When a restaurant that isn’t practically on the beach or in view of the waves crashing on the shore claims to serve fresh seafood, I’m always a little skeptical, I can’t help it. This mainly comes from a time years ago I ate mussels at a restaurant in France and we watched as they were caught, brought out of the sea, into the kitchen to be prepared and cooked and then served to our table, which was on the sand , a short time later.

I thought to myself “will I ever get fish literally as fresh as this again? “. Obviously, modern delivery trucks are so well equipped at keeping the seafood as just-out-the-sea as possible, but I’ve often been left disappointed with ‘fresh’ fish served at restaurants inland and nowhere near any water.

So this was in my mind when I sat down to eat at seafood and steak speciality The Fenwick in Claughton, just outside of Lancaster. Which, thankfully is relatively close to Morecambe Bay, so I was confident serving fresh seafood would not be an oversell.

More: Review: The Fenwick, Claughton – A rural Lancaster B&B that’d win Four in a Bed by a country mile

And I was right, but not for the reasons I expected. A friend asked me a few weeks ago what my favorite seafood is, and I took ages to reply as I love it so much I couldn’t decide, eventually plumping for mussels. So I was chuffed to see mussels (£ 11.95) on the [vast] specials menu.

Talking of the specials, I liked the fact that there was attention to ‘catch of the day’ and the notion that it is important to have fresh, well-prepped fish, with guests even asked to order 48-hours ahead if they had a request for a certain fish or desire to order the extravagant and eye-bulging sharer Fruit de Mer at (£ 75) or surf & turf at £ 64.95.

The Thai green mussels at The Fenwick

To my surprise, the mussels were not actually caught in The Bay down the road, but rather several hundred miles north in the Shetlands, steamed and served in a Thai green curry broth and a side of prawn crackers. However, they were fresh, chunky and juicy – my mind surfing back to the wonky table on the beach in Normandy, as the hint of sea salt and natural flavors worked their magic with the zip and zing of the Thai curry dancing away in my mouth like a freshly caught fish on the deck. The dainty prawn crackers did that little crackle when you first dip them into a hot soup and I was in mussel dreamland.

We also had a capers and onion-tossed salmon dish and homemade sausage roll ‘snack’ for starters. The sausage roll pastry was glossy and treasure-colored gold, the meat herby and succulent. While the salmon was simple but not-over seasoned and just the right amount of toppings, respecting the natural flavors of the ray-finned fish. Salmon can be a bit samey, but they did a good job with this.

Succulent: The 12oz rib eye steak, which was asked to be served medium rare
Succulent: The 12oz rib eye steak, which was asked to be served medium rare

For main, I ordered the grilled swordfish special (£ 21.50) served on a bed of new potatoes, greens and finished with a tomato, lime and basil salsa.

I feel sad saying this, but this particular swordfish died in vain. It was so chewy, leathery and tough I was in danger of jawache. The veggies were cooked well and a decent portion size but the salsa was by far the highlight – it was citrus fruit-like tangy, refreshing and had a sharpness cutting through that makes you go ‘oooo’, saving it from disaster.

It was basically an expensive designer leather belt that owes everything to its blinging buckle. Because without the flashy buckle, it’s just a plain old high street belt. Disappointing.

The disappointing swordfish
The disappointing swordfish

However, the second main – 12oz rib eye steak on the bone (£ 28.50) was incredible and cooked to our idea of ​​medium-rare, juices running free. It fell off the bone so gracefully, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cow it came from had been to ballet lessons. The peppercorn sauce was creamy and had quite a pop of heat to it, ideal to dip the crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside homemade chunky chips.

We finished with a black forest cheesecake (£ 7), which was delicious, a good balance of fruity and sweet – with an unusual jelly-like top layer. We then moved back to sit at the intimate bar at the front of the country pub, which also has its own guests rooms.

It has an impressive array of artisan and batch spirits, wines and beers and gives you the chance to soak in the character of the place, which is relatively dimly lit, with low ceilings, stags antlers coming out of the walls, classic tartan patterned upholstery and wooden floors. There was something quite comforting about the wood burning smell of the stunning open iron fireplace – like the lure of your grandma’s famous cooking.

The disappointing swordfish
The disappointing swordfish

When you serve two kinds of dishes, it can be a risk but it is also a glorious chance to really lead the way on how to cook it perfectly. The Fenwick did just that with the majority of our dishes, with the swordfish seemingly an afterthought in the kitchen, but the mussel starter and steak main we would order over and over again.

Food dviews by Denise Evans are published every Sunday morning. The restaurant did not know we were coming and our review is anonymous.

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