The Fish & Wine Co
Shop B9, The Pearls
7 McCausland Cres, Umhlanga
Call 031 941 6896
Must go down to the sea again …. or not. A seafood tasting evening that ran the full gamut of the good, the bad and the okay. By Ingrid Shevlin
Fish & Wine is a brand new seafood restaurant in The Pearls. The interior space is expansive, the terrace section is expansive. The decor is cool and contemporary. Clean and lean, in fact. Loved the ship’s hull suspended from the ceiling. Frank Chemaly, who was dining with me, joked that it made him feel like Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale to prevent him drowning. A bible parable, sweetie. Clearly in joking mood, he also quipped that the & part of Fish & Wine looked like in “S”, reading Fish Swine. We all laughed.
Fish & Wine is linked to Willoughby & Co, popular seafood restaurants in Hyde Park and Cape Town. For one brief, heady moment I thought it would be a cut above the other restaurants in The Pearls, distinguishable only by their mediocrity. Apart from Cafe La Plage that is, which offers some interesting flavours – and gold plastic toilets and gilded thrones in the lounge area. So, pretty memorable.
But it was not to be with Fish & Wine. Even though it came recommended. Even though it had rave reviews on its Facebook page.
Perhaps Sunday night is not the best time to go. Perhaps the head chef had the night off. Perhaps a too-junior chef was in his/her place. Whatever.
The staffers were nice, though. A friendly and helpful waitress, a bustling and accommodating floor manageress. They needed to be.
So, it’s a seafood restaurant that offers absolutely every permutation you can think of with fish and seafood, which includes langoustines, oysters, prawns and crayfish and about three line fish options daily. Also a handful of meat meals and a comprehensive sushi menu.
Nothing is cheap here, but it’s in The Pearls and I’m assuming the rents are crippling.
My fellow diners are serious foodies. Frank’s a restaurant critic, Luke a chef, Meleney a foodie who is in the hospitality industry and her two guests, both yachties. One of them was a young sailing teacher from Denmark with a yearning for sushi.
For starters we shared a plate of three large salmon and hake fishcakes served with chips, R95, five prawn spring rolls, R85 and a plate of edamame beans, R35.
The fishcakes were good. Generously portioned, densely packed with fish and well flavoured. The prawn spring rolls were satisfyingly crispy, but not overwhelmingly interesting, taste-wise. The edamame beans were served in their pods and suitably seasoned. Unfortunately the pods were too stringy to eat whole, so we had to shell them. This left the beans without flavour.
Luke the chef ordered the seafood bunny, which was generously packed with line fish, prawns and calamari, R95. He said it was technically well-prepared and pleasantly flavoured, although it was more peri peri spicy than curry hot. Odd that.
The young Danish sailor managed to polish off an entire platter of tuna sushi, in various guises, R275. He was very complimentary. Among the best sushi he’s eaten, he enthused.
The other yachtie opted for a salmon steak with savoury rice and chips, R245 and was happy enough without enthusing.
Frank ordered the English style battered fish and chips, with a salad and mushy peas, R125. The fish was nicely prepared, and the chips okay. But he complained that the salad dressing was so sweet he couldn’t eat the salad.
Meleney ordered a tuna steak, asking it to be served rare. It was served well done. She sent it back and, although the replacement was more rare, it had an unappealing grey colour and a fibrous texture. She was not happy.
I treated myself to 12 king prawns served with savoury rice and stirfried vegetables, R250. The prawns were a good size, but inconsistently cooked. Some looked undercooked, others overcooked. One prawn was still half-frozen and each time I pulled off a prawn’s head (ugh), grey liquid gushed out. By this time I was so unnerved I asked for all the prawns to be regrilled. “I don’t want to get food-poisoning from this”, I said to the bustling, efficient lady manager. She looked aghast at the idea. “You would never be” she assured me.
I felt happier with them the second time round. Not happy, though, with the stir-fried vegetables, which were swimming in a glutenous and very sweet sauce. Ugh.
Undeterred, we forged ahead and ordered chocolate and strawberry ice-cream, R20 each, and a caramel salted mousse R55. The strawberry ice-cream tasted synthetic, the chocolate was powdery and gritty, and the salted caramel mousse had no salt. Everything was sickly sweet.
By now the accommodating lady manager was concerned enough to call over Meleney (who has an authoritative air) to chat with her and the chef. They listened to all our complaints and suggestions, promised to take care of them and didn’t charge her for the tuna.
So, not an unhappy evening, just a mite disappointing one. Bill came to R1 610.
Fish & Wine has only been opened for a month and things are sure to improve. It still has to set up it’s wine list, too. Right now, though, they need someone in the kitchen who is better with flavours and presentation. Oh, and Fish & Wine, throw out the sugar! – October 2017