Whenever you see crossed chives you are in trouble
Cookery Quote
We should all be eating less meat and better meat
Never eat anything bigger than your head

Shooting - A Fishy Story

The wind was screaming out of the South West and the wooded Devon valleys were steep and claggy after the rain and snow. The pheasants didn’t mind as they high-tailed it across the sky at implausible speeds. It was the kind of day when you had to be a very decent shot or a master of wry banter. Fortunately the shooting party had experts in both disciplines, let’s draw a veil over my success rate - suffice to say I made a gratifying amount of noise without injuring much wildlife.
Then, as it was the end of the season, beaters, guns, farmers, gamekeepers et al adjourned to the Wayfarer in Instow for an extravagant dinner. Which is where the shocking thing happened - the dinner was a feast of fish.
The received wisdom is that Britons don’t much like fish unless it is either in fingers or garbed in batter. Shooting parties tend to go for roast game birds, serious casserole action or perhaps monster steaks. It’s wildly unusual to see any fish except possibly smoked salmon.
The Wayfarer is a small seaside pub with a few well-appointed rooms. It is run by the ebullient Royston Dennis who spends the winter entertaining shooting parties (he’s a good shot); then switches to golf parties (he plays off five-ish); before spending most early mornings in the summer fishing for sea bass. The pub is comfortable rather than chic and behind the bar there’s a welcome sight – a squat barrel of Sharp’s Doombar on the stillage plus well kept Timothy Taylor’s from the hand pump.
About twenty five of us sat down to the feast and what we got to eat was dictated by the contents of a box of fish that had been driven up from Padstow in the dawn. Everybody sat at the same long table and everybody got to eat every dish. Royston put on a chef’s jacket and retired to the kitchen, we tucked in. There were bowls of good-sized scallops, perfectly cooked with a little bacon. There was a plate of squid with prawns. There was an immense loin of cod that had been roast with a breadcrumb coating. There were three or four whole grilled turbot (between 1 and 2 kilos each). There were half a dozen plump black bream. Then, after a pause, battered cod goujons, chips and mushy peas came to table, perfect fish and chips in miniature. Finally there was a cheese plate – woeful, industrial cheddar and Jacobs crackers - but that was somewhat immaterial as by then a huge intake of the freshest fish had worked its magic.
Perhaps we were influenced by proximity to the sea? Perhaps the no choice approach is the key? Whatever the key, several of the party who would never usually order fish thoroughly enjoyed their dinner. A very jolly evening and some delightfully un-British behaviour.

Smythacott Farm Shoot, Frithelstockstone, Great Torrington, North Devon, EX38 8TJ (01805 624146)
The Wayfarer Inn, Land End, Instow, North Devon, EX39 4LB (01271 860342 www.thewayfarerinstow.com)

Charles Campion - Monday 29th March 2010

Tags: 
  • Five hot Chillies
  • Tayyabs
  • Mirch Masala
  • Amaya
  • The Brilliant
  • Sitaraay