FRIDAY night is fish night down at The Crown, at Scissett, and the other day we decided to give it a try.
It was an inspired move.
We had heard that the chef served up at least 10 different fish dishes and that sounded interesting, what we hadn’t been told about was the quality of the dishes and this took us by complete, and pleasant, surprise.
We had booked a table for eight (for two) and the place was buzzing when we arrived. We were shown to the attractively modern, spacious, raised conservatory restaurant a few steps up from the main bar area with, surprisingly, only one other couple dining there. We were shown to Table 2 in the corner and, as we were soon to discover, those not taking advantage of Fish Night did not know what they were missing.
The hardest part was deciding which of the 10 appetising starters and main course dishes to order. I agonised between three of the five temptingly sounding starters. Should I go for the grilled king prawn scallops wrapped in bacon and served with a sticky balsamic reduction (£8.95); the Scottish mussel and cockle chowder with home made warm crusty bread (£5.50); or the home-made breaded fish cakes with a sweet chilli dip and mixed salad (£4.95)? It was a close run thing. but at last I opted for the fish cakes. Also on offer was prawn and galea melon cocktail served with homemade brown bread and Marie Rose sauce (5.75) and breaded calamari with citrus mayonnaise and mixed leaf salad (£4.95).
It was a similar story with the mains. Was it to be the pan fried swordfish steak, served on saute vegetables with chilli and hoi sin noodles (£11.95); the 2 Crowns beer battered 12oz haddock fillet with hand cut chips and mushy peas (£10.45); poached plaice paupiette – a plaice fillet stuffed with a smoked salmon and dill mousse served with Hollandaise sauce (£9.95); Salmon Wellington – Scottish salmon supreme with saute mushrooms, leeks and spinach encased in crisp filo puff pastry and served with a white wine sauce (£10.45)? And then there was the lure of the dressed Whitby crab with brown bread, hand cut chips and a mixed salad (£11.45).
I adore crab... Decisions, decisions.
But the swordfish won the day. That was what I would have. Carol, too, was spoilt for choice, but she went for the chowder starter followed by the salmon Wellington.
My fish cakes were a delight, lightly breaded, succulent fish, complemented by a tangy sweet and sour chilli dip and just the right amount of green salad with baby tomatoes and a subtle dressing. I was pleased with my choice.
Carol’s chowder was an instant hit. Served up in a large bowl with chunks of crusty bread it looked good and smelled most appealing, and apparently tasted even better. The cockles and mussels were accompanied with chopped vegetables and Carol was in her element. She described the dish as "Masterchef class", wholesome and satisfying and in due deference took her time savouring every mouthful of the prized starter. This earned a well deserved "compliments to the chef". Gareth Marshall, the man in charge of the Crown kitchen, had instantly won over another two fans.
Indeed so satisfying was Carol’s chowder that when the attentive, efficient young waitress brought us our main courses, we decided to do a swap. Carol thought the salmon Wellington might be a little bulky after the delights of the chowder so she took the plated swordfish, vegetables and noodles and I had the Salmon Wellington.
No wonder the waitress looked a little bemused when she returned to the table with a side dish of accompanying whole new potatoes and seasonal vegetables. But she was most discreet and didn’t make mention of the ‘secret’ swap.
As with the starters, the portions were deceptively generous. What was now my Wellington turned out to be deceptively light, the pastry melted in the mouth and the salmon was baked to perfection. The leeks and spinach and mushrooms added an intriguing combination of flavours and the parsnip ‘chips’ were a bonus. Parsnips are a particular favourite of mine. And the sauce, served up separately in a small jug, was an exquisite blend of flavours. This was a clever touch. I was able to choose just how little or how much I wanted to balance the dish. As it happened I emptied the jug.
As with everything else that had gone before the Wellington was an outstanding success.
And Carol’s swordfish? This was another hit. A handsome steak helping, apparently tender and tasty with the bed of spicy noodles adding a tasty twist in balance with the delicate flavour of the fish. More compliments to chef Gareth.
The generosity of the servings meant that we did not have room to sample the delights of Gareth’s desserts, but I noticed that three fellow Friday night diners on a table nearby were excitedly tucking into plates of home-made apple pie. Also on the ‘pudding’ menu was the Crown parfait; sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream and the chef’s home made cheesecake with cream (all priced at £4.95).
We both agreed this had been an outstandingly good fish meal, excellently prepared and presented home-made fare, using simple, top quality ingredients with just a subtle touch of fine dining skills – and the prices were pitched just right.
Oh for that chowder... The memory of that dish is one Carol will savour for a long time. It was just a pity that more people were not taking advantage of Gareth’s obvious culinary know-how – but I’m sure the word will soon get around.
There was also an alternative menu at the Crown that Friday. The starters were chicken liver and brandy pate with red onion chutney and crusty bread (£4.45); homemade carrot and coriander soup served with warm bread (£3.95) and creamy garlic mushrooms on a toasted bruschetta with mixed salad. Main dishes were chilli con carne with boiled rice (£8.45); whole, crispy duck with julienne of vegetables, pancake and hoi sin sauce (£10.95); spinach and ricotta tortellini in a creamy cheese sauce served with garlic bread (£8.25); pork and caramelised apple tower topped with melted blue cheese with crushed garlic new potatoes (£11.45) and homemade chicken and leek pie served with seasonal vegetables and hand cut chips (£9.50).