Friday, 13 May 2011

The Fish Quay

This post was sitting all ready for you Friday morning, but Blogger crashed and this post disappeared into the resulting hole.  Fingers crossed this one will not suffer the same fate.

As I mentioned way back when we started, fishing is what established North Shields, but that industry has gone flatter than a  flatfish (more about those in another post).  When I first moved to the area, the warehouses were all abandoned, their windows shattered. There has been some renovation occurring and Irvin’s is the new ‘in’ restaurant, with warehouse flats on offer just above.

Renovation aside, there are three main aspects of the Fish Quay, at the bottom of the cliff I’ve been showing you the past few days. I think of them as ‘hooked’ ‘cooked’ and ‘raw’. The ‘hooked’ bit is where the fishing ships dock. I’ve rarely seen that actually happen, as I said the fishing industry is pretty scarce even around here. That said, the other day Bill pointed out a fishing boat coming in past the piers with a colony of seagulls following it. He reckoned they were cleaning the fish as they came into dock. Naturally, I didn't have my camera to capture the sight. 

There are still some of the best fish & chip restaurants to be found (the ‘cooked’ part) where you can get a piece of cod that hangs off both sides of a plate and more incredibly delicious chips (French fries are a completely different species – whatever you call them now) than one really should even consider consuming, for about £5.   We buy fish and chips maybe once a year and we may soon have to have our serving for 2011 my mouth is watering so.

Strangely enough there has been an influx of a local chain of Italian restaurants-  three of them so far -  but still, I think, with a fish theme: they have crammed as many tables in as physically possible and hired only skinny waiters; as a one-time customer I felt like a sardine in a tin.

The 'raw' part is even more interesting to me. I haven’t had much to do with a whole raw fish since I was very young. Mom and Daddy liked to go fishing on the pier at Lake Hefner and I remember a picnic basket with fried chicken and beer, playing in the minnow bucket, keeping away from the large live catfish in someone’s bathtub, my Dad teaching me to scale and gut sunfish on the back porch and walking around the back yard munching the fins off a freshly fried sunfish.

I associate fresh fish with a happy childhood, can you tell?

Maybe this is why I was so fascinated by the fish shops in Italy last summer, particularly Genoa. 

I took loads of photos there, in part because I thought they were wonderful, but also because some of it was pretty gross. 

Moscardinos are baby octopuses.   

In Genoa there were not only fishmongers in the village arcades,

but also down on the marina near the movie prop boat we explored.  

(And have finally found an excuse to show them to you!) 

Bill says this monster is a monkfish.

It seems obvious that almost any coastal town will have fishing / seafood as part of its culture, but for whatever reason - because it's not cheap even here, it's largely foreign and some of it is pretty disgusting if you didn't grow up with it, and apparently even if you did - it's not something I've had much contact with in the fifteen years I've lived here.   Oh, and another reason?  Bill keeps pointing out to me that fishy business takes place early in the day and that's just not my prime time.

So, imagine my pleasure when we rounded the corner and found that Taylor's is now open on Sundays and that they have a special:  £1 for 1 lb of selected fish (varies daily:  lemon sole, plaice, mackerel, hake, squid, witch, herring, gurnard). 

They, too, had an impressive range of fish on display, obviously something all fishmongers are trained to do. 

I felt like I was having a 'cultural experience' just about (but fortunately not really) at the bottom of my street!   We both decided that we were just going to have to figure out a way to do some shopping here.  So you can look forward to hearing more about our fish adventures, I'm sure.  I might even learn what is a gurnard’ or a ‘witch’…


Pauline Wiles said...

I'm trying to add a bit more fish into my diet, but I much prefer it when it doesn't resemble the living creature too much! And that monkfish is totally gruesome :)

Shelley said...

Pauline - I'm with you there. I love shrimp but they insist on serving them whole to prove they're fresh. It just takes the pleasure out of them for me, so I don't order them any more. I may cook the fish with the heads on, but I chop those suckers off before I take my plate to the table. Obviously I have no kulchure.