Such was the anticipation about the opening of this place, I dreamt that I was wading through the Firth of Forth to get to it.
Sadly, I drowned and didn’t make it, so can’t offer up any sort of dormant preview (though that could have featured crocodiles hiding in bushes or sinister penguins, both of whom make regular cameos).
It’s a new seafood eatery from Ondine’s chef patron, Roy Brett, along with Gary Welch, owner of Welch Fishmongers, next door on the pier.
If you want to see the state of the building just a year or two ago, check out their Facebook page. The former fishmarket was typically warehouse sized, like the cavernous, cathedral-like remains of a beached whale. No wonder that refurbishment seemed to take an eternity.
Now that snagging is complete, there are iridescent mackerel-scale like tiles along the bar and two huge Belfast sinks (complete with hand wash, presumably for refreshing vinegary paws). The restaurant space adjoins a traditional looking takeaway chipper, and you’ll find alfresco picnic seating on the wooden boardwalk. Amazingly, nobody eating outside was being hectored for scraps, so it seems that the seagulls don’t know about this place yet.
Their staff are in a uniform of Breton tops and green aprons, and we had the friendliest, most entertaining and patient waiter possible. Italian, I think. (It says Sam on my receipt. I know it’s early days, but please can he have a pay rise/promotion?)
It’s likely that most people will be doing the fish and chips here, and that forms the central panel of the menu.
But there are other bits too. From the Crispy section, we tried the squid (£10) and monkfish (£10), both battered and from Peterhead.
They were generous starter-sized portions, featuring a rust-coloured cladding that was crunchy and well seasoned, as well as a limey and chilli spiked Vietnamese sauce on the side. We liked the squid rings, even though they’d been sort of subsumed by their coating, and the Polo mint coloured monkfish was perfectly silky, unblemished by a frazzling in oil.
To acknowledge the Oyster Bar section of the menu, we tried one of their slippery fellas with shallot vinegar and lemon (£2.50), which, served on a tray of ice, was sparkly and slid down easy.
While, from the La Plancha options, the half shell diver scallop (£6) was a huge clodhopping beast – the lucha libre of the seafood world, with a coral the size of a child’s clog. It was slopped in a lovely wild garlic butter, as was our half of an east coast native lobster (£18), the disassembling of which made it necessary to use the sinks.
All very lovely, of course, but what really beats our humble old friend, chish and flips?
We shared a large portion (£11), though you can downsize to medium (£10) or up to whale (£12), which is hopefully more pygmy sperm than blue. They all come with chips (good chip shop style ones, no triple cooked fancy business, or skinny), though you’ll be taxed an additional quid for “extra sauces”. Choose from garlic mayo, mushy peas, Vietnamese, curry, or, our choice – a chunky tartare with loads of dill in it.
Anyway, this course was happy-making alongside the sunshine streaming through the windows. I ate it down to the finest scrap of batter and the runtiest of chips.
Although champagne or prosecco are winners with fish and chips, I liked mine with one of their ozone-y gin-based seaside gimlets (£7).
For pudding, we shared a little chocolate pot (£5). It featured a layer of tart marmalade topped by rich ganache, then cream and a biscuit-y crumb, and there was a soft madeleine on the side.
Beaky, Beady Eye, Gammy Leg, Feathers, Bomber, Bin Picker and the guys would’ve loved every single scrap. Please make sure they never find out.