One Sunday afternoon, while at a pub with dear friends, we were introduced to Panos and realized to our surprise that we are not the only crazies who were considering getting up at 6am to go to the Billingsgate Fish Market, the largest fish market in the UK where fresh fish arrive from all over the place to meet the huge demand of the capital's restaurants. "We have to do it soon!" were our parting words that day. A few Fridays later we received a message from him inviting us to stock up on seafood the day after.
Without a second thought, we cancelled our Friday plans with Julien, our French friend who's only in London for a few weeks. To our surprise he also decided to join the fun: Julien, we're getting old if we cancel a whiskey sampling night to go to a bloody fish market at 7am.. But it was worth it! As we crossed the gate for the market it felt like going to church at the end of mass: frantic restaurant owners were loading boxes to their cars, and crazy "tourists" with garbage bags full of sea goodness were running towards the tube granting for what seemed like a hangover from a fish shopping spree.
Little did we know, we would be joining them a couple of hours later! But how can one resist buying boxes of fresh king scallops for less than £10, wild caught sea bass, which seemed that it was happily swimming a couple of hours ago, for £6/kg, a salmon (yes, A 3kg-heavy salmon) for a tenner, swordfish loin or lobster in bulk for some similarly ridiculous amounts. There was an incredibly large selection of fish, names I had never even heard of before, and some ugly creatures I wouldn't even know how to go about cooking. There was no smell that fish markets are usually associated with, and everyone was joking around. We had read that you could bargain, but it certainly felt wrong with such prices, maybe next time..
We let ourselves loose around the market with quite a sum of cash in our pockets and reconvened, with more than one heavy "garbage" bags each, in the small but cosy market cafe. Old pictures from the market were hanging all over the walls, and apart from the full English, the menu featured breakfast options like the haddock or the kipper breakfast. The latter (picture on the right) was deliciously smoky, surprisingly not too salty, if a bit bony. The tuna salad cheese melt for less than £4 was the stuff you get at good diners in the US. And seeing the sun rise from the cafe windows while sipping at coffee and listening to incomprehensible conversations among the market porters was priceless. Knowing that dinner would be sushi for that day and lobster orzo for the next surely helped!
Sunday Menu for 6:
- grilled scallops on a bed of rocket salad
- greek cabbage salad with a hint of cumin
- swordfish steak in a lemon sauce