Tag Archives: seafood

Catch of the day…

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The ultimate seafood platter..

A new addition to the best kept secrets archive this week, with a recommendation for a fresh seafood selection to die for.  The Seafood Platter, Beer is a quaint pub with access to the finest, freshly caught seafood.  A really relaxed ‘pub grub’ atmosphere is blown totally out of the water by the special sea food menu.

Beer is a superb little seaside fishing village, well worth visiting for the wonderful coastal walks and beautiful cove.

The pictured ultimate platter needs to be ordered when booking a table to ensure you do not miss out all of the elements, including tiger prawns, crab, mussels, scallops, oysters and cockles.  Stunning and served simply with lemon, bread, butter and aioli.

Sometimes you have to look into the unexpected to find incredible food.

The Seafood Platter

Fore Street

Beer

Devon

‘A little magic paired with confidence’ – The Jetty

The Jetty in Christchurch offers a tasting menu that will leave you wanting to sample more

The Jetty in Christchurch offers a classy tasting menu that will leave you wanting to sample more

Firstly, a welcome back to my readers. With a recent trip to Barcelona under my belt, there is plenty more in store for the coming weeks, but first…

In search of the freshest and very finest seafood in the South of England, my next stop earlier this month was Christchurch, Dorset. ‘The Jetty’ offers an impressive À la carte menu, but the ‘Jetty Tasting Menu’ was far too tempting to resist for a first visit. A collection of light dishes designed to tempt you to return, and overall, they did not disappoint given my high expectations.

The Jetty is set beautifully overlooking Mudeford Quay in Christchurch, Dorset. Within the grounds of Christchurch Harbour Hotel, the restaurant prides itself on sourcing local, fresh ingredients. Naturally, the stars of the menu are the locally caught seafood. The Jetty is very lucky to have a fantastic outdoor decking and one can only imagine the beauty of dining outside with a Summer sunset.

In addition to the £55 per head tasting menu, we opted for wine pairings for the evening. At an additional £35 per head, it is not to be taken lightly on the wallet. Despite that, the quality and selection of wines on offer throughout the evening most certainly impressed. With the set tasting menu, the restaurant offered an opportunity to swap any of the courses for a light version of a dish from the À la carte menu. We opted for a swap on the dessert, more on that later.

The evening of food kicked off with an extremely impressive amuse bouche of a mini crab tartlet, topped with a quail egg, boasting a delicious runny yolk. Dressed with asparagus, the plate was worthy of a course on the tasting menu in its own right. Incredible bursts of flavours and exceptionally beautiful on the plate. Left with some confusion at this stage as to whether we should expect a wine pairing for this ‘course’, a sparkling wine aperitif arrived with an explanation that they ‘didn’t normally do a wine pairing with the amuse bouche’. A fair comment, but perhaps it was not that we were expectant of a wine pairing at this stage, but more that once we had opted for the wine pairings, we were not presented with a further opportunity to order any drinks other than the water on the table. A common theme throughout the evening was a slightly disjointed approach to the serving of the paired wines as the food left the kitchen. The head waiter who dealt with the wine pairings did his very best to serve the wine shortly before the arrival of each dish, but this was not always achieved because he was simply occupied with other tables in the restaurant. A little refinement of this process is needed to avoid dishes sitting on the table waiting for their accompanying wine. A small tweak at most needed in this department. Communication is so important between the kitchen at the front of house.

Our first ‘proper’ dish arrived, a wonderfully rich pork belly and succulent prawn with lime and ginger flavours. Classic Oriental notes executed excellently for a beautiful start. To follow, perfectly seared scallop, squid and chorizo was accompanied by a warm salad of chick peas, spring vegetables and a punchy pesto, packed with powerful basil and garlic. A very pleasant combination of flavours, a touch more seasoning on the salad needed to capture the imagination.

The next dish left me frustrated, more because some elements were simply outstanding, whilst others went missing. Monkfish tail and oxtail. ‘Tails’. It certainly was two tales, with the monkfish perfectly soft yet meaty and full of richness, whilst the oxtail was a little chewy and under seasoned. A beautiful herb intensive vegetable broth finished the dish leaving it a notch down from brilliance. The oxtail really let an otherwise indulgent dish down. Moving on to quail three ways, this plate of food really was inventive and exciting, displaying the chef’s true culinary capabilities. Rich and soft poached breast meat, golden and crispy cromesquis leg, and soft quail egg ravioli with a strikingly delicious runny yolk centre. Finished with asparagus and a lip-smacking albafura style sauce, the trend, at this stage, was very much upwards.

Next, the simplicity of a palate cleansing ‘goats cheese waldorf salad’ was blown completely out of Mudeford Quay’s water with the most surprising, mourish and well balanced salad I had ever experienced. The sweet grapes and apple jelly cubes, smoky and soft goats cheese, crunchy toasted walnuts and delicate mixed leaves were breathtaking when finished with the superbly paired sweet pineau des charentes cognac wine.

The final course was dessert heaven, textbook execution of a chocolate fondant, accompanied by shards of a deconstructed black forest meringue. The sweet and sharp fresh fruit, coulis and crunchy meringue cut through the indulgent, rich chocolate superbly.

In summary, The Jetty’s tasting dishes do a superb job of enticing diners into returning to sample the À la carte menu. The very few shortcomings of the evening were certainly not deal breakers for the price bracket, however, a little refinement of the logistics of the wine pairing offer is needed. The pairings themselves, faultless. The Jetty wins an impressive 8 out of 10 for a really enjoyable dining experience. I will return for the À la carte menu later this year, confident that it may squeeze an even higher score.

Stilton, mango and honey ciabatta with a king prawn salad

This perfect, posh cheese on toast goes hand in hand with a fresh prawn salad

This perfect, posh cheese on toast goes hand in hand with a fresh prawn salad

This recipe is inspired by one of my father’s many kitchen creations, adapted into a light, fuss-free Summer supper. A posh cheese on toast!

Cheese and fruit are a well known combination, but there are so many mis-guided concoctions on our supermarket shelves. For me, the sight of overly sweet dried cranberries, hammered into the side of a lovely mature piece of cheese is a crime against good food! Despite that, the sweet but tangy mango and lemon in this recipe works perfectly with the power of any blue cheese, finished beautifully with a drizzle of runny honey.

To make the dish fit for a simple homemade main course, I’ve chosen to add a really quick dressed salad with cooked king prawns.

Stilton and mango, the Wisdom family hereby patents the combination!

Stilton, mango and honey ciabatta with a king prawn salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Ingredients:

  • 2 long white ciabatta rolls
  • 1 lump mature stilton
  • 1 ripe mango
  • 2 handfuls pine nuts
  • 24 cooked king prawns
  • runny honey for drizzling
  • mixed leaf salad of choice
  • 1 lemon
  • balsamic vinegar for drizzling
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • salt and cracked black pepper for seasoning

Method:

  1. Slice the ciabatta rolls in half lengthwise and arrange evenly on tin foil ready for the grill.
  2. Season the ciabatta rolls with coarse rock salt, cracked black pepper, drizzled olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a little grated lemon rind.
  3. Slice the stilton and arrange on top of the ciabatta rolls before placing under a pre-heated grill until the stilton is melted and nicely browned, the ciabatta toasted. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in small dry frying pan over a moderate heat until gently browned.
  4. Peel and slice the mango into chunky strips, laying them over the top of the stilton.
  5. Scatter the toasted pine nuts over the top of the stilton and mango ciabatta.
  6. Drizzle the honey lightly over the dish.
  7. Dress a mixed leaf salad with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and cracked black pepper.
  8. Place a small salad portion each side of the ciabatta and top with three king prawns each side.
  9. Finish the dish with a little drizzle of lemon juice and a good helping of cracked black pepper.

Beetroot cured Salmon Gravlax

Beetroot cured salmon gravlax is an impressive homemade alternative to smoked salmon and combines beautifully with scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast

Beetroot cured salmon gravlax is an impressive homemade alternative to smoked salmon and combines beautifully with scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast

My first blog recipe is a new favourite of mine, inspired by my recent visit to ‘Charlotte’s Place,’ Ealing, and adapted from an 80s Swedish classic.

Gravlax, Scandinavian for ‘grave’ is a dill, salt and sugar cured salmon that historically found itself wrapped in bark, weighed down with bricks and buried six feet under. The beetroot, horseradish, lemon and peach schnapps are my modern twists to bring this classic to life with a colourful, spicy and fruity tang.

The quantities in this dish really are rough and it’s very much down to your personal taste. A trial and error exercise that you can keep your own secret version of locked away!

I choose to use this colourful cured salmon as an alternative to smoked salmon and the flavours combine nicely with creamy scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast.

Beetroot cured Salmon Gravlax

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 48hrs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized salmon side fillet, skin on, pin-bones removed
  • 3-4 tbsps coarse rock salt
  • 1-2 tbsps demerara sugar
  • 1 fresh beetroot, peeled, finely grated
  • 2-3 tsps fresh horseradish, peeled, finely grated
  • 25 ml peach schnapps
  • 1 lemon
  • large bunch of dill, coarsely chopped

Method:

  1. Place the salmon fillet skin side down on a deep enough tray to hold the moisture extracted from the fish during the curing process.
  2. Evenly spoon over the coarse rock salt and demerara sugar until the salmon fillet is covered.
  3. Spread the beetroot and horseradish across the salmon fillet, ensuring the beetroot is covering all of the flesh to allow for maximum colour penetration.
  4. Drizzle over the peach schnapps and evenly scatter over the dill.
  5. Grate over the lemon, before pouring over the squeezed juice.
  6. Pat down all of the ingredients on top of the salmon to allow for an even distribution of flavour.
  7. Cover the salmon tightly with cling film, weigh down with bottled water or large fruit juice cartons and refrigerate for 48 hours.
  8. After 48 hours, remove the tray from the fridge and gently scrape away the remaining topping from the salmon.
  9. Separate the skin from the fillet by carefully running a sharp knife underneath the salmon, angled towards the skin.
  10. Slice thinly across the top of the salmon into long strips, ready to arrange on your dish of choice.
  11. The remaining salmon can be covered with cling film and kept in the fridge for 4-5 days.

‘Nervously, noisily, nearly exquisite’ – The Crab at Bournemouth

The Crab at Bournemouth delivers classic seafood with imagination and panache

The Crab at Bournemouth serves up a classic seafood fayre with imagination and panache

Often, I find that a dining experience can be tainted by pretentious service – something ‘The Crab at Bournemouth’ has been accused of in the past. When we leave our homes in search of a fine dining experience, often spending significant amounts of money, restaurants should be privileged to serve us. We should never be made to feel like we are lucky to part with our hard-earned cash. Despite this, there is a polar opposite to pretentious service. Overbearing, unnecessary visits to your table can interrupt your conversation, or similarly spoil an otherwise lovely lunch or dinner. It’s a very fine balance for restaurants, and one that should not be underestimated.

The Crab holds an impressive position, not far from the sea front. In fact you can see the sea from most of the tables, allowing you to play a game of spotting diners craning their necks to admire the view throughout your stay! Whilst the building itself is fairly discreet, the dining room boasts floor to ceiling windows which creates a fantastic reflective atmosphere at dusk, particularly in a buzzing and busy restaurant.

We were greeted with a warm welcome on a very busy Saturday evening. Casual diners were being turned away from a fully booked restaurant which is always a positive; particularly in preparing an accurate critique for a dinner serving that would be stretched to the maximum number of covers. The bar is nicely located as you enter the restaurant and your attention is also immediately drawn to a grand piano towards the centre of the room…more on that later.

Once seated, our drinks were ordered and arrived promptly, alongside a vibrant selection of fresh breads. An equally impressive accompanying selection of garlic mayonnaise, salted butter and hummus was a nice touch over and above a single lump of butter. At £25 a bottle of very decent Belstar Prosecco (Italy), the light, refreshing citrus notes were a perfect and affordable accompaniment to an evening of sea food.

Having ordered our starters and main courses, we were treated to a complimentary amuse-bouche of smoked salmon mousse, delicately presented on a tasting spoon. Topped off with a thinly crisp crouton and a cress garnish, the spoon was very nicely balanced and packed a beautifully smokey punch. The mousse was perfectly seasoned and coarse enough to hold its own with the crunch of the crouton, the cress garnish adding an important fresh twist to the spoon. In its own right, the mousse was fit for a larger portion as a starter, very impressive.

A pause in service and the pianist made himself comfortable, ready to play. It was pleasant at first, but not all the diners had arrived yet, so the background noise wasn’t at its loudest. He was hitting the keys pretty hard too, a plea of ‘listen to me, I’m good at piano.’ He was good, very good. I didn’t need the extra force to tell me that though.

My starter of ‘Salcombe Crab and Poached Lobster’ arrived in good time and hit me with the ‘wow’ factor I refer to in my ‘best kept secrets’ blogs. The lobster soft, sweet and succulent, paired with textbook dressed crab meat, dotted around a jet black slate was a sight to behold. Amidst the stars of the dish were garden peas and perfectly piped pea puree, poking fun at the senses as I mistook one for the other. Further cubes of celery roots and salad leaves were scattered to great effect, whilst a final swipe of a light marie-rose style sauce cut through all the elements of the dish for an outstanding combination. This, undoubtably, was the best starter dish I had the pleasure of eating for a long time.

Throughout the evening, the serving staff were very attentive to topping up our glasses, but a little tentative to ask if we wished to order any more drinks, or engage in the briefest of conversations, almost a nervousness amongst some that they would be overbearing. This was certainly not the case.

Suitably impressed thus far, I had opted for ‘Spiced Monkfish and Scallops’ for my main course. Served with a sweet potato curry and lime and coriander rice, the scallops were seared to perfection and combined excellently with the fresh, tangy notes of lime and coriander, and the thick, hearty sweet and spicy notes of the curry. The monkfish needed ever so slightly less cooking time, however the seasoning and flavour combinations within the dish more than saved it. A notch down from perfection, no doubt. Shortly after tucking into our main course, the servers delivered a small dish of grated cheese, croutons and what I could only describe as a cold gravy dip. There was no explanation to the purpose of these extras or what they consisted of. A little baffling in my eyes.

Throughout our main course, our favourite pianist was back but now melting nicely into the background noise. My assessment? A perfect touch for later in the evening, but out of place at 7pm in a half empty restaurant.

I’m a sucker for a good cheese board, so two thirds of the way through a very decent dining experience, it was too tempting to resist The Crab’s ‘Selection of Cheeses.’ The most pleasing thing for me was that the selection lived up to its title. Too often I have sampled 4 minor variations of Cheddar, all huge and overbearing. The Crab had selected a Cheddar, a Smoked Applewood, a Brie, a Goat’s Cheese and a Stilton, all very different in texture, flavour and finish. The modest chunk of each variety was enough to polish off with little trouble and the oat and rye biscuits, spicy chutney, celery sticks and grapes added a classic balance. Perhaps a further opportunity to impress would have been an explanation of the selection, having had to guess that the smoked cheese was an applewood.

Overall, I have to commend the Crab for an extremely impressive and accomplished meal, an excellent 8 out of 10. The waiting staff need an arm around their shoulders in my view, encouragement to help tell the story behind some of the dishes and complete the picture. That disconnection between kitchen and dining room is holding the Crab back. Despite that, I wouldn’t have missed that food for the world.

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