I love me a bit seafood. In fact, I may actually like seafood more than I like red or white meat, or even fruit and vegetables. Being Chinese, I’ve been eating seafood since a young age but I’m acutely aware (especially in land-locked Birmingham), that some families don’t know that a fish has a head or a tail and would only recognise it if it was covered in batter, breadcrumbs or possibly in a tin. It still surprises me how some people I know have never tried certain seafood – Especially as it’s a lot more readily available and eaten these days. I may have mentioned before that I like fish and chips so on a recent trip to Cambridge, Q was keen that we should try out The Sea Tree, not only because of their high quality fish, but they also offered something different to your normal chippy..
Well, to call The Sea Tree a chippy is to do it a disservice; It’s much more an upmarket fish and chip bar, with the emphasis on fresh, sustainable seafood and fish. The idea of which ticks so many boxes when it comes to the current food climate. That’s not to say they don’t offer fish and chips – Indeed their core business is fish and chips, but they also offer something like mussels for moules marinières or grilled mackerel. What’s more, all the fish is cooked to order which again, distinguishes it from a normal chippy. They were finalists in the Best Takeaway category for the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards, so they mean business and have gained some recognition in doing so.
As we sat down and examined the menu, the waitress informed us of a limited number of crab thermidor which the kitchen had just completed were on sale. We snapped at the opportunity and placed one on order before they sold out. So then, one item down, it was time to order the rest:
The crab thermidor certainly looked the part: Golden melted cheese on top all crisp which held back a mixture of crab meat and a béchamel and when you talk about an impressive start to the meal, if we went by looks alone, this would have been a fantastic start. It was pretty good to eat too – A bit sloppy perhaps and a bit light on the seasoning, but it was nice to get the crusty bread provided and *really* dig into the far crevices of the shell to get the brown crab meat, that’s where the flavour was. But still, credit to The Sea Tree for offering it and it was a good start to the meal
Everything then came out in quick succession, so let’s go through what we had; The squid is offered 2 ways: Battered or in a lemon, garlic and herb sauce of which we opted for the latter. Crisp white, beautifully fresh squid came out in a light, fruity sauce. It was cooked really well – Not overdone so there was none of the rubberiness that you get when you overcook squid. Again, the seasoning was a bit lacking but we couldn’t fault it for freshness.
The moules marinières (Or as they called it: Shetland mussels cooked in white wine with cream) was actually well seasoned and not at all unpleasant to eat. I only wish they took a bit more effort in the preparation of the mussels and de-bearded them – It’s not very nice to eat a sweet, plump juicy mussel only to find that you’re chewing on something which looks like and has the texture of a brillo pad which is the mussel beard.
The seared scallops served on a bed of rocket with shaved parmesan suffered from the rocket not being dressed at all, with 4 small scallops plopped on top with a few shavings of parmesan. I’m not entirely convinced that these scallops were fresh, they were cooked perfectly with a crisp sear on the outside and not overdone, but the ratio of scallops (and parmesan) to the heap of rocket we got was wrong and it didn’t look too appetising from the off. As I said, they were cooked well but the dish could have been modified slightly to make it a great dish. Disappointing to say the least..
Sadly, the disappointment continued with the salmon and crab fishcake. I mean, you could barely taste any crab in it and only knew there was salmon because it stands out so much when you cut it open, but it was mainly potato and if I’m honest, a bit dry as a result. Again, the seasoning was slightly off but that was easily rectified by smothering the whole thing in the accompanying sauces we got with our meal. Easily the most disappointing dish of all we tried, but then again, I’ve never really understood why a fishcake would be mainly potato, surely that would make it a fish and potato cake? Am I being naive in believing that the main ingredient in a fishcake should be fish?
As for the plaice and chips we had, they were certainly cooked really well – The batter on the fish was crisp and golden colour, the chips were fat and although cooked through, looked a bit pale I thought. The fish itself was very fresh but I dunno, that’s 2 establishments where I’ve had plaice and chips recently but they still don’t compare to my beloved Bedders back in Brum. It was certainly better than some of the other dishes we had on the day, but still not the best plaice and chips I’ve ever eaten.
All in all, it was an OK meal. Certainly The Sea Tree deserve recognition for trying to bring fresh (and different) seafood to those in landlocked Cambridge (all through sustainable sources). But a few dishes were poorly executed – that may be me having incredibly high standards. Certainly, I want to applaud them for bringing good quality seafood to the masses and in doing so, help to educate people and I would probably go back, more because The Sea Tree deserves to succeed in what they’re doing. That said, I’m not rushing back. But let’s end this on a high and relive the beauty of the crab thermidor when it first came out…
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