Our friend and journalist Mike Warner, who looks after all the issues of the fishing world, recently pointed out to us that there is a bit of an issue with the fisherman in Filey in North Yorkshire at the moment, being that they are losing their licences to catch wild sea trout. He explained that it is completely unnecessary and he invited us up there to highlight the plight of something that has been happening in Filey for 800 years.
The BBC also got on board (BBC Look North for television and radio), and Mike managed to whip up about 300 people from the local community to join us on our day out. While we were there, we were also excited to see what was going on in Filey and Whitby in the world of seafood.
We set off from London and headed up the A1, taking the head chef, the restaurant manager, the head barman and one of our longest serving waiters with us. We got some Air BnBs in Whitby Bay, which is just a stunning little seaside town. The thing that is so wonderful about Whitby is that it isn’t just a tourist trap - it’s still got a working community; it’s still got fishing boats coming in and out; it’s got seafood everywhere - you can walk into fish counters and buy some cockles, whelks, mussels, little crab sandwiches... It’s very vibrant and seafood is really celebrated in this gorgeous little town.
The first night was spent checking out Whitby and going down the pub - it was lovely. The next morning, we were up very, very early and we went off to Filey and all piled on one of the boats. We were so lucky with the weather - it was virtually like the Mediterranean. The North Sea - I’ve never seen it look so beautiful and flat and calm and blue; the sun was out, not a cloud in the sky.
Off we went netting sea trout - it was just an incredible experience, seeing how Rex Harrison, the guy that runs it all, catches the fish. The issue raised was that the by-catch was salmon, but that’s not the case, as they put all of the salmon back if they get netted - they are just looking for the sea trout, which are really prized. It’s quite a short season - only four months of the year. This is a really sustainable form of fishing - it doesn’t damage the environment and it doesn’t injure sea birds. The only real predator to salmon is seals and you can see there’s an awful lot of them there at the moment, which is a huge issue.
We caught four fish, which we were quite delighted about and went back onto the quay. Mike had really done a big job there - he’d set up a marquee, put in barbecues and invited a lot local chefs from Yorkshire, who made a few of their key dishes for the crowds. Myself and my head chef, Sam Leverick, went to it and barbecued the fish with lots of wild fennel, lemons, covered them with lots of Maldon sea salt and wrapped them up in foil, whacked them on the on the barbecue and dropped the lid. We also made a lovely warm potato salad with wild garlic leaves which we had collected. When you’re in Yorkshire you’ve got to celebrate the Yorkshire produce. We also had had lots of little Whitby Bay crab, so we made a little salad with pink grapefruit and capers and mixed that all up - we had created a feast. We borrowed a load of takeaway plates from the cafe over the road, got some knives and forks, and we managed to feed just about everyone that turned up.
For me, it was that wonderful thing of ‘net to plate’ - it literally was from net and within an hour of catching the fish, we cleaned it all, wrapped it, barbecued it and within three hours it was all gone, it had all been eaten. It was a magnificent day, and when it was over, we all went back to Whitby and went out for dinner that night.
The following day we did two things - we went to meet some local fisherman at Dennis Crooks Fish Merchants and had a look at what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. After that, we went to one of my favourites, Fortunes Smokehouse, which is probably the oldest kipper smokery in England. It’s just a magnificent little shed on the side of a cobbled track where they smoke herring. There’s nothing like a Fortunes kipper - they’re just amazing, so I filled up a bag load of those and stuck them in the car, which smelled very smoky all the way home! The following day at the restaurant in Soho, we had little kipper croquettes on the menu, which was great - for me it was the fact of knowing that these were smoked on Monday and on the menu on Tuesday. I love that - the closer you can get to the ocean, the better fish always tastes.
Everyone was a bit shattered on the way back - they were all sleeping in the car. Good old Bruno, the restaurant manager, stayed awake to keep me awake and we made it back safe and sound. But, it was a great trip - it was wonderful to have the BBC involved as well, to really highlight the issues that the fisherman are facing there with getting their licences removed. We managed to really cover that this isn’t the right way to go for a really small industry - there’s only five people out there netting sea trout and it would be such a shame for the Filey community to lose that.
Inspired by our seafaring adventure in Filey, we want to celebrate the glory of the whole fish. So, on Sundays we will be offering a Whole Fish roasted on the bone to share, with potatoes and vegetables for £35 per head - it will be whatever comes in fresh from our shores.
If you would be interested in booking this for you and your friends and family, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our bookings line 0207 478 0504 ... and we will inform you of availability. This really will be something special, so don’t miss out!