I was looking forward to a day out to one of Hong Kong’s smaller islands but I was to choose between Cheung Chau and Lamma Island. I went with the smaller island – Cheung Chau – mainly because it sounded like fun and heck, it’s home to the bun festival every year (not that we’d get to see it that day). It was a quick half hour ferry ride from Central and we emerged onto an island that was just as crowded as Hong Kong island but with a more relaxed, holiday feel to it.

Apparently, the thing to do on Cheung Chau is eat seafood. With empty stomachs, we wandered down the road and ended up at one place where the tables were packed and the food looked good. The New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant, it was!

New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant

What a lovely spread we had out there in the sun (yes, about 20C that winter day)! Scrambled egg with prawns was the first to our table and it was excellent, all fluffy egg and juicy, crunchy prawns.

Scrambled Egg with Prawns

Stir fried gai lan with garlic was crunchy and all the green we needed.

Stir Fried Gai Lan with Garlic

The salt and chilli squid was greaseless and crisp and made up for a hard and greasy version the previous day at Hay Hay Kitchen in Wan Chai.

Salt and Chilli Squid

Salty, carby goodness came in the form of chicken and salted fish fried rice.

Chicken and Salted Fish Fried Rice

Our steamed garlic scallops came with a wonderfully ridiculous amount of sweet garlic and unexpected but pleasantly slippery mung bean vermicelli. We scraped the contents of each shell straight into our mouths.

Steamed Garlic Scallops

Finally, a whole steamed fish, a Cantonese classic. We picked it clean.

Steamed Fish

The seafood was all magnificently fresh though I doubt they’ve been caught very locally. I was told most of the waters surrounding Hong Kong had been fished clean though I did see a few fishing boats come in with a small catch and some fish and prawns being dried in the sun. Local or not local, with the warm sun on our backs, fresh breeze on our faces and cold drinks in our hands, this was a memorable lunch.

New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant
9A G/F Pak She Praya Road
Cheung Chau
Hong Kong

With full bellies, we strolled around Cheung Chau’s car-less streets and over to the beach on the other side too. And I knew Hong Kong was famous for its wide variety of street foods but the variety of snacks available on Cheung Chau was still amazing and surprising. Fish balls, deep fried mochi ice cream, sticky rice cakes, popcorn, waffles, egg waffles, ice cream, shaved ice, pastries, grilled squid … all that temptation was just too great.

We first stopped at the Grand Plaza Cake Shop (91B, Hoi Poi Road, Cheung Chau) where a large crowd was jostling for just-out-of-the-oven egg tarts of both the Hong Kong and Macanese varieties. We had one of each – the mini dan tat (the Hong Kong version) was particularly tasty.

Macanese Egg Tarts Mini Egg Tarts

One of Each

We couldn’t pass up this Taiwanese shaved ice stand and I walked away with this aromatic guava one. The flavours are already frozen into the ice block and the shaved ice almost resembles freshy fallen snow in its consistency – all light and fluffy.

Shaving Ice

Guava Shaved Ice

Finally, on the way back to the ferry port, my first tornado potato! It’s a single potato spiral cut on a stick and mine was fresh out of the fryer. A bank of shakers in front of the shop allowed you to custom flavour your fried potato however you wish – there was curry, extra hot, chicken and garlic powders all along mine. Salty, greasy, good.

Tornado Potato

Needless to say, go with empty stomachs to Cheung Chau. To get to the island, take a ferry from Central Pier 5 in Hong Kong. You can use an Octopus card to pay – did I mention my love for their Octopus card? I love that all transport around Hong Kong can be paid with it and many eating establishments also accept payment with it.

I always find that I need to get out of London come Easter time (after a particularly busy few months at work) and always try to book a little minibreak out of the city. Luckily, Blai could take a few days off and so it was that at about noon last Thursday, we arrived in Hastings. I was so looking forward to seeing the sea and what 1066 Country could offer.

First, we had to feed ourselves! I had made a lunch booking at Maggie’s, an award winning fish and chip restaurant located on the Stade, Hasting’s shingle beach from which Europe’s largest beach launched fishing fleet launches each day. The restaurant wasn’t easy to find; we got directions at one of the small museums nearby on Rock-a-Nore Road. To get there, find the Stade end of the miniature railway and you’ll see a sign for Maggie’s on the first floor of a nearby building. It’s not really visible from the Rock-a-Nore Road.

We chose to split two different fishes: a single cod and chips (£6.60) and a haddock and chips (£6.30), which turned out to have two pieces of fish.

Cod and Chips

Haddock and Chips

These were excellent. Seriously, these were quite possibly the best fish and chips I’ve had to date. As you’d expect from a restaurant located on a major fishing beach, the fish was of supreme freshness and quality. And it was beautifully fried with the batter perfectly crisp and the fish perfectly tender and flaky. And the chips weren’t relegated to being the stuff on the side; these chips could also have taken centre stage. Ragged and crisp on the outside, fluffy and soft on the inside, these were just perfect chips.

We had mushy peas (£1.20) on the side, which were pretty good.

Mushy Peas

Bookings are essential, even for weekdays! The restaurant was booked fully that Thursday and people were turned away. They open very early in the morning and close after lunch.

Fully Booked

After lunch, we wandered around Hastings Old Town and somehow ended up at the top of the East Hill. From the hill, we watched as the last of the fishing boats came back to the beach. We explored the Stade after and loved looking at the boats, nets and other fishing paraphernalia. It’s no surprise the fish sold in Hastings is so fresh – more of the fishmongers are located about 100 m away from where the boats get pulled up on the shore.

Fishing Boat

Somehow, we also managed to spend one and a half hours walking along the beach and examining the shingle. I love holidays, however short they are.

For dinner, we returned to Rock-a Nore Road to Webbe’s Rock-a-Nore. While I had read good reviews of this restaurant online, the meal was a bit of a let-down. The seafood was all extremely fresh, as I’ve now come to expect from anything along Rock-a-Nore, and was all well cooked too. However, the flavours were very muted; everything was underseasoned. For example, our razor clams with garlic and herb butter didn’t taste of the potent bulb. The squid fritters pictured below were the best of the bunch with a tasty, light and crisp batter; the chillli jam on the side did suffer again from a lack of punch.

Squid Fritters with Chilli Jam

Luckily, desserts were very good; Blai had a dark chocolate and marshmallow mousse and I chose a pear and blackcurrant crumble.

Dark Chocolate and Marshmallow Mousse

Pear and Blackcurrant Crumble

Even after the improvement in the food, we couldn’t get over a feeling of not being wanted there. We had been greeted with a sneer when we entered the restaurant and service was generally missing throughout our meal. Ah well, we were on holiday and didn’t let it get to us and went back to our B&B with light hearts. And how could you not have that holiday feeling when you wake up to this view?

Low Tide

The next morning, we visited the ruins of Hastings Castle on the West Hill …

… before heading back again to Rock-a-Nore road (I love that road!) to a stand that we’d spied the day before.

Tush & Pat's

A Fishermen's Roll

This really made up for the disappointment we’d had over dinner the night before. For £2.50, you get two fillets of dab, dusted in flour and fried in olive oil, slapped into a bun. It’s simple and yet satisfying. We had one each for lunch and then split another one after a more extended walk through Hastings Country Park which we accessed via the East Hill Lift. (We came across lots of wild garlic!)

Going Down

After another stroll through the old town and then an ice cream on the beach, it was time to go home. I wasn’t going to leave empty handed though. Back to Rock-a-Nore Road (Hastings is very walkable!) to visit the Rock-a-Nore Fisheries; I’d heard that they do their own smoking on site. The hot smoked salmon immediately caught my eye and I bought a piece each of the regular, black pepper and hot chilli to take home.

Hot Smoked Salmon

We had a very simple supper when we got home: the salmon, bread and pickles. The salmon was gorgeous – all soft and moist inside – and so much better than any packaged hot smoked fish we’d ever bought at a supermarket. A great way to end our short holiday … but I’m missing all that fresh fish!

All our photos from Hastings can be found in this Flickr photoset.

Rock-a-Nore Road,
Hastings, East Sussex
TN34 3DW

Webbe’s Rock-a-Nore
1 Rock-a-Nore Road
Hastings, East Sussex
TN34 3DW

Tush & Pat’s Fishermen’s Rolls
located at the base of the East Hill Lift.
Rock-a-Nore Road
Hastings, East Sussex

Rock-a-Nore Fisheries
Rock-a-Nore Road
Hastings, East Sussex

Happy New Year 2011, everybody!

We saw in the new year again at Blai’s parents’ place in Barcelona and I’ll eventually get to organising those photos; with my brother visiting the city too, I’ve been re-doing all the touristy sights (which are much more crowded than I remember) and hence taking more photos than usual. On his second day in the city, we visited La Boqueria, Barcelona’s most famous market, and as it happened to be lunchtime too, we lunched at Bar Central, one of the bars that looked quite good and where we could find space! This meal fulfilled a wish I’ve had which was to have a meal at one of the bars at La Boqueria.

Bar Central

Our server saw me whip out my camera and posed with a plate of someone else’s calamari and the planxa!

Don’t just depend on the menu that’s chalked up on the board; it’s much better to take a look at what looks good and what they recommend. We just went with what we felt like and what looked good on the counter and on other people’s plates. After staring at the big platter of Padrón peppers in front of us, we had to have some of our own. Our server very kindly gave us a few fried artichokes too for us to try. Unfortunately, the fried artichokes just weren’t as good as my mother-in-law’s. The pebrots de Padrón though were delicious. We didn’t find any hot ones that day.

Pebrots de Padrón

I spied a big paella of arròs negre too and soon a plateful of it sat in front of us. The black inky rice was full of clams and pieces of squid and was extremely moreish. A little bit of all i oli on the side wouldn’t have hurt though.

Arròs Negre

We definitely had to have some of the exquisitely fresh seafood everyone else was eating. We opted for the selection of fish and shellfish, all cooked on the planxa. This is what arrived!

Graellada de Peix i Marisc

Everything was ridiculously fresh and delicious; all the seafood was drizzled with a garlic and parsley oil. The razor clams were superbly tender, the monkfish wonderfully meaty and the salmon just could be the best cooked salmon I’ve ever had. All the fish and shellfish are also available by themselves.

All highly recommended. With a couple of drinks, the total came to €40 for the both of us; not cheap but it’s certainly very reasonable for the quality of the seafood we ate. To get a seat, you’re just going to have to stand patiently behind the other patrons, waiting for their seats to free up!

Bar Central
La Boqueria
Barcelona, Spain

A couple weekends ago, we were looking for a place to have lunch in Chiswick when I remembered a little seafood restaurant, Fish Hook, tucked away along a side street to Chiswick High Street. They’ve got a little sandwich board out on the main road to direct the attention of passersby as you’d normally never even bother looking down that street. I’d once gazed at their menu and a local wandered by and enthusiastically recommended the place. Now seemed like a good time to try it. They do a set lunch at £12.50 for two courses and £15 for three.

The restaurant is bright and airy but we made the mistake of choosing the table by the window that was under direct sunlight. Ah well. We started with some water for the table – but there was a slight hitch in the service when the waiter sneered somewhat when we turned down wine. Geez, get over it. Yeah, I know that’s probably your money maker but sheesh, we don’t have to order it every time we eat out.

There is a choice between three starters, three mains and a couple desserts. One each of the starters and mains are a non-fish dish but it seemed silly to order these when the name of the restaurant indicates its specialisation and we’re surrounded by pictures of fishies. My brother started with the Grilled Cornish line caught mackerel with cherry tomato salsa and couscous which he enjoyed….somewhat. He’s not a great fan of raw tomatoes and suffered a little while eating them. Hahaha! Otherwise, the fish was fresh though the portion size seemed a little small.

Mackerel salad

Blai and I fared better with the Whitebait tempura with a pea velouté and mixed leaf salad. The whitebait was fantastically light and crispy while the pea soup smooth and….well, it’s pea soup and it tasted like it!

Whitebait and Pea Soup

Both Blai and my brother had the Deep fried haddock with peas, broad beans, chips and tartare sauce for their main. This was some beautiful fish and chips! The fresh from the fryer battered fish sat on top of the lightly blanched peas and broad beans, keeping the fish from becoming soggy. The gorgeous chips and tartare sauce were both served on the side, the latter being a mix it yourself pile of mayo and toppings. I was very jealous of their choice!


The Chips

There was nothing wrong with my selection though. I opted for the Grilled sea bream with mashed potatoes, courgettes, green beans and crab bisque sauce as I didn’t want to follow a fried starter with a fried main course. The fish was grilled beautifully, with crispy skin, and the potatoes and vegetables were faultless.

Sea Bream

We were absolutely stuffed after this and didn’t try dessert. Though my brother’s starter seemed a little, when taking in the big picture (low price, fresh fish, well cooked, large main course), the whole meal was fantastic value. Only £12.50! For two courses! Service was a bit iffy (our sneering waiter continually bumped into our table… but the head chef himself served us a few of our dishes – he seemed like a nice guy!) but overall, it was a good experience. It’s nice to see a little independent in an area so full of chain restaurants.

Fish hook
6/8 Elliott Rd
London W4 1PE

Fish Hook on Urbanspoon