Food and Drink" Bites fishes out more good seafood specialists
Saturday 20 March 1999
Hotel Continental 29 Beach Walk, Whitstable, Kent (01227 280280). Lunch and dinner daily. Newer sibling of the more famous Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company restaurant, this restored seafront art deco hotel dining room has a great value set-price menu at pounds 9.50 for lunch, pounds 12.50 for dinner. Though meat and fish get equal billing, seafood steals the show. Not the luxury end of the catch, but mussels are plump and lovely, plaice spanking fresh. Also oysters, fish soup and herring roe and bacon on toast for old-fashioned comfort.
Rasa Samudra 5 Charlotte Street, London W1 (0171-637 0222). Mon-Sat lunch and dinner. Another development from chef turned restaurateur Sivadas Sreedharan, who introduced north and central London to the exquisite vegetarian cooking of his native Kerala at his two Rasa restaurants. Now it's south Indian seafood's turn and it's unlikely you'll find dishes such as koondal olathiathu (squid cooked with onions, ginger, curry leaves, green pepper and fresh coconut slices), and para konju nirachathu (lobster served with lemon rice and beetroot curry), anywhere else. Around pounds 25 a head without drinks.
Offshore 148 Holland Park Avenue, London W11 (0171-221 6090). Lunch and dinner daily. Latest offspring from a Mauritian chef with a couple of other London fish restaurants. Exotic seafood is cooked with a marriage of the French, Indian, Chinese and Caribbean influences that have shaped Mauritian cuisine. Sauces can lack subtlety, which may detract from the impressive freshness of snapper and grouper, or, in the case of tiger prawns we sniffed suspiciously, disguise it. Why - and where - was the alien tuber in fish soup that boasted the inclusion of sweet potato? Frustrating. Two-course lunch pounds 14.50, three courses pounds 18; dinner around pounds 30 without drink.
J Sheekey 28-32 St Martin's Court, London WC2 (0171-240 2565). Lunch and dinner daily. Old-stager of a fish restaurant in theatreland, consists of wood-panelled dining rooms and a mirrored bar gloriously revived by the owners of The Ivy and Le Caprice. Seafood dishes through the ages, from lemon sole belle meuniere, timeless classics - grilled Dover sole or haddock and chips - to brandade of salt cod, heady with garlic and parsley, and peppered bluefin tuna with Italian barley and herb salsa. Seaweed's a side order, and bread costs pounds 1.50. The pace of service can be dizzying, the quota of star customers head-turning. With gingery treacle tart or trifle for afters the bill can hit pounds 40 a head for the works, pounds 25 to pounds 30 without drinks.
Tir-a-Mor 1-3 Mona Terrace, Criccieth, Gwynedd, Wales (01766 523084). Mon-Sat dinner. The name means land and sea in Welsh, and the townhouse restaurant in the seaside birthplace of Lloyd George is such a beacon for its use of good local produce, fish in particular, that it was recently named Best Seafood Restaurant in the Red Book guide to Wales. Wild sea bass baked whole stuffed with herbs, red mullet with a bouillabaisse sauce, king scallops with capers and sage typify a Mediterranean approach. Desserts keep up Italian emphasis, with home-made ices or panna cotta. The furniture's pine, there's a lack of pomp. One sitting an evening, pounds 20 without drink
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