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Just William

In the beginning, William’s Kitchen in Nailsworth was an outdoor catering business accustomed to dishing up “Wedding Breakfasts” to large numbers of people in elaborate tents. The company first crossed the radar in the days when the British Cheese Awards held their celebration dinner in a big tent. In Stow on the Wold a couple of hundred people tucked into perfectly cooked lamb chops and crisp green beans and I remember thinking at the time it was an impressive bit of gastro- logistics. Eventually that side of the business was sold off and, phoenix-like, Nailsworth ended up with A classy little deli and food hall that focussed on fish, a brave move but one that has proved surprisingly successful.
It’s a pretty sound rule of thumb that if you want well-cooked fresh fish you have to follow the money into a large city. Sometimes being at the coast can help but that is not a defining rule. Fish is pricy stuff and as far as most Brits are concerned each piece is full of spiky bones unless you are sensible enough to have your fish in batter from the newspaper or in fingers from the freezer.
So it is rather surprising that on a Saturday lunch time William’s Oyster bar is packed with customers and they are emitting the happy murmur of a contented hive. It seems that the good people of Nailsworth are keen on fresh fish, so much so that they don’t mind queuing for it. The first thing you see as you enter is a large wet fish counter which does wonders for the fish-cred of the restaurant which is to the rear. The cooking
is accurate, the presentation unfussy and the fish spanking fresh. It would be difficult to think of any improvements. The “Spicy crab soup” (£4.50 or £6.50) is very good indeed. The “Seafood chowder” (£12.50) is even better still, meaty chunks of fish, well seasoned. “Scallop chunks in garlic butter” (£9.50) adequately garlicky. The mains are also impressive, an enormous seared skate wing come with caper butter sauce and a bargain at £12.50. A huge and solid chunk of turbot comes on a mound of spinach and with a lemon butter sauce (£20) the sauce is particularly good, silky and with a perfumed twang from the Amalfi lemons displayed elsewhere in the shop. Even the meat options appeal to Metropolitan tastes, “Tripes à la mode de Caen (£12.50) or “Chorizo sausage and mash.” (£10.50). Add in a sound and unaggressively priced house wine and cheerful but efficient multilingual service and you have a very good restaurant indeed. Wouldn’t it be grand if fish was due a renaissance across the rest of the country?

William's Oyster Bar, 3 Fountain Street, Nailsworth, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL6 0BL (01453 832 240) www.williamsfoodhall.co.uk Open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 4pm (3pm Saturday) No bookings take – the Oyster Bar operates on a first come first served basis. If the weather permits there is outdoor seating.

Charles Campion - Wednesday 13th March 2013

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