Unknown to many of the people passing down Marylebone High Street, concealed behind the dazzling, iced-packed, fish-stacked counters of FishWorks fishmongers, there lies a little gem of the ocean, a small treasure chest of sumptuously sea-salted delights.
From the outside they exhibit a mesmeric display of finned creatures and rocky crustaceans. You would be forgiven for looking no further beyond this seaside bounty, however, at FishWorks, everything you see has freshly landed on the south coast shores that day, and it’s just a short walk to the chef’s skillet to be transformed from surf into supper.
We followed the fishmonger behind the counter as he proudly carried to the kitchen a silver platter holding around 2 dozen freshly prepared langoustine tails. As we entered the restaurant the glacial sights and sounds of the store front were swiftly enveloped by the softening warmth and savoury perfumes of the sea-foodie’s heaven inside.
Andrew Krukowski, the maître d’ and FishWorks senior general manager, led us down the galley to our table, and proceeded to elucidate their all-encompassing seasonal carte du jour, the board of ‘Today’s Landings’, the ‘Fish to Share’, and recommended an aperitif of their Sommelier’s Choice recommendation – a glass of Albariño Brut Nature, Mar de Drades-Rias Baixas, Spain.
Wow! A quick pause to find our bearings. The whirling sensations of discovery and anticipation had quickly taken over – which lucky devil will be having those langoustine tails, what shall we select straight off the fishmonger’s slab in the store, and how on earth do they master and assemble the tastes that are leaping out from the menu?
The Albariño arrives, as we are told how this rare Galician ‘skinny’ wine, the first ever sparkling Albariño made by the traditional Champagne method, comes from a vineyard in North West Spain, settled on a hill facing the sweeping winds drawn in from the Atlantic Ocean that permeate the vines and the soils to give a fine, crisp brut with a salty finish.
A toast – to what we were about to receive – and we continue to pour over the menu as we snack on our pre-starter of oven-baked sourdough bread board, with freshly made aioli, salsa verde, and FishWorks’ famous taramasalata, accompanied by marinated mixed Greek olives with oven-baked chervil tomatoes and roasted sweet peppers.
Andrew returned with a selection of south coast wet fish – the ‘Fish to Share’ – displayed on an iced platter, a selection of fresh wild sea bass, monkfish tail and whole turbot. With full detail description of where they were sourced earlier that day, the fish would be filleted at our table, but the specials board was far too enticing for this evening.
For starters we had hand-dived scallops by Nick and Anita at Beesands, Devon, seared in a delicate buttery, white wine and parsley sauce, and served filled on top of their shells with a breadcrumb crunch, like fragile shards that grappled with each other to grasp every splash of squeezed lemon juice.
Together with the scallops we shared a bustling brew of intensely flavoured Isle of Skye langoustine bisque – of course we had to try them – a bold distillation, heartily textured, with a saffron aioli and sourdough crouton combination for a measured bite.
Accompanying our meal, from among the the Pouilly Fumé, Pouilly Fuissé, and the Cornish Knightor Carpe Diem, we opted for the Muscadet ‘Signature’, SAS du Haut Bourg – another carefully complemented selection, from a family-owned winery in France, exclusive to FishWorks. With sweet honey flavours and a mellowed-citrus edge – a glass that matched entirely with each of the starters, and the mains that followed.
For our main course we turned to the Today’s Landings board, diving further to the big blue to experience a new character of fish, the Bideford day boat Ray Wing, with delicate meaty fibres that pull away from the bone, arriving layered with a blackened caper butter sauce and lemon drizzle.
We shared this together with another chef’s favourite, a mixed-seed crusted yellow fin tuna, seared medium-rare to give a melt-in-the-mouth consistency, like sugar-coated Turkish delight, balanced with an umami ramekin of soy and mirin dressing, and lime squeezed to taste.
To pamper our plates further we had an indulgent creamy side dish of fennel and anchovy gratin, with parmesan and dill crust, tempered with an English garden salad, heritage tomatoes, chilli cucumber and fresh herb pesto dressing.
Tastebuds quenched and feeling we had satisfactorily fathomed what makes the FishWorks concept so enticing for avid seafood lovers, securing the loyal company of returning regulars, we committed to our dessert. Buoyantly interpreting the sensations of our savoury courses to our host, he floated the juxtaposition of something sweet to finish.
By this point there was nothing else in our minds but a warming treacle and ginger pudding, with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream, paired to perfection with a syrupy muscovado and date flavoured sherry – Pedro Ximenez, Gutierrez Colosia, Spain.
FishWorks, thank you… We have been schooled!
Fishworks – Marylebone
89 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 4QW