Saturday, September 26, 2009

Steve Hatt fishmonger - London Islington's fresh seafood served with a personal touch

Steve Hatt - As fresh as it gets in Central London

In case you have not noticed, I am on a food roll here. Two weekends back, I finally paid a visit to the local fishmonger. Come to think of it, that wasn't really a big deal considering that I used to tag along with Mum to the local wet market back home.

Till this day, I'm still haunted by the early morning chaos at Queensway wet market with hawkers screaming about their wares at the top of their voices trying to outdo the sellers next to them, and 'aunties' who were determined to get the freshest groceries at lowest possible prices. There I was, half awake, trudging along behind Mum and lugging her conquest, which would occasionally include a fresh sea bream.

Fresh fish or seafood for that matter is hard to come by in London. Unless you don't mind turning up at 5am in the morning at Billingsgate Market, which is inconveniently located at Isle of Dogs served by the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) that has proven to be unreliable during weekends, you would have to contend with the fish counter at your local supermarkets.

While most supermarkets do a decent job removing the fish guts, I could not help but noticed a slight fishy smell lingering in the air - a sure sign that the fish could be fresher. Even the fishmonger stall in Chapel Market (which name I can't recall, 'Chapel Market Fishmonger' perhaps?) fared no better in the freshness litmus test.

Enter Steve Hatt Fishmonger, Islington's Essex Road's answer to Billingsgate Market. The fishmonger stall looks like one of those struggling backwater stores and gave no hint that it was given the honour of being one of London's most famous fishmonger.

We were there two weeks back trying to get fresh crabs (read about our crab buying experience) for our attempt to create one of Singapore's hot favourite - the Chilli Crab. A queue was already building up outside Steve Hatt's when we were there at 11am.

Non-discreet, but it did seem strangely inviting

Steve himself were in the shop with three burly staff - one picking out the seafood from the extensive range on the window display, another weighing it and wrapping up purchases in layers of grease absorbing papers, and the final one perched over the sink just chopping up larger fishes into more manageable chunks. And nope, there was not a hint of the much dreaded fishy smell.

It became quite clear that most in the queue were returning customers as Steve was rather familiar with their preferences. The staff were unexpectedly friendly as well and I must admit that I had not seen any person flashing a wider grin while wielding a chopper before.

Fresh seafood, reasonable prices, friendly service. What more can one ask for? I don't think I'll be heading to the supermarkets' fish counters for quite some time.

Steve Hatt Fishmonger
88-90 Essex Road
Islington, London N1 8LU
Tel: 020 7226 3963

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Dutchie said...

Mentioned wet market in SG n it brings back the same memory as yours ! I'm now so used to the sanitized supermarts here that I would avoid the weekly open-air market here, even tho it's the place to hv a bite of fresh fried fish or to load up on fresh fish.

Our local supermart is offering tilapia this week. There is a link by a vietnamese that the fish is cultivated in polluted rivers full of toxic waste. Can anyone confirm that ?

Besides the tilapia, I can only buy frozen fish sticks (needs a change for now) n somehow u hv me craving for fish, CK !

drcrab said...

Hey Dutchie
I've heard some rumours about that same thing (vietnamese tilapia)... ! best go check it out.

ohhh...I'm not a wet market type person. I'll venture into a butchers over here, and that's about it... It's quite refreshing actually buying straight from the butchers, esp when they know where the meat's from and what to recommend for various dishes! :)

C K said...

Hmm, not sure about the Vietnamese tilapia. But are there any locally caught fish over at NL? Surely there should be some from the Baltic Sea, no?

Talking about fishes, Wife just got two mackerel the other day and cooked fish curry. Mmmm, salivating just thinking of that.

You know what? I'm not too sure about the butchers. I mean, a fish is a fish, you don't really get to buy 'parts' of a fish.

I have absolutely no idea what are the 'cuts' of meats available. Those obtained from supermarkets are of course properly labelled. :)

Dutchie said...

drcrab ... hello,
Alamak, those rumours makes two :-(
To buy or not to buy ? I hv checked the dutch fish guide n it's classified as being cultivated by an environment-responsible company. It sounds to me like other labels where the guidelines r met with but the grey areas still exist. The consumers hv to take the risk for themselves.

Alot of the processed foods contain too much salt n conservatives, for example. It's bad for our health but the producers gets away with it bec they hv met de minimum guidelines. I often feel that we r left on the limb :-(

Btw, ur little George is so endearing ! I enjoyed the clips u posted with him as the main star !

Dutchie said...

CK .. hubby grew up near the marina n he used to get free buckets of seafood from the fisherman at the end of a sale day on saturdays. Those were the times when it was free trade instead of all the catch being sold thru auction in the 1980's as required by law.

The quantity of seafood has diminished due to over-fishing n u can image what the impact is on the price ! White fish fillet r sold for € 15,00/kg at least, at the open-air market.
A kilo of pork cost € 3,99 on discount day, to give u a comparison.

Frozen tilapia made its entrance to the supermarts here 2yrs ago. I only noticed them when I started thinking abt fish which I could cook to my own taste instead of the same old fishsticks. I was hoping that the filet r suitable for fishballs or fishcakes - both I missed alot (Tiong Bahru Market has the goodies).

Oh, am salivating along with u on the curry fish *chomp* *gulp*

drcrab said...

hey Dutchie, hey CK!
thank you for your compliments about G... he's a handful, but v cute (of course, mummy's biased! lol).

yeah, I guess you need to take the risk - and I think that's where making friends with the butcher/fishmonger even in the supermarket's important.

When I do buy fresh meat from the counter at the supermarket, I usually have a chat with the butcher, and he'll tell me what's fresh or what's good for what kind of cooking I want to do!