Monday, 30 May 2016

Restaurant Review: Neptune Fish Restaurant, Seahouses

Neptune. To the right, the competition. To the left, a small abandoned child: welcome to Cameron's Britain.
After a premium morning of poncing around the Farne Islands, what better way of satisfying the resultant hunger than eating something that came out of the very waters that surround them? This is a rhetorical question, so you don't need to actually try to think of a better way, unless you really feel like you have to, in which case keep it to yourself. The whole premise of this introduction is that there isn't a better way, and I don't need you ruining it for me, smartypants. Anyway, I digress. Sand eels weren't on the menu anywhere, so I'm still unclear as to why these appeal so much to the Puffins we had spent the last couple of hours gawping at. What I can recommend however, are the fish and chips at Neptune, which are right on the money.

There can be few meals so inextricably tied to memory and emotion than fish and chips. Fancy restaurants are forever coming up with their "take" on this meal. Nothing confirms a dish's cannonical status quite so palpably as modern heresies. Where does your deep-fried childhood nostalgia come from? Mine is inextricably linked to my Gran. We'd drive over from home in south west Scotland, pick her up from Newbiggin or Tynemouth, depending on what era of Gran we're discussing, and take her for fish and chips. This would involve either a trip to the Quayside Chippy in Amble which is still going strong, or one on the Fish Quay at North Shields whose name escapes me but which, like my Gran, disappeared from this world some time ago. Nowadays I'm a Colmans man.

Every portion of fish and chips consumed is, I think, an act of remembrance and reverence, which explains why people get so het up about it, and have their own favourite piscine temples to visit, which they'll viciously defend against the perceived slander of ill-informed apostates. A duff plateful is a tasteless - in both senses - profanity, a crime against the present but also the past, and a very personal one at that.

Neptune has no such place in my own narrative, but it clearly does to a lot of other people, as it was completely heaving with batter-seeking pilgrims as we battled to secure a table before heading to the counter to notify the friendly staff of our requirements. I'm a Haddock fancier myself, deeming it to have superior flavour, while Kasia insists on the thicker flakes of Cod. We each know who we are and are happy in our respective camps. We can agree on the value of the presence of mushy peas (yes, please), but depart again when it comes to sauce. For her, tomato, and always Heinz, to the extent that a portable bottle of this sweet and tangy elixir has been spotted in her handbag on occasion. For me, the tang and punch of tartare is vital. And to drink? Normal tea, Irn Bru or champagne, depending on the time, place and mood. Those are the rules. Neptune serves a slice of squidgy white bread and butter by default. This is a nice touch, and one that I appreciate.

Alright gorgeous?
Our meals arrived and all was in fine order. The chips were none too many in number, and not especially crisp, but they had excellent flavour, being  - as daft a thing to say as this sounds - really potatoey. The batter shell was, on both our plates, substantial. I assume they're using quite a thick mixture. It was also delicious and quite free of grease, making the whole thing very edible. I have been known, in extremis, to leave the bottom side of batter uneaten. There was no question of that here.

Close up
The cod was perfect, the milky flakes almost sighing as they they relinquished each others company. My haddock was delicious, all ozone freshness, but had spent a few seconds too many in the roiling vat of fat. These things, as I hope to have established, matter.

I also have to subtract marks for the provision of some nameless sachets of tartare sauce in which water and glucose-fructose syrup were the first two ingredients. This is an oversight for which there can be little excuse. Buy some capers and gherkins and mix them into a decent mayo. Or, at the very least, get Heinz. Thankfully this was the brand of tomato sauce on offer, otherwise they may have had an insurrection on their hands...

Mushy pea and chip sarnie. Yeah, and what?
These quibbles aside, this was still a really excellent meal. We've eaten here before, so this was no one-off either. The good people of Neptune are turning out great fish and chips, but they're doing something else too. They're giving people the opportunity to connect with dearly held memories, even as they fry up new ones. If that isn't the responsibility of public service, then I don't know what is. Long may they, and wherever you get yours from, continue to do the business.


Neptune Fish Restaurant
3 Seafield Road
NE68 7SJ

Tel: 01665 721 310


1 comment:

  1. I love the way the battered fish looks fish shaped..that rarely happens!!


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