Our last outing to a seafood eatery ( Livebait in Leeds) had been a disappointing farce. A forty five minute wait for a table that we had apparently booked, culminating in us leaving hungry. Here's a tip - if you haven't got a table, then don't waste our evening by telling us you have. Just strap on a pair and fess up! Damn!! Consequently, I still had an unsated desire to pillage our precious oceans, and so when the six of us arrived and were greeted with a cheery "To be honest, I don't know where we're going to put you!", my heart sank.
However, this cardiac descent was halted and reversed by a glance behind the bar, where I noticed the phrase "Gros Plant de Nantais" chalked up beside the wines. Ashamed as I am to admit it, such trivialities have a profound effect on my mood, and knowing that we were about to tuck into fresh seafood and a bottle of the Nantais' driest made the champagne-and-oyster-assisted wait in the bar just about bearable. And anyway, I'd always wanted to give the toast "champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends", so thank you to all present for graciously receiving it.
After a looooooong wait (what is it with you seafood restaurants?), we got a table, and did the deed with the Gros Plant sur Lie and starters. I scored a dozen oysters, safe in the knowledge that I could trade them for bits of other starters. Trade I did, and got good smoked haddock chowder and a selection of excellently pickled and sauced herrings in return. The oysters were great, and the Gros Plant was a hit, a very gulpable hit.
Mains arrived, accompanied by a very good Meursault 'Clos du Corbins' 2000 (look, it was my birthday, and everyone very kindly let me run riot with the wine list), which seemed to compliment all the dishes present. My fillet of dorade with braised fennel and seared scallops was very good, the sweetness of the fennel and the scallops working a nice double act on the fairly neutral dorade. Two other scallop dishes were pronounced excellent (one with sauce vierge, the other with a mystery "seafood sauce"), and the bouillabaisse tasted fantastic, spiked with pastis, and almost Thai-like in its super-savouryness. It tasted fantastic, although it being the first one I've ever eaten, I can't vouch for its authenticity. Lets just call it A Very Good Bowl of Tomato and Fish Stew, and leave it at that.
No puddings, but coffee and liqueurs all round brought the bill to £45 a head, including service, a bottle of champagne and two bottles of wine. Not really cheap, but possibly a bargain, and a lovely place to spend a couple of hours. Apparently, they raise stocks and fish in a sustainable manner, so you can shove bivalves down your craw 'til your eyes bulge, safe in the knowledge that you're doing your bit for marine ecology.
I'll drink to that.
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