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Thursday, September 14, 2006









THE FISH SHOP ON ST JOHN ST: SURF AND TURF WARS

London is at war and Londoners are under seige.

Not from terrorists although this new danger fills me with horror, but from distributors of free newspapers.

We are in the middle of the biggest turf war since someone suggested to Al Capone that short, fat and syphilitic was no way to go through life and, it is getting ugly.

Yesterday, walking home without a care in the world I was accosted by at least three different distributors all offering a new free evening rag. The London Lite, The London Paper and another one which was probably called " London Better Than Lite or Paper" They were swarming everywhere like the leprous round a faith healer.

The Evening Standard is obviously not taking any of this laying down and had posted its largest, ugliest and most burly looking vendors. They were shouting out " don't take those free pieces of crap, buy a real paper" with increasing desperation.

It was all quite alarming and, by the time I got home, I was quite out of sorts and had to don a pill box hat, perch a pair of pince nez on my conk and flop on a chaise while reading Milton. Actually, I did no such thing, but I have always liked the idea of it since reading Dorian Gray.

Anyway, HP and I had pondered on a light supper a fancied a bit of fish. We had not been to The Fish Shop On St John St for some time so it was probably time to pay it another visit.

A swift one in the Seckforde Arms first made sure that we arrived just as the pre ballet crowd were head off to Sadler's Wells to watch people pretending to be trees or something and we were able to do a walk in and get a very nice table by the window.

As has become our habit, we ordered three starters. HP began with 1/2 a dozen Fin de claires oysters which he announced were the best he has had this year. All well and good but since oysters and I get on like the leads in " Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" I did not try them. My starter was not at that level, but a grilled mackerel on a beetroot salad was solid enough and very fresh. I rather liked our shared starter of taramasalata with sourdough toast although HP declared it " long on salata and short on tarama"

I was going to be good and have a bit of roasted cod with some steamed vegetables for my main course, but, thank God it was off so I go to join HP in a huge chunk of fried fish. For him, Haddock which was fresh and perfectly cooked. For me, Plaice which I preferred but he dismissed as "fish and chips for girls"

Chips were more restuaranty than chippy so I left most of them. The ones I did try, I used to spoon gargantuan portions of a fine tartare sauce into my eager mush.

What we did not touch, or barely, were the mushy peas which were disgusting and we told them. A green sludge of pureed peas with the texture of baby food. Quite horrible.

The portions of fish were huge, very very fresh and with a suitably crunchy batter. Again, HP was slightly critical saying they were fish & Chips cooked by an excellent chef but someone who did not quite understand the spirit of a true chippy. What he meant, of course, was that there were not fried in the fat of a dead animal. He is right to an extent but they were still pretty good.

I did not bother with pud or coffee. It will be little surprise that HP had both ice cream (damson one) and coffee met with approval as did a bill of £80 for two including service and a bottle of, oh so fashionable, Picpoul for £20.

It was packed again by the time we left, so this is obviously a little neighbourhood place that has truly found its groove. Very fresh, well prepared food for two distinctly different sets of clientele served efficiently and in a friendly manner for an agreeable price.

It is probably doing so well right now they don't need to advertise. Shame really. With all these bloody free sheets around, they would get a great deal.
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7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want really good taramasalata, try Fishworks. We went to the one on the Marylebone road (there are a few others in London) and it was some of the best taramasalata I've ever had. It was nicely fishy (rather than the bready, never-seen-cod-roe-in-its-life stuff you usually get) and pale (as opposed to luminous pink). The rest of our meal there was also excellent, although the special of the day was already gone by 8pm. I would highly recommend it.

Friday, September 15, 2006 12:30:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

I am not a great fan of Mitch Tonk's places

I have been to the marylebone and the Islington branches and both meals have been middling ( if I was being sympathetic ) to lousy

Expensive and not the freshest fish I have tried. The fishmonger bits are not that great either. I am fortunate to work about 30 secs from Steve hatt and cannot ever imagine buying fresh fish from Fishworks on Upper st which is just as close.

perhaps the best taramasalata I have tried has been at The Real Greek in Hoxton

Friday, September 15, 2006 12:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Sam said...

Eighty quid for a fish and chip supper!! Holy Moly.

Looks nice though.

SF

Sunday, September 17, 2006 4:34:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Fish was about £11 but chips and the mushy pea disaster were extra. We had three starters and the oysters were about £1.50 each. I had ice cream and coffee. It all adds up.

I believe they do a prix fixe, 3 courses for about £17 but it's only avalilable until 7pm.

Sunday, September 17, 2006 9:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Kate said...

Interesting review....I enjoy your commentary on restaurants around the Islington area (our local) and I generally think they are spot-on. I'm a passionate Australian 'foodie' and normally resent eating out if not up to what we could cook at home in quality of ingredients and presentation. I want to be able to enjoy something I wouldn't, or couldn't do at home.

We had an absolute shocker at the Fish Shop recently...I had the mackerel as described on a Saturday night, when the beetroot salad was clearly two days old and slimy, and the salad bitter and gritty. Our other starter was an edible fish soup heated to volcanic level by an industrial microwave, so the cream had separated horribly. Fortunately they didn't have the nerve to call the mass of disintegrated fish a chowder, though it was not unpleasnt to taste!Our cod main was a beautifully fresh and nicely cooked piece, but totally devoid of any flavour, and with a miniscule amount of a probably pleasant sauce and savoy cabbage. The fish and chips, like yours, was a lovely fresh piece, nicely cooked, with good batter but ordinary chips; always a let down for a chip-o-phile like me!

Desserts also filled the spectrun from disastrous to ordinary but no higher. A sticky toffee pudding was enormous, and also microwave over-done, and although not unpleasant, had a rather bizarre burned toffee taste to the sauce. The creme brulee, which I normally love, was horrendous, with an almost unsweetened custard apparently heavy on skim milk which had curdled on cooking...perhaps more microwave-love in evidence in prep too.

I couldn't bring myself to complain, as the service was pleasant and attentive, but we left with that unpleasnt sensation in the pit of the stomach of an overly heavy but totally dissatisfying experience. With a grossly overpriced and horrible red burgundy on top, the bill came to just under £100! We felt physically violated...not for a return visit!

On a totally different note, and if you get a chance, we had a totally opposite, and absolutely fantastic all-round experience at the Northgate (on Southgate Road) last weekend. Highly recommend a visit!

Monday, November 06, 2006 4:01:00 pm  
Anonymous Kate said...

Interesting review....I enjoy your commentary on restaurants around the Islington area (our local) and I generally think they are spot-on. I'm a passionate Australian 'foodie' and normally resent eating out if not up to what we could cook at home in quality of ingredients and presentation. I want to be able to enjoy something I wouldn't, or couldn't do at home.

We had an absolute shocker at the Fish Shop recently...I had the mackerel as described on a Saturday night, when the beetroot salad was clearly two days old and slimy, and the salad bitter and gritty. Our other starter was an edible fish soup heated to volcanic level by an industrial microwave, so the cream had separated horribly. Fortunately they didn't have the nerve to call the mass of disintegrated fish a chowder, though it was not unpleasnt to taste!Our cod main was a beautifully fresh and nicely cooked piece, but totally devoid of any flavour, and with a miniscule amount of a probably pleasant sauce and savoy cabbage. The fish and chips, like yours, was a lovely fresh piece, nicely cooked, with good batter but ordinary chips; always a let down for a chip-o-phile like me!

Desserts also filled the spectrun from disastrous to ordinary but no higher. A sticky toffee pudding was enormous, and also microwave over-done, and although not unpleasant, had a rather bizarre burned toffee taste to the sauce. The creme brulee, which I normally love, was horrendous, with an almost unsweetened custard apparently heavy on skim milk which had curdled on cooking...perhaps more microwave-love in evidence in prep too.

I couldn't bring myself to complain, as the service was pleasant and attentive, but we left with that unpleasnt sensation in the pit of the stomach of an overly heavy but totally dissatisfying experience. With a grossly overpriced and horrible red burgundy on top, the bill came to just under £100! We felt physically violated...not for a return visit!

On a totally different note, and if you get a chance, we had a totally opposite, and absolutely fantastic all-round experience at the Northgate (on Southgate Road) last weekend. Highly recommend a visit!

Monday, November 06, 2006 4:01:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Kate

Thanks for such a thoughtful post and " the other side of the coin"

Also, thanks for the rec' I will certainly give it a try

Best

S

Monday, November 06, 2006 8:32:00 pm  

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