THE SEA SHELL: BATTERED? MUGGED MORE LIKE.
The food blog gods really had it in for us this week. Two shocking meals already and, now, perhaps the most appalling Fish & Chips I have tried served up with a good dose of argument by an uncaring management.
In our search for the best F&C’s in London, the name of The Sea Shell had come up a few times as a place to try. So, we decided to give it a go.
It looks the part and the take away section of the shop was packed which is always a good sign.
We should, however, have known from the first moment we walked in and saw that the toilets were named “restrooms” that this was full square on the tourist trail with all the horrors that entails.
As ever we began with three starters. Squid was acceptable if not much more. Whitebait was over breaded and the looked like it had been pre-prepped, frozen and then flash fried to order. A far cry from the excellent whitebait at Master’s Superfish which just gets a gentle dredging in flour before frying.
Poorest of all, were the fish cakes. All filler, no killer. Mushy and flavourless. None of them were cheap and, as HP says, you can tell from the first bite the intentions and capabilities of the place. That being the case we should have got out while the going was well not good but not dreadful.
More fool us, we stayed for the main courses. For me, Haddock & Chips. For HP, Rock Salmon & Chips. We had a fair old wait until they arrived which can often be a good sign with F&C as it means they are preparing them from scratch. I am not sure what they were doing here, but what turned up was perhaps the worst example of the art of frying I can ever remember.
The Haddock was edible, but no more and I, being hungry enough ate most of it. I left most of the chips which were pale and flaccid. The batter of the fish was soggy and there was no gap between fish and batter to show that it had puffed up to protect the flesh. The fish itself was tasty enough, but for a whopping £11.75, it made the Yorkshire man in me wince. I could hear Freddie Trueman slowly revolving in his eternal resting place.
However, compared to HP’s Rock & Chips, mine was a beacon of success. His was a disaster, not once, but twice. This was as foul a plate of F&C as you are ever likely to see without someone actively wanting to do you harm. The first attempt was so soft and soggy, that HP took one look at it and sent it back. We waited a while and then it returned. This time, the outside was crispy enough ( though still with no bubbling which shows they had made too thin a batter) but the inside was raw enough to practically still be wriggling.
By this time we had enough and asked for the bill and for the Rock & Chips to be taken off the total. Particularly as it was a stonking £14.75 When it came, the offending item was still on there, so I asked for it to be taken off again.
There then followed one of the more bizarre conversations of my eating out to date. I quote from memory
MANAGER : “what was wrong?”
HP: “ we sent back the first time because it was too soggy. The second time because it was too raw”
MANAGER: “ The problem is it was too big a piece so it could not cook through”
HP: “ That’s OK, just knock it off the bill”
MANAGER: “ I can’t do that, it was a fresh piece of fish, it only came from Grimsby this morning”
ME: “ I am happy to pay for everything else but I am not paying for the Rock, it was awful”
MANAGER: “ I can’t knock it off the bill, you’ve eaten half of it” - at this point I refer you to the picture to show the plate seconds before it was returned for the second time and ask you to be the judge. Half eaten or no?
ME: “ There is no way on God’s earth I am paying for the Rock. I will give you my details and if you want to take it up with us later feel welcome, but I refuse to pay it”
I am sure I have not noted it word for word. But, the claim seems to be that we should pay for the fish for three reasons, er,
1) It came from Grimsby
2) It was too big a piece to cook through, so we should expect bits of it to be raw
3) HP had eaten half ( again I refer you to the picture )
So laughable as to be insulting.
Finally, he returned with a bill and had taken off the £14.75 but demanded we leave our name and address, which we duly did. It still came to a shocking £40 for two.
It was filling up with suckers, I mean punters, as we left and no one gave us a second glance. That about sums it up. They just did not care. There will always be another coach load of tourist who wont know that this is as far from good Fish & Chips as it is possible to get and I am sure they are raking it in. At those prices how could they not be?
So hungry was HP after this “meal” that we traipsed over to The Edgware Rd so he could have a Kebab at Beirut Express. Not great, but it filled the gap. Unfortunately, not even that nor the Lebanese coffee and pastries at Fatoush could take the bad taste of the evening out of our mouths.
It is meals like this that almost make me want to give up trying new places ( or new to us places ) and to stick to the old faithfuls where we know we can get a good meal. It might make for less interesting blogging but at least we would not have wasted £50 odd a pop (£85 in my case ) on meals of the ineptitude of the ones we have tried this week.
A poor end to a dispiriting week. Ho hum