Seafood is having a moment – and experimentation is key. Stylist reveals what to eat and where to find it…
In 2017 it was tacos. The year before, smoked meat. Britain loves nothing more than a food trend (except, perhaps, a royal wedding), and in 2018, our attention has turned to the ocean. Call it the Blue Planet II effect, but this year, a slew of menus from new restaurants are crammed with seafood. In London alone, there’s Brat in Shoreditch, Cornerstone in Hackney Wick, and Neptune at The Principal hotel in Russell Square, plus Edinburgh’s much-anticipated The Fishmarket – due to open any day now – while Manchester’s Holy Crab can’t keep up with demand for their pop-ups and kitchen takeovers.
However, it’s not bog-standard fish and chips or lemon Dover sole that’s creating major buzz for these venues among in-the-know foodies. Rather, it’s their embracing of species that have long been ignored – basa, turbot, eel, gurnard, monkfish, razor clams, cuttlefish, megrim sole – rather than relying on the usual suspects.
Unsurprisingly, the trend is welcomed by an industry that is struggling with sustainability in an increasingly ecologically and ethically conscious world. “In the UK, we have a tendency to focus our seafood consumption on five main species – salmon, tuna, cod, haddock and prawns,” says Andy Gray, trade marketing manager for Seafish, an organisation that supports the £6bn UK seafood industry. “And yet on any one day it is estimated that there are in excess of 100 different species of fish and shellfish available to purchase in the UK.”
It’s a frustration felt by chefs like Tom Brown (who worked with acclaimed seafood chefs Rick Stein and Nathan Outlaw before opening his first solo restaurant, Cornerstone, last week), but he’s confident the tide is turning. “Thanks to globalisation, we’ve been introduced to new ways of serving fish, like sushi and Scandinavian-style pickled herring. People have become much more open to trying new dishes,” he says. As well as introducing new varieties to our palates, chefs are treating popular seafood in innovative ways – pickled anchovies, roasted oysters, raw scallops, cockles with liver sauce…
As a result, we are now more likely to opt for seafood when dining out than bolognese or brisket. In fact, from 2016-17, there was a 4.1% increase in seafood servings in food venues and this year’s performance is likely to be even stronger. Plus, the more we discover how delicious these previously neglected fish are, the more likely we are to eat them at home. “The great thing about seafood restaurants is that they inspire people to become more adventurous with their home cooking,” says Paul Trudgian, founder of online fishmonger fishforthought.co.uk. Indeed, Sainsbury’s this year added a range of rarer British fish, such as whiting and ling, to its stores.
Want to hop on board? Here, Stylist helps you navigate the waters with our guide to the underrated produce you need to try, and the best places to eat it.
London Seafood Festival, Battersea Power Station, SW8; 20-24 June, batterseapowerstation.co.uk
A brand-new five-day fish extravaganza features oyster-shucking classes, a huge crayfish boil and restaurant pop-ups.
Randall & Aubin, 64 Bridge Street, M3; randallandaubin.com
This London institution opened its Spinningfields branch last year, with a focus on French-inspired fresh seafood, delivered daily from Aberdeenshire and Devon.
Cadiz, 77b George Street, EH2; cadizedinburgh.co.uk
Cadiz champions the best of Scottish seafood and gives it a Mediterranean twist, with dishes including Isle of Mull king scallops with chorizo and pepperonata.
Sushi Passion, Great Western Arcade, B2; sushipassion.has.restaurant
Feast on the freshest of fish at the original market-based sushi bar or head to their second outpost in the Great Western Arcade for arguably the city’s best sashimi.
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, 6 New Road, PL29; nathan-outlaw.com
Perched on a Cornish clifftop, king of seafood Nathan Outlaw’s two-Michelin-starred tasting menus focus on sustainable fish and a ‘tail to scale’ ethos.
Riley’s Fish Shack, King Edward’s Bay, NE30; rileysfishshack.com
The daily catch – lobster, red mullet, monkfish – is cooked up in two shipping containers and served on the beach with crispy garlic potatoes and chilli relish.
Pysgoty, South Marine Terrace, SY23; pysgoty.co.uk
Once a public toilet, this light, bright space has stunning views over the harbour and an imaginative menu that includes sailor’s scotch eggs and tandoori monkfish medallions.
The Salt Room, 106 Kings Rd, BN1; saltroom-restaurant.co.uk
Tuck into modern British seafood cooked over coal at this south-coast favourite. Try the skate knobs – “delicious nuggets of pure white fish,” says executive chef Dave Mothersill.
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