Heaton Moor, Stockport
We were in the mood to celebrate, and the release of my latest novel seemed to offer a spurious excuse, so we resolved to eat at the Easy Fish Co. We dined here soon after the place opened, before we’d even started writing this blog and remembered the experience fondly, so back we came to investigate further.
Like most restaurants on ‘the Moor,’ the EFC is situated close to Damson, that fabulous venue against which all other Moor eateries must, inevitably, be measured. Rather like the FishWorks in London, the EFC is a fishmonger by day and a restaurant by night, so there’s clearly no problem in obtaining fresh ingredients for the meals. The staff are relaxed and friendly and the service is on the leisurely side – we sat down at 6.45 and didn’t leave the place until 8.45, but the bustling, congenial atmosphere was nice enough and we had a decent bottle of Pino Grigio to drink, so there was no great hurry.
We chose two starters, which we shared. The ‘Taster Board’ comprised a selection of fishy things – charred baby squid with sweet and sour peppers, whitebait, poached king prawns and pea aranchi (a kind of croquette) with mint crème fraiche. We also sampled a jar of smoked fish pate with a golden raisin chutney, served with toasted bread. The pate was the star of the show, light, citrusy and deliciously smoky, and the aranchi and poached prawns were also perfectly done. The squid though, was a tad rubbery and without those zesty peppers in support, wouldn’t have tasted of all that much. The whitebait was disappointing, the flavour a little muddy and the coating not as crisp as I would have liked. A few of them were left, which isn’t like me at all.
On to the main courses. I’ve always loved swordfish, and have often eaten it in little beach bars in Spain where the steak you’re given is so generous it could almost double as an eiderdown. This was a more realistic portion, two triangular steaks served on a bed of sweet potato, with scorched pak choi, a green Thai creme fraiche, beansprouts and sweet chilli. It was, in short, sublime and whoever thought of pairing it with sweet potato should really take a bow, because it worked brilliantly. Susan had opted for bouillabaisse and when it came to the table, we couldn’t help staring at it, because though it looked nicely cooked and presented, this wasn’t really a bouillabaisse at all, which really should be a hearty fish stew, swimming in a spicy, full-flavoured stock that has been simmering away for several days. OK, the medley of perfectly cooked fish on the plate came with a little pot of thick, creamy sauce to pour over, but this was not bouillabaisse as we know it. (A member of staff later explained that this was the chef’s own take on the classic dish, which is fair enough, but the name brings certain expectations and no matter how nicely the meal is done, there’s a sense of disappointment when you realise it’s not going to be what you actually wanted.)
As it was a special occasion, we thought we’d sample some desserts and these proved to be so delicious they were well worth the wait. I had caramelised bananas with peanut crumb, served with a salted caramel rum sauce and ice cream, which tasted every bit as delicious as it sounds. The rum sauce was a particular delight, delicately flavoured and ‘lick the plate clean’ satisfying. Susan had the special, an Affogato – two scoops of ice cream with an espresso coffee and a hearty shot of amaretto to pour over. It was, she proclaimed, a coffee-lover’s dream. Both desserts had an expertly made tuile to go with it and there were fresh strawberries and little blobs of intensely flavoured fruit compote to further enhance your eating pleasure.
So, all in all, a very good meal in agreeable surroundings, with just a couple of details that might have been improved on. And while I can hardly detract points for calling a dish something that it isn’t (particularly when the dish in question is cooked with such skill) I would humbly suggest that they find a new name for that chef’s take on a classic dish.