Between a rock oyster and a good plaice
Like a blind cattle farmer, I’m treading carefully in a field I don’t know every well.
I’m turning restaurant critic. Well, reviewer at least. It’s a far nicer term, reviewer, as critic immediately assumes you are going to be negative. And while I will be negative about bad things I do like being nice about good things.
Saturday night was my girlfriend and I’s anniversary. It is one year since we were both at a fancy dress party – I was Death and she was Medusa – and the magic happened. Thank God that women have this in-built date facility that means they remember them all, because otherwise I would have been non the wiser. I remember the party of course – hard not too when you go out in public dressed as that chap what can’t be cheated.
The next day was excellent as well, we walked and talked and frankly, it was a little bit Meg Ryan and, well, I don’t need to give you a potted history, sufficed to say she hasn’t got rid of me yet despite my best efforts.
Those of you expecting celeb chef battering (no pun intended), you’ll be disappointed. We both liked it. Getting in was a bit of a miracle. I didn’t ring until about 1pm Saturday afternoon and got an answerphone. Later that afternoon, after watching Alice in Wonderland (pretty good, if weird), I had a call back to say that a couple had cancelled just before I rang and they would see us at 8pm for the last table for two they had. Get in.
We turned up promptly and saw why the place was sold out. It is pretty cosy -in a good way. It only does about 40 covers. We had a nice table in a corner, seated next to each other, quite intimate. The staff were good – friendly and informal without being slapdash. A nice touch was one of the waitresses coming up with a selection of the day’s fish and talking us through what they were etc. There was a brill on the plate that would have fed a family of four quite happily.
We plumped to pump up the aphrodisiac level by sharing half a dozen oysters to start. We wanted them to be Yealm river ones but they had all gone so we had Maldon rock ones from Essex. They were seriously good, gulpable mouthfuls of slimy goodness washed down with just a dab of Tabasco Sauce.
For our main course we both chose the same thing. One of my main bete noirs from childhood was going to restaurants with my parents and siblings and us having both parents choose identical meals. Now, 20 years later, I’m at it.
We both plumped for red gurnard fillets, one of the things the waitress had recommended. The restaurant gets it fish from Brixham in Devon, close to Tonks’ backyard. The fillets (we got two each, a hearty portion) were excellent. As the name of the place suggests it was grilled over charcoal, so that the skin side was crisp and carbonised but the flesh was still sweet and moist. With them we had some decent crisp fries and a serving of fennel gratin, which was nice but perhaps didn’t complement the fish very well.
We didn’t do dessert, but with all of them bar cheese at £5, there seems very little to go wrong there.
Overall, very impressed.
PROs: Affordable, good service, relaxed atmosphere, music at just the right volume, friendly but professional staff
CONs: The wine is stored on shelves above some of the side tables. My girlfriend had to move twice for staff to get fresh bottles down while she was eating.
Prosecco aperitif: £5 each
Six Maldon oysters: £9
Red Gurnard: £14 per person
Fries: £2.50 per person
Florence Fennel Gratin: £3.50
Carafe of Sauvignon Blanc: £8.30