Yarmouth, early on a Saturday evening, the night of a major international sporting event. Matt and Cat are strolling through the town, idly looking for somewhere to eat that is not bursting with jolly gentlemen in sportswear crowding around the wall-screens. The streets are emptying: occasional groups of half-a-dozen chaps are hurrying to and fro, just off their yachts and hunting for a pub.
Expanding their search, Matt and Cat happened by chance upon the Blue Crab, a restaurant a little way off the beaten track in Yarmouth. Its windows were filled with cheerful hallowe’en-themed decorations and inside was no sign of televisions.
A friendly waitress greeted her guests, and offered them a choice of several tables, including – and here she looked meaningfully at M & C – ‘a booth’. Booth, eh? Did they look like some love-hungry youngsters? Hungry for food, definitely! Anyway, a booth it was, which proved to be a decent-sized table set in an alcove. Just in case the booth ambience was not enough to promote intimacy, the waitress, whilst lighting the little candle on the table, pointed out the booth’s adjustable light dimmer switch. Cat was so entertained by this gadget that she strobed the light enough to attract an amused comment from a neighbouring table – and prompt their own subsequent discovery of a similar switch. Such simple things, but somehow so much fun.
The menu was very well-presented and included some really interesting-sounding dishes. Plenty of seafood, of course: whole roasted bream with black olives and parsley; mustard and maple glazed salmon; and of course a seafood platter. Specials were almost as numerous and were both starters and mains, with such delights as Guinness and beef casserole with puff pastry crust, and mussels with leek, bacon and cider.
Matt chose whitebait with smoked garlic and paprika mayonnaise for starter followed by the remarkable-sounding pigeon breasts with black pudding, bacon and blackberry brandy sauce. Cat picked breaded goats’ cheese starter, and pan-roasted chicken with leek, bacon and mustard sauce for a main course.
Whilst waiting for the food, Matt and Cat took advantage of the intimate atmosphere of the booth to eavesdrop unnoticed on their fellow diners. Their ears pricked up when one chap loudly declared “At last I’ve discovered where to get the only decent Chinese outside of London.” His fellows begged him to impart his discovery. Matt and Cat poised themselves for a revelation. “Belfast” announced the cosmopolitan chap firmly. Ah well – not the oriental mystery they were expecting, and not quite on the Island either. This forthright fellow had plenty more to say, and could have filled a review all by himself – more of him later.
The starters arrived, and looked great. A great pile of piping-hot whitebait nestled in a scallop shell, with a deliciously piquant and home-made sauce to dip them in. Two big chunks of goats’ cheese were done to a turn – hot and crumbly, but not melted. They shared the plate with a small salad and some tangy red pepper chutney. A splendid way to kick off the meal. The starters were washed down with a pint of local Ventnor Golden bitter and a not-so-local glass of palette-pleasing apple juice.
Before long, the informal but attentive service of the Blue Crab worked its magic, the plates were whisked away, and the main course arrived. Bowls of vegetables and new potatoes came alongside for the diners to share. The veg was particularly good, splendidly fresh and hot with a sprinkle of aromatic herbs.
Cat’s chicken was lovely, topped with a delicious and tasty melange of bacon and leeks, all with a creamy mustard sauce. Matt was delighted with his adventurous choice of pigeon. The four tiny breasts looked like rare fillet steak, so lean were they, and had a subtle but very full dry gamey taste that was perfectly offset by the powerful but sparingly-applied blackberry brandy sauce.
The black pudding, once only found regularly in Scottish chip shops but now a staple in fancy restaurants across the land, was a splendid way to support the pigeon, both literally and in texture and flavour terms, being crumbly and flavoursome. All in all a novel and cleverly-devised dish, excellently executed. Matt, in his last mouthful, even got a pellet of shot to prove that these really had been wild pigeons. He left it proudly on the side of the plate – a reminder of many game suppers from his younger days.
Ruminating on a pretty good feed in a very pleasant atmosphere, Matt and Cat heard their outspoken fellow diner nearby on fine form once more. The bill was being presented and the waitress politely asked if everything had been satisfactory. It had, but our pal was so pleased that he was determined to impart some of his wisdom as well as open his wallet. “Let me tell you how vegetables should really be cooked,” he said confidingly. All listened expectantly. “Boil them in carbonated water”, he declared. “Thank you sir”, said the charming waitress, all smiles. “I’ll be sure to tell chef.” Doubtless she did, too.
So, overall an interesting and enjoyable meal, with excellent and personal service in a great venue. Recommended.