Time for some seafood

Staying overnight in Cambridge, well over in Madingley, which is just outside the city. I was wondering where I could get something to eat. In Madingley there is a really nice looking gastropub, but was out of my budget, so I looked into the heart of Cambridge. Yes the Midsummer House was a possibility, if I had loads of spare money and no budget, but I didn’t, so no that wasn’t a possibility…

I had downloaded a Zizzi voucher, quick and easy I thought. Checking where it was, I saw on the map the Loch Fyne. I have been curious about the place for a while now, there are branches in Bath and Bristol, but I have never been, mainly as it was usually quite pricey from memory. I thought I would look at the menu and see what I could be missing. Accessing the website I saw that they had a January offer, 50% off mains. Looking over the menu, I saw lots of things I liked the look of, so that was the place.

The restaurant is on Trumpington Street quite close to the impressive Fitzwilliam Museum. It’s an older building and inside there are lots of wooden beams and low ceilings.

I initially thought, well it’s January, cold and a Tuesday, it wouldn’t be very busy, boy was I wrong. The place was packed. I was left waiting for a while, and then asked to sit in the foyer style area, until a table was free. I waited some more. At this point I nearly left.

In the end I went with Loch Fyne Seafood Mixed Grill. The dish as described consists of Scottish salmon, Scottish king scallop, golden shell Hebridean mussels, squid, sea bass fillet, samphire, wilted spinach, lobster butter, and a side of sautéed new potatoes.

I knew the place was busy, so didn’t worry too much about the speed of service, but in the end it was quite quick. The plate looked delicious. There was a huge prawn in the dish, which was nice, as that wasn’t on the dish description.

As I tried the salmon, I realised that the king scallop was missing. Considering how busy it was, I didn’t think I would be able to get the attention of the waiting staff, but I was lucky. He was very apologetic and took the dish and returned shortly with the added scallop, well two scallops.

The dish was well cooked, I enjoyed the salmon and the bass as well as the scallops. The squid was nice, as were the mussels. I couldn’t really taste the lobster butter, but there was a richness there I enjoyed. It comes with a side of sautéed potatoes, which were smooth, buttery and rather tasty.

I was surprised by how busy the place was, but I did quite like the environment. The service wasn’t perfect, but I put that down to the number of people in the place.

A taste of Peru

Temple Quay Market

So how often do you get a chance to sample some authentic looking and tasting Peruvian food?

One of my favourite features of Bristol is the weekly street food market that takes place every Thursday at the square in the newly redeveloped Temple Quay. It is open between 12 and 2, but I suggest you get there early, as there are large queues and many times dishes sell out (especially the vegetarian ones).

There are a range of regular and guest stalls, and when I went there was a real choice. I did like the idea of Greek, the halloumi pitta sounded and looked delicious. There was also a pulled lamb sub, that also looked very nice. After looking around, I went with Uchu Perú, as stall selling Peruvian food, my choice dictated slightly by the shortness of the queue and the interesting sounding menu.

Uchu Perú Menu

In the end looking over the menu I decided that I would go with the sample menu, so I could have a bit of everything. The sample plate has smaller portions of all the dishes from the menu.

If you stay at the market the stall provides a nice plate, but as it was starting to rain I got my meal to go and they split it between two boxes for me to take away.

Ceviche, which was sea bass cooked in lime with prawns, chilli, coriander, red onion, sweet potato and Peruvian corn. This was fresh and sharp and really tasty. I wasn’t so enamoured with the Peruvian corn, but it was something that I can see other people liking.

The Quinoa Salad was made from black and white quinoa with carrot, radish, coriander, broad beans, feta cheese and Peruvian yellow chilli sauce. I really liked how the team put this together, and was like the Ceviche was delicious. The ingredients were fresh, tasty and worked really well together.

The final dish in my trio was Causa, which was freshly piped potato puree with Peruvian yellow chilli paste, served cold with tomato, avocado puree, purple corn mayonnaise, sweet potato crisp, pulled chicken, topped with togaroshi mayonnaise. As I was eating I did wonder what the pink stuff was, but re-reading the menu, I realised this was the purple corn mayonnaise. Delicious components that worked really well together.

I really liked how the dishes were constructed to order and they looked beautiful. I’ve not eaten Peruvian dishes before, these were delicious and I would certainly go back to Uchu Perú.

Fishing for Good Service

Spaghetti Pomodoro at Strada

I’ve not been to Strada before and was looking forward to eating there. It’s interesting how many Italian style chains there are around, from the American inspired Frankie and Benny’s, Bella Italia, Prezzo. Strada is owned by the same company which owns Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge. We went to the Strada branch in York with is on Low Petergate in a lovely old building. When we entered we were greeted in a friendly manner and offered a table by the window, the place didn’t look too busy.

Inside there was a modern Italian feel to the decor and furniture and it certainly did not feel as intimidating or posh as Prezzo. However I did feel from a service perspective that Prezzo was more family friendly than Strada. This wasn’t what I would have expected by looking at the websites and online menus, my impression, having not been to either Strada or Prezzo before, was that Strada was for families and Prezzo was for couples. Our experience of the two York branches was the other way round. Though having said that, crayons and activity sheets did arrive at the table as we perused the menus.

We placed our order when our drinks arrived, which was pretty prompt, though after that the service went a little downhill.

The children’s starters arrived and they got the order wrong. Now that does happen now and again, but when you realise that the children’s menu only has two choices and we had only ordered two starters (one of each) I wasn’t impressed that they messed up that part of the order. It did make me worry whether they would get the rest of the order right!

We then waited ages for our food…

We waited…

No explanation from the staff who were notably absent. What was apparent later (when visiting the bathroom) was that there was a group in the back of the restaurant and this had a very negative impact on the service to other diners in the restaurant. It wasn’t a huge group, but it had a noticeable impact on service.

Could they have not got in some more staff if they knew they were having this group in? I also wonder if they like Prezzo did not realise that though it wasn’t school holidays in York, it was in other areas of the country and thought it would be quieter than normal? Who knows.

Eventually our food arrived.

I had decided to go for something very different to what I would normally order in a place like Strada and went for the Tegamaccio at £14.50. This is a “classic” seafood stew from Puglia. With king prawns, mussels, clams, squid and red mullet with fregola pasta in a tomato, white wine and herb sauce.


It did look very nice, and the sauce was tasty. I was disappointed with the amount of fish in the dish, yes there were plenty of prawns and a fair few mussels filled the dish, however there was only a single small piece of red mullet and just a few squid rings. The dish was served with some toasted bread and in the bottom of the dish was fregola pasta, which is similar to the large Israeli cous cous. Personally I think the dish needed more fish and more pasta. Normally I am not one of those people who demands huge portions, but in this instance the issue wasn’t one of quantity, but one of proportions.

My son decided that he would go with the simple, Spaghetti Pomodoro at £7.75. Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, drizzled with pesto and topped with fresh basil.

It looked great and he said it was delicious and finished the dish off.

My wife chose the Penne Bufala at £8.50, the description said roasted peppers, courgettes and aubergine in a tomato and basil sauce with black olives and buffalo mozzarella.

My wife was disappointed that the dish was missing the mozzarella, now at the time I thought that wasn’t a mistake and we has misunderstood the name of the dish. Now with writing this blog post, I checked the menus for descriptions and as you have read above the dish was suppose to come with mozzarella. Having said that I think the reason my wife didn’t complain at the time was that by the time our main courses had arrived the staff then disappeared. When they did appear to wait on other people’s tables they ignored us.

The marghertia pizzas didn’t go down well with the two little ones, they said they “didn’t like it” but I think the reason was that the pizza bases were paper thin. I do like thin and crispy pizza bases, but in this instance these were too thin, they felt even thinner than wraps! As a result the pizza felt as you ate it that you were eating cardboard covered in tomato paste. A real disappointment, if we had known, we would have ordered the spaghetti bolognese.

Having finished our food, it then took ages to get the attention of the waiting staff so that we could pay the bill. In the end the only way we could get their attention was to get our coats on and start walking towards the exit! That is not good service, and though the food was okay, what really let the place down was the poor service.

Grilled Sardines

I have been tempted many times to visit the Tall Ship in the docks in Gloucester, but have never really found the time. On a recent visit for lunch though I realised what I had been missing. This is a very traditional pub in the Gloucester Docks that specialises in fish and seafood.

I had initially anticipated that the “speciality” may mean a reliance on their “special” deep fat fryer. However perusing the menu and the specials showed that this was most certainly not the case. There was a wide choice of dishes, as you might expect a fair bit of fish and seafood, however there was a fair few meat dishes and a nice selection of vegetarian food.

I have found with some pubs an over reliance on the deep fat fryer and the microwave. Processed chilled dishes then reheated either in the fryer or the microwave. Looking over the menu in the Tall Ship, it did appear that wasn’t the case. There was no lamb shank for example. If you ever see a lamb shank on the menu, then be warned I would suspect a lot on that menu would be chilled meals just waiting to be bunged into the microwave.

I decided after a good long look at the menu on the grilled sardines at £8.95. They came with crusty bread and a crispy salad. I really wanted a relatively light lunch. I also wanted to try something that was slightly different to what I would normally have and I also wanted freshly cooked fish, with no chance of reheating.

The food was delivered promptly, but certainly not rushed. It certainly looked great, four whole sardines alongside a small bowl of salad.

Grilled Sardines

The sardines were delicious, moist and full of flavour. Sardines can be a little tricky to eat due the bones. They had been seasoned and garnished with some olive oil.

The crusty bread arrived in a basket, there was a nice selection, it looked homemade, but I wasn’t sure how fresh it was, some pieces were a little dry.

The salad was basic, some iceberg lettuce with tomato, cucumber and a slice of orange! Now that could have been so much better.

However the centrepiece of the meal were the sardines and they were delicious.

Seafood Platter

For New Year’s Eve we decided to have a fish and seafood platter. It was an opportunity to cook and eat some great food. However one problem, as you may recall New Year’s Eve is not only part of Christmas, it’s also a Monday. As a result it was virtually impossible to find any fresh fish or seafood. Generally the fishing fleets don’t go out at weekends and I suspect that they certainly wouldn’t go out over a weekend during the festive season. As a result we went with frozen seafood, not my first choice, but with what we wanted it was better than nothing.

We got some frozen king prawns, scallops and squid from Sainsbury’s as part of their Taste the Difference range. One of the key things to do when using frozen seafood is to defrost and defrost safely. If you cook frozen seafood from frozen, generally what happens is that you overcook it and it becomes very rubbery. You need to take care when defrosting to avoid food poisoning. The best way to defost is in the fridge, but this takes time. If you do defrost at room temperature, make sure you move the seafood to the fridge once it has defrosted.

The prawns I cooked on my griddle, whilst the scallops were cooked very quickly on a hot flat frying pan, as were the squid rings.

scallops, prawns and squid rings

The scallops were perfect and I was really pleased with how I cooked them. They were browned on each side, but were only just done on the inside. As a result they were melt in the mouth tender, and full of flavour. The prawns were very good, and served with some lemon were delicious. I was less impressed with the squid rings. In the past when I have cooked squid, I have bought frozen whole squid from Tesco and cut it into pieces of squid. I much prefer using this way of preparing squid, usually scoring one side to ensure even cooking and browing of the edges. The squid from Sainsbury’s comes ready sliced into rings. It cooked fine, but it lacked the depth of flavour I have had in the past with squid from Tesco. Why didn’t I get my squid from Tesco, well they’ve seemed to have stopped selling it.

Alongside this plate of seafood I also grilled some giant tiger prawns in their shells. These were placed under a really hot grill, after they were fully defrosted and brushed with some olive oil. The main reason for these prawns is twofold, one is the visual impact, secondly was flavour. They were delicious, though of course were quite messy to peel.

Taste the Difference Whole Giant King Tiger Prawns

We also had some dressed crab, these were small crab shells filled with a crab pate and white crab meat. They looked really nice, but lacked the depth of flavour I would liked to have. This was served with some fresh crusty bread.

Dressed Crab

Another successful dish was some clams. I got a pack of frozen Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company which I mananged to buy at Waitrose.

Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company

Again the key was to ensue they were properly defrosted before cooking, well they’re cooked already, all they really needed was heating up. I did this in a pan with some freshly chopped garlic and parsley. I thought they were delicious and very good value at £3.29. I think they would also work with linguine if wanted pasta and seafood.

We also cooked some salmon, this was roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.

Overall this was a delicious meal, we served it with some fresh salad and I also made a paella.

The Fish, Chips & Mushy Peas Pasty

The Fish, Chips & Mushy Peas Pasty

When I first saw this board next to the pasty outlet at Bristol Temple Meads my initial thought was that it was some kind of joke.

It wasn’t!

Yes this was a pasty containing fish, mushy peas and yes chips. I know that lots of people out there love eating fish and chips (and a fair few of those like it with a portion of mushy peas). There are also a lot of people who like eating pasties, the reaction to the pasty tax showed that. However how many people out there really want to fuse those two classic foods into this pasty?

I know after posting the image on Twitter via Instagram that the reaction was quite mixed, some went “no thank you” and some went “yes please”. My reaction was, sorry no thank you. I think it was a combination of the green of the peas (and it is a very bright green) and the quantity of potato in the photograph. I can’t see the attraction of taking a reasonably nice meal and wrapping it in pastry?

Fish and Chips at the Seagull Café

There is something classic and very British about having fish and chips at a seaside resort. Down in Weymouth for the day and wanting a late lunch (or was it an early tea) made the decision to have fish and chips.

After walking around for a while decided to go to the Seagull Cafe on the harbourside which had tables and chairs outside. This was a really nice place to sit, watching the world go by, enjoying (that rare thing) a sunny summer afternoon.

Fish and Chips at the Seagull Café

Looking over the traditional menu, I found that they did deep fried mackerel and chip, so I went with that. After a short wait it arrived. The fish was wonderful, you could tell it had just been cooked to order, fresh crispy batter and perfectly done fish. Really lovely. The chips were okay, but they tasted as though they had been cooked a bit of time before and kept warm. Still nice though.

Kids’ Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

Should point out that I didn’t actually eat these, it’s what my son got, at a recent kids party at my local pub. Should also point out that the pub has a soft play barn attached, which runs kids parties, not that they run kids parties in the bar!

My son said he enjoyed the fish and chips, the batter was very crisp, the fish was tasty and the chips were nice.

What was weird was that it came in a box, but no plates and no cutlery. Yes I can see why if the box contained sandwiches you might not need a plate or cutlery, however when it contains hot food then I personally think a plate and cutlery is essential.

One of the things I have noticed about the popularity of these kids sandwich boxes at various eateries, attractions and other places, is that you never get a plate! Too often I have had to find plates so that my children can eat off a plate rather than out of a box! You would think finding plates would be pretty easy in a restaurant or cafe, well it’s not.

My favourite places for childrens’ meals are the places that offer smaller portions of the adult meals for a cheaper price. My children may not agree…

Liking Mackerel


Decided to cook some mackerel for the first time in years. I’ve not had a huge amount of success cooking mackerel in the past, so have avoided it and gone for other types of fish.

After eating out recently at Café Rouge and having a very nice piece of mackerel there, decided that I would get some myself at some point and cook it.

So having bought some salmon for the rest of the family I also bought a fillet of mackerel.

I prepared the mackerel, though it was almost prepared by the fishmonger, it still had some bones in, so I removed that. The mackerel was then coated in seasoned flour. In my heavy frying pan I heated up a splash of olive oil and a knob of butter. With the butter bubbling I added the floured mackerel fillets. Once they were nearly cooked I added pink peppercorns and chopped parsley. They were stirred through and cooked for another minute.

I placed the mackerel fillets onto a plate and poured the butter, peppercorns and parsley over the them.

They were really nice and I will certainly be cooking mackerel again.

The salmon by the way, I roasted in the oven.