In Suffolk, we’re blessed with some superb eateries and none more so than the delightful and ever-welcoming Lighthouse in Aldeburgh, which I have frequented consistently over the years since the owners established the business in the late 90’s .
Now obviously, the breadth of menu extends to all palates and desires, but, as you would expect, I generally tend to gravitate towards the more finny offerings, as freshness, quality and provenance are all important and I do admire establishments such as this who can get it consistently right.
I’d booked us in for lunch yesterday and it was to prove no exception. In the absence of their amiable and supremely efficient Front of House, Sam, we were met and attended to by the ever polite and engaging, young Angus, who advised me that the Fish & Chips that day were either Haddock or Plaice.
Now over the years I admit freely, I’ve developed a deep and very close relationship with fish fried in batter (in all its forms) and despite the danger of my dining companions seeing me becoming all misty-eyed and wistful about newspaper ensconced portions and the fact it was never rationed during WWII, I tend to still order it very often, especially where I know that the fish has not been long out of the water.
I ordered Plaice, following the most delicate starter of un-potted Potted Shrimps, (which were sublime and worthy of their own post) and was not disappointed. Exquisitely light batter, a beautifully succulent texture and a freshness of taste that really did speak right from the boat that landed it. On its day, I think, a North Sea Plaice in top condition really does compete with, if not trump, a Lemon sole.
I’d noticed that when he visited The Lighthouse recently, the esteemed and much travelled critic AA Gill, writing for the Sunday Times, had chosen to order the Haddock. His endorsement of the food was much as I had expected and good for him for giving the Lighthouse such recognition and a top score. However, he suggested that the Haddock on offer was locally caught? Really ? In 40+ years of soaking up knowledge of the inshore fisheries of our Suffolk Coast, I cannot ever remember of a single Haddock being caught. Cod yes, Whiting definitely and even Ling, line-caught off some of the wrecks, but Haddock no, unless an errant visitor. Landed, well yes, but years ago at Lowestoft when the deep and middle-water trawlers frequented the port, but not these days.
It does make me smile that for the sake of a little back ground knowledge or just a surreptitious ask, the assumption that just because it’s on the menu, it’s been caught “locally”, (in a venue where provenance is paramount) ” would be avoided.
An East Suffolk pub landlord I used to know about 20 years ago, served Dabs on the bone (when in season and caught the same morning) and chips. Now that to me was the pinnacle of local provenance but sadly I haven’t seen a Dab, although plentiful, on a menu now for some many years. Perhaps I’ll suggest it to Sam.