull. Surely a sentiment that some of our vegan friends may not share, but I’m not one to quibble with a restaurant that is all about the seafood; they must know what they’re on about, right?

Me and my friend (check out her blog, Stuff I Love to Do, it’s rather lovely) were quite excited about the prospect of some top-notch seafood and so had come with stomachs prepped after respective hard days of work. However, as the menu is extremely seasonal and dependent on the day’s catch, I was a bit hesitant about what would await us: whether the dishes would be tantalising (think scallops, crab, lobster, tuna, meaty fish etc.), or just frankly a bit beyond my limits (think jellyfish, razor clams, sea cucumber, abalone, dancing squid… *shudder*).

Scallops and stuff

Scallops and stuff

Imagine my excitement then when they had Isle of Man queenies as one of the starters. Accompanied by new potatoes, samphire, crunchy bits and other things that escape my non-photographic memory, it was a fairly straightforward dish that allowed the tenderness and juiciness of the scallops to speak for themselves, with their sweetness enhanced by the sea saltiness of the samphire. Samphire was just made to go with the bounties of the sea, despite some protestations from my friend (which she eventually overcame). It was a great start to the meal, and certainly built our appetite.

We were further excited to see both lobster and crab on the menu, but our enthusiasm was dampened when we were informed that the crab had been sold out (this appeared to be a lie, as a table that arrived after us managed to obtain some of the delectable crustacean… rightly or wrongly, we wished that table the illest of our feelings that night, boo hiss). And so, instead of constructing a purely shellfish evening for ourselves, we had to invite turbot to the table.

A rather fishy piece of culinary art

A rather fishy piece of culinary art

It ended up being a rather inspired choice. I had turbot in a herby crust was served with a stuffed deep-fried courgette flower, courgette tempura, samphire and cockles, and was set upon an artful display of pea purée. The turbot was cooked so that it was meltingly soft and still meaty; the herby crust that accompanied it added some contrasting texture and some delightful earthy flavours that made me feel that there was a bit of ‘surf and turf’ going on here – a theme perhaps reflected in the dual use of courgettes and samphire…? The pea purée went well with it all and was good mixed in with the cockles (which were rather grittier than ones I’ve had previously). Overall, a good meal.

Lobster and chips - as good a shot as I'll get (sorry I didn't stand on my chair to get the aerial view)

Lobster and chips – as good a shot as I’ll get (sorry I didn’t stand on my chair to get the aerial view)

As for my friend’s lobster – well, she is a Happy Lobster Girl, and she was pretty satisfied with what was placed in front of her, so I’ll trust her judgement. She did compare the portion size a bit unfavourably to Burger and Lobster, but I don’t believe the quality of the lobster nor the preparation were up for dispute.

Well-fed and well-watered, I found Bonnie Gull to be pretty good fun and a wonderful insight into some of the great seafood surrounding this little island of ours. Considering that I had a pathological (and unexplained) hatred of all things fishy and crustacean-like for most of my life (I really, really don’t know why), I think that’s a pretty big statement to come from my lips.

VERDICT – A good place. Whilst Bonnie Gull didn’t quite transport us to the British seaside (a cheap and cheerful chippie/cockle and whelk stall would probably do that for me more effectively than a high-priced concept restaurant), we got a fine taste of good, fresh, maritime produce in deepest driest London. Dishes that let the seafood speak for itself – not much more is needed.

Currently listening to: Twin Atlantic – Eight Days

Categories: British | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments