‘Don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea’. That’s what I overheard on the tube the other day as one friend consoled the other, presumably over her latest breakup. We’ve all been there and said that, but it did get me thinking… are there actually plenty more fish in the sea? As I’ve already found my fish for life, and with food on my mind as always, I was thinking about the real fish in the real sea. Do we still have loads of those? I have been pondering a little more than usual about which fish we eat – along with taste, we’ve also been thinking about sustainability so the arrival of Trawler Trash to the London restaurant scene couldn’t have been more timely!
Trawler Trash are focused on serving up the lesser known, less desirable fish in an effort to be as sustainable and responsible as possible. It’s an ethos which a certain someone and I are very much on board with and seems like a commendable stance, and it is, but it’s also a very practical one which should be commonplace. According to them, around 15% to 20% of any catch is ‘by-catch’; like those distant cousins you never speak to or that mysterious new girl at work, give them half a chance and you might get along quite well. Jesting aside, the point is simple: the fish has been caught, it’s edible, so let’s eat it.
This will come as a surprise to absolutely no one but dining alone in a fairly well to do establishment like Ormer Mayfair will elicit some cursory side glances from almost everyone in the dining room. All the neighbouring tables thought they were subtle with their pitiful looks or curious nods in my direction, but I saw them, oh yes I did. As they duly noted, I was dining alone so what else did I have to do but to glance right back? Their mistake was not in getting caught, their mistake was in thinking I was sad, lonely, or stood up; quite the contrary actually. A weekend flying solo is a rare luxury, so it deserved to be kicked off with a luxurious dinner with just me, myself, and I.
When faced with the prospect of a dinner for one, people like my dining neighbours might have settled for a takeaway or a quick bite somewhere they could slip in and out of unnoticed, but nope, not me. I wanted my three courses and the bread basket all to myself. No need to fight a certain someone for the last slice of warm crusty bread, or more accurately, the last smear of the butter. With the help of the sommelier, I opted for a crisp English sparkling wine to start and raised a glass to myself; dinner for one definitely isn’t dreary when you’re dining like this!
If you tell me there’s a dish that’s ‘so finger-licking good, I won’t even need wet wipes’, you will have my full attention. I think you all know that I don’t mind a bit of dainty dining, and I’m now quite accomplished at navigating my way round a table cluttered with multiple sets of cutlery, but I’m just as happy to forgo that altogether. In many cases, fingers (clean ones, of course) are just as good as forks, and in some situations, they’re even better. A plate of Malaysian chilli crab is a fine example; forks will bring you nothing but sauce in the face with a side of frustration, whereas diving in there with your fingers will bring you unadulterated, delicious joy. And sauce in the face, but that’s a small sacrifice.
I recently discovered this finger-licking goodness at the Wild Serai Supperclub where their signature Malaysian chilli crab reduced the room to silence, bar the cracking of shells and slurping of crab meat and sauce… But I’m getting ahead of myself; before that there were other delights. Each table came laden with the most gigantic prawn crackers I have ever come across, which is no mean feat considering my affair with them has been a long one. From a young age, I’ve watched my mother transform them from unappetising opaque discs to the wonderfully salty, crunchy crackers we all know and love, and naturally I’ve eaten more than my fair share. And so the memories started flooding in.
Last week, I got a spiralizer. I am well aware that they were all the rage last year, but I sort of dismissed them along with the so-called clean eating gurus who were flogging them. I didn’t buy into their crazy rhetoric that such a thing as courgetti could replace such a thing as spaghetti, so I sure as hell wasn’t going to buy the gadget! Yeah, the name works but the taste, texture and overall enjoyment? No thanks. I’m an inclusive eater, no one food group gets cut out in favour of another in my diet… we’re all one happy (mostly) balanced family in my tummy. However in the name of research, I’ve decided to give the courgetti or the zoodles a go, but only alongside rather than instead of their carb friends!
The good thing about jumping on a trend so late is that lots of people have already outlined the pros and cons of each of the main types of spiralizer. The one that’s like a giant pencil sharpener is as silly as it sounds and should be avoided at all costs, but the horizontal and vertical ones (depending on which way the vegetable goes through the slicing process) are much of a muchness. I’ve got a horizontal one which seems to be the most common; it was even the version of choice by two well-known spiralizing sister… mines exactly like theirs minus the branding and the huge mark up!
Being stranded on a tropical island doesn’t seem like the worst fate on earth until the beach frolicking grows tiresome and the call of the tummy can no longer be ignored. Only a teeny weeny problem if you’re anything like me and have no hunting, fishing or foraging skills; the prospect of playing Russian roulette with leaves and berries is not particularly appealing. In fact, it’s terrifying. And rather irrationally, it was a fear I had about spending three to four days on Pangkor Laut Resort.
I know, I know, I overreacted… we were knowingly going to a luxury resort on a private island. Not exactly washing up on a grim deserted island. My first world fear was not about the need to hone my scavenger skills, the issue was whether any of the food would be any good. Restaurants in resorts have a notorious reputation for being overpriced and underwhelming; where’s the incentive to wow where you’ve got a captive customer base?
Ask a group of Malaysians what the national past time is and I guarantee you that most, if not all, will say it’s eating. Eating in or eating out, Malaysians are obsessed with food. I would know, I was raised by two of them, and despite growing up in New Zealand, that food obsession is in my blood too! Food is such an integral part of Malaysian culture that people even greet each other by asking if the other has ‘eaten already?’. Not that it matters because even if you have, they’ll coax you into having another bite to eat…
On the bright side, there’s a good chance this meal will be completely different to your previous one because the variety of food in Malaysia is quite phenomenal. I think it’s the original fusion cuisine; a combination Chinese, Malay, and Indian food styles mish-mashed together to create one that is quintessentially Malaysian. But it gets even more interesting as you travel across the country as each region or city will have their own signature variation on a popular Malaysian dish, or even their own speciality dish!
If someone told me they had found a great crab restaurant in the City, I’d be double checking exactly which city they were referring to. The City as in the one in London? I’d say they were having a laugh. When I’m craving some crustaceans, I’m picturing a little beach shack and cheery fishermen, not a concrete jungle filled with stuffy offices and suits chasing their next step up the corporate ladder. But such wild claims are just calling out to be investigated and luckily for you, a certain someone and I took one for the team.
Arriving at Broadgate Circle on a Friday evening did nothing to quell my suspicions that we were on a bit of a wild goose chase. The mosh pit of City-slaves were definitely more interested in letting loose and popping open the prosecco than they were about any food, decent or otherwise. But undeterred, we sidestepped around them and made our way to Crab Tavern to see if there could possibly be a decent crab dinner to be found in the City.