Imagine popping into your local village chippy only to find yourself bumping into a peer of the realm. That was our diverting experience when we were waiting for a table in Yarmouth’s Blue Crab. ‘Takeaway for Michael?’ was called out, and we passed local celebrity Lord Grade of Yarmouth collecting his fish supper.
A good sign? Maybe – or perhaps more a portent of the rather curious duel identity of this long-standing High Street venue. On the one hand, this is a fish and chip shop, where nobility can order and take away fried fish and chips wrapped in the traditional paper. On the other, it’s a restaurant where diners can – and do – pay £10 for a starter. These two activities, both laudable in their own way, sit together slightly uneasily.
Cat’s choice was scallops with home-made broad bean pesto, and it was one she didn’t regret. No fewer than four of the sweet, soft molluscs were attractively served up on real shells, oozing butter and sat on a little plinth of tasty, fresh, pesto. Matt had a starter he’d had before at the Blue Crab, home-made smoked fish chowder. This rich, tasty soup is a reliable crowd-pleaser, and one which Matt couldn’t fault.
In such a bustling place you’d have expected a friendly but fairly robust approach from the youthful staff – such as the excellent interaction you get at Newport’s Pizza Hut, for example. As it was, communications were courteous but cautious to the point of sheepishness. Strictly limited to operational matters, and that in hushed tones. Matt ordered cider, and when interrogated as to options, our waiter mentioned the Godshill-made Rumpy Pumpy Scrumpy. Asked what it was like, he was unable to enlighten us, or maybe just being discreet as, when Matt tried it, Rumpy Pumpy turned out to be rough old stuff.
The sea bass special was not great value at £15.95. A single fillet of mild fish lay on a modest bed of courgette and tomato. The chips alongside were excellent, meeting the expected chip shop standard which placed them well above the average restaurant chip. A bland veg stack wasn’t helped by the herb butter, which looked good but showed little taste of either herbs or butter. Overall it makes sense not to swamp the delicate flavour of sea bass, but a taste of something – anything – would have been well-received.
Sea bass £15.95
Cat’s fillets of mackerel were more substantial. Soft and mild, they came with a powerful garlic pesto. Alongside was a big nest of undressed salad, loads of chips and some generic coleslaw. Cat asked our serving staff for salad dressing which apparently caused some consternation. In the end a bottle of oil with some unidentified additions was presented. Having levered off its sticky top, Cat decided to go without.
We left, a little bemused by our experience. The Blue Crab does some things pretty well. For example chips and, as we know from previous visits, battered fish. That’s what you’d expect from a chip shop, and it’s what you get. In fact, the fancier items on the menu were also good enough, the scallops especially got the thumbs up. But the pricing was a bit all over the place. The workaday sea bass fillet was a whole £5 more than the well-executed mackerel main, itself costing about the same as Cat’s starter. The venue itself seems an odd mixture, with a thin veneer of chirpy ersatz nauticalia over the structure of an old-style cafe. And the service, well, if bolder, that could have made a big difference, as there are some flashes of great work going on in the kitchen. Nonetheless, Blue Crab feels like a very good local favourite; clearly a popular venue with an emphasis on seafood.
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Decent chips
- Some excellent seafood dishes
- Local produce
- Curious pricing
- Hesitant service