It was Friday – nothing else for it but to head for the coast and find a fish restaurant.
The recent resurgence in gastronomic fortunes at Amble dictated our direction of travel.
We were also on a week’s holiday so a trip to the seaside was a must.
The Old Boat House has become one of our favourite spots for a treat – we decided to give its little sister, The Fish Shack, a try.
A few steps further along the harbour wall lies a wooden shed flanked by two halves of an upturned boat, which double up as bespoke dining areas. The original boat was used as a training vessel for the youngsters of Amble and, rather than being scrapped, has been put to inventive use.
This was the very definition of quirky!
Inside the main building is like something from a movie set – fish boxes combine to form tables, pots hang from the ceiling, seafaring memorabilia is everywhere and a juke box glows invitingly in the corner.
A toy kitchen with a basket of plastic food items and several high chairs speaks volumes about the Shack’s attitude towards bairns. The welcome mat is also out for dogs.
It’s more random and homely than clinical and characterless – in fact, it oozes charm. We felt really at home.
The view is spectacular too, out onto the harbour and across to Warkworth Castle in the distance.
We arrived just after the lunch-time rush, so had the pick of the tables.
The menu, which was still set for winter, was not extensive but enough to whet our appetites. There was a heavy fish and seafood bias, unsurprisingly, and plenty of local flavour.
Our choices made, we ordered at the counter. Our son, who had ferried us there in return for a free nosebag, had to change his order because the Wylam beer-braised brisket served on bubble and squeak (£10.95) had sold out.
So he went for chunky boathouse chowder served with fresh, warmed breads (£7.95) instead. My heart was set on the fish pie with buttered greens (£8.50), while Mrs L plumped for the fresh crab open sandwich, served on warm, toasted deli bread and accompanied with winter slaw (£8.95).
We couldn’t resist a couple of portions of chips (£2.50)!
A large house red (Terre Olivetti rouge), a bottle of Tyneside Blonde and a can of Coke helped us soak up the atmosphere, including some great music choices. Our only gripe was the plastic cups, but new drainage and water systems mean glasses will be introduced soon.
The food was soon before us, courtesy of a very chirpy, helpful waitress. My fish pie looked splendid, smothered in a copious amount of cheese, with a mussel emerging through the crust.
A very green kale and samphire mix and a wedge of lemon added balance.
I broke through the roughly mashed potato lid with the eagerness of a big kid – I’m a bit of a fish pie connoisseur.
I discovered a treasure trove of mussels, smoked haddock, celery, carrots, onion and samphire in a creamy sauce – delicious! It was a top-notch dish and I loved the old-fashioned metal ‘crockery’.
Our powers of deduction figured out that the filling was the same as the chunky chowder, so I knew why our son was enjoying his meal.
The accompanying bread is made in Amble’s Pride of Northumbria bakery, as local as you’re going to get.
The bread was equally as scrumptious on the open crab sandwich – and it was heaped high in tasty crab meat – an explosion of fresh flavours that had Mrs L purring in delight. The chips too were homemade and ‘real’.
In the interests of a fulsome review, we inquired about desserts. Sadly, we had missed the sticky toffee pudding, so had to make do with the gluten-free chocolate brownie, with pouring cream (£4).
It was actually no hardship because the brownie was moist, light and nicely chocolatey, without being overpoweringly sweet.
We left with satiated smiles across our faces and have already booked for a Mothering Sunday treat.
ROLL ON THE SUMMER!
It will soon be time for the summer menu to kick in at the Fish Shack – and inevitably prompt a return visit! Owner Martin Charlton is planning more specials with fish straight from the harbour. Look out for the hake and monkfish burgers and the mackerel – can’t wait!
As many of the ingredients as possible are sourced locally – fish from the harbour, bread from the town, spuds from Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes.
SO GOOD THEY WENT THERE TWICE!
Since this review was published in the Gazette, we have been to the Amble Fish Shack a second time – on Mother’s Day, as promised.
And we were in for a treat, as the summer menu had indeed kicked in. Pay particular attention to the specials boards, or specials pan, to be more precise – it changes depending on what is brought in by the Amble fishermen.
We chose from it and, although it was a little more expensive, it certainly didn’t disappoint.
I had the red mullet wrapped in serrano ham with roasted heritage potatoes, samphire and garlic (£12.95). It was delicious and perfectly cooked, I need say no more.
Mrs L chose the Shack fish burger (£10.50), which was made from all the fish that had been landed in quantities too small to be used as a main dish. Again, it was mouth-wateringly good.
And as for the desserts, they were simply divine! And big portions too – especially the raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake (£4), which had the thickest base I’ve ever seen on a cheesecake.
The aim is to open during the evening when the summer properly kicks in – I’m sure it’ll go down very well.
THE FULL WINTER MENU
Soup of the day (cream of mushroom when we went)......£4.95
Wylam beer-braised brisket served on bubble and squeak......£10.95
Beer-battered cod and chips......£9
Hand-cut cod goujons......£8.50
Mussels in white wine and cream broth......£7.95
Fish pie and buttered greens......£8.50
Fresh crab open sandwich......£8.95
Scampi, chips, mushy peas......£8.95
Jacket potato, cheese, bacon......£4.95
Sticky toffee pudding......£4
THE SUMMER MENU (our second visit)
Battered cod and homemade chips......£9.75
Breaded scampi and homemade chips......£9.75
Homemade panko breaded fish fingers......£9.75
Fish finger sandwich......£6.50
Open crab sandwich.....£8.95
Open toasted kipper sandwich......£7.95
Homemade New England-style chowder......£8.50
Blue Shetland mussels, simmered with white wine, garlic, cream and fresh parsley......£8.50
Rustic bruschetta, homemade chips and coleslaw......£8.95
Specials (on the day we went)
Fillets of red gurnard served on roasted Med veg with red pesto......£13.95
Whole red mullet wrapped in serrano ham and roasted heritage potatoes, served with samphire and wild garlic......£12.95
Shack fish burger, with dressed salad, brioche bun and chips......£10.50
Thai green curry of monkfish and tiger prawn tails and fragranced rice.....£14.95
Roasted fillets of seabass, served in a mussel and samphire broth......£13.95
Raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake served with berries......£4
Sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce......£4
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......9
Access for the disabled......7
Toilet for the disabled......No
Verdict: You can’t beat fresh fish and cooked here to perfection. There are alternatives for non-fish-lovers, but not many. Another great addition to the Amble gastrohub. But check the opening times.
Contact: 07426 277158 or www.facebook.com/Fishshackambble