A friend’s Facebook post about eating at the Fat Mermaid caught my eye – the name really appealed to me (top marks to whoever thought of it) and once I realised it was a local venue, it went to the top of my list of places to try.
Open for just eight weeks, it is situated in the Coble Quay of the harbour, which has already made a name for itself as a place for good dining, and is run by Johnny and Judy Bird, who have another Amble favourite, Sea and Soil.
With convenient car parking right outside, in we went to a bright and very spacious interior. The kitchen area is on view to all the diners – very on-trend – but as well as allowing us to see the chefs at work, it enables them to check the flow of dishes going to the customers.
We were attended to immediately and as our table was very near the door, we asked if it could be moved slightly as we wanted to stay away from draughts and this was promptly done.
We were given menus that had sections such as From The Deli, From The Farm and From the Sea, and there was a range of dishes listed on the wall. We were told it was tapas style but it is certainly not a traditional tapas menu. I didn’t get any sense of Spain, instead I saw a menu temptingly full of dishes that were modern and seasonal – and just sounded a little bit different.
Between us, we ordered eight dishes.
From the snack section, we opted for bread with balsamic. The slices looked very tempting with the drizzle of balsamic but when we lifted the top slice we realised the drizzling had been done after the bread was arranged so the lower slices just had the balsamic on the edges. Still, at £3 it was very good value and more than sufficient for the three of us.
From the deli section, we chose the meat platter (£11), a selection of cured meats attractively presented on a wooden board – tasty, light and served with hummus and salad.
Next to arrive from the sea section was Scotch egg with smoked haddock and prawns (£6.50) The perfectly cooked egg with runny yolk and its flavoursome haddock surrounding was served on a delicious puree. We couldn’t quite pinpoint what was in the puree but we all liked it.
Next was langoustines with lemon butter and samphire (£7). Tasty little morsels bursting with a flavour of the sea but the stars of the dish were the pieces of preserved lemon mixed in with the buttered lemon samphire.
At £8 was the catch of the day with sea herbs and buttered beans. The catch was cod, served with a light sauce, beans and a sprinkling of micro-herbs.
At this point we felt like we were playing musical dishes, shuffling bowls around to make space for the next addition, but that is part of the fun of the tapas experience. Upon reflection, we did feel it was all very quick (we were in at 7pm and finished before 8pm) and maybe the presentation of dishes could be slowed down slightly.
My favourite of the evening was lamb loin with feta and sauce vierge (£8). Thin slices of pink lamb, with a delicious crisp and tasty skin, served with cubes of tangy feta in breadcrumbs and a delicate salsa. All the scrummy flavours were zinging around in my mouth together.
Braised belly pork and pan perdu (£7) got us all guessing. The latter, it turns out, is a sort of bread and butter pudding, in this case with black pudding layered with the bread. The pork was tasty but arguably a bit chewy – though it was all eaten.
Nibbled throughout was a portion of sweet potato fries, tasty and a very reasonable £2.50.
For dessert, I opted for the praline and chocolate cheesecake and friend Laine went for the sticky toffee pudding (each £5).
The cheesecake had a lovely crumbly base and the praline flavour came through the light and mousse-like centre. The thick slab of chocolate on top defeated me, however.
Laine, an expert in all things sweet, declared the sticky toffee pudding to be very satisfying. She had opted to have it served with cream and was very happy with the generous portion of sauce.
In summary it was an enjoyable and tasty dining experience and very good value for money, but we all felt there was one blot on the horizon - the noise. It is a very large echoey room with bare walls, large windows, no curtains and a stone floor - resulting in sound that was magnified to the point of annoyance. The table next to us was full of ladies having a very enjoyable and vocal experience - but it, along with background music, left us almost having to lip-read at one point. It’s great that diners are finding the experience such fun but maybe some effort could be made to try and dampen the sound level - such as draperies around the large areas of bare glass.
A TASTY DINING EXPERIENCE
The Fat Mermaid offers an enjoyable and tasty dining experience and very good value for money. The only downside was the noise. A large room with bare walls, large windows, no curtains and a stone floor meant sound was magnified to the point of annoyance. The ladies on the table next to us were rather vocal which, along with background music, left us almost having to lipread at one point. Maybe some effort could be made to try to dampen the sound level.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
FROM THE DELI
Buffalo Mozzarella with cured ham and charred peaches......£6.50
Hummus with crudites & oil......£4
FROM THE SEA
Crab arancini with lime aoli......£5.50
Prawns pil pil with crusty loaf......£8
FROM THE FARM
Duck leg & cherry sauce......£8.50
Charred flat iron......£8
FROM THE GARDEN
Deli cheese souffle & salad......£5.50
Saute summer greens......£6.50
Croquettes with goat’s cheese & beetroot......£4.50
Chocolate and lavender mousse......£5
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......9
Use of local food......7
Access for the disabled......10
Toilet for the disabled......Yes
Verdict: Enjoyable mix-and-match modern menu, sure to be a success.
Contact: 01665 712111; Facebook: Fat Mermaid Amble
The previous Northumberland Gazette Eating Out column reviewed No.6 Steak House, The Sun Hotel, Warkworth. And if you missed it, here is a link to the Gazette’s top tips of 2014.