Although there are a couple of pretty fine restaurants in town, Newport’s food offering is primarily geared towards lunches.
From about midday, office workers can be found insouciantly perusing the menu in Olivo in the way that only those with more than the statutory half an hour break can afford to do. Those who have to cram in a visit to the post office and, consequently, only have a few moments to actually refuel, may snatch a filled ‘sub’ or prepackaged sarnie from various retailers. For a sit-down lunch, the choice of sandwich bars, coffee vendors and traditional cafes is pretty comprehensive. On a warm day, if you can bagsy one of the benches by the church or in St James’ Square, you should purchase one of the more unconventional hot grub offerings to eat al fresco. Much has been said about Noodle Pot – including fresh, tasty and excellent value. Now, these words can also be used to sum up the new kid in town: Seafood Corner.
The people who have been dishing up fried fish at Ventnor Fishery and latterly the mobile Crab on Chips wagon have now opened a permanent base in Newport, in a very prominent corner of St Thomas Square. Without resorting to clever fish-related puns like most jolly fryers, Seafood Corner has gone for the obvious. It sells seafood in a corner shop – ’nuff said.
Provocatively situated almost opposite the thriving chippy Oggies, Seafood Corner occupies what was once ‘Jumpers’, a knitwear shop which after over a decade of neglect was unravelling at the seams. Following extensive refurbishment the seafood deli looked very impressive. Inside Matt and Cat were amazed to find not just a massive counter laden with wet fish, fresh shellfish and other delicacies, but a fish fryer.
As M&C squinted at the blackboard, the posse of staff in smart uniforms stood expectantly behind the counter, outnumbering their customers by about two to one. So, was there any lunch to be had? Apparently so – those fryers weren’t just decorative. There was a range of typical chip shop classics, including battered fish and fish cakes, all with optional chips of course. But for the more adventurous diner Seafood Corner was trying hard to differentiate itself from nearby Oggies. Prawns and mayonnaise were on offer, filled rolls, and of course the celebrated crab on chips. Instead of gherkins and pickled eggs there was – get this – fresh salad. Yes, that’s right. You can have salad and chips. Put that in your diet book.
Meal deal 2@ £4.95 = £9.90
Matt and Cat were pondering the range of choices on the board when they spotted a modest sign advertising a lunchtime meal deal. It seemed like a bargain. For only £4.95 the hungry reviewers could have the choice of a roll, salad or something on chips; plus a bottle of water; and crisps, more salad, or, remarkably, more chips. So this meant that you could have plenty of chips, or plenty of salad, or even a bit of both. But the star of the show here was the ‘something on chips’. Both Matt and Cat are massive fans of crab on chips – to such an extent that they might even suggest this as the only serious candidate for the Isle of Wight’s national dish. There’s something about the way the soft, silky crab-flesh melts onto hot chips, the textures and gentle flavours just make a combination that is irresistible. So, with this very much in mind, it was crab on chips for both of them. Matt supplemented his not with crisps, but with extra chips. Cat elected to try a side salad.
The chips were freshly fried in front of them and anointed with generous portions of crab meat. The surprisingly-large mixed salad was served in a little plastic box with a squirt of mayonnaise. Each lunch came with a bottle of Hildon mineral water. All of this for less than a fiver? Yes indeedy!
Taking their lunches to a nearby bench in the sun – and about as far from the coast as you can get on the Isle of Wight – Matt and Cat enjoyed their seafood meal. Despite being so far inland the chips drew a flock of seagulls, mustering in expectation and keeping their beady eyes on the chips from a safe distance. The crab was delicious and the hot and chunky chips equalled any of those fancy triple-cooked Jenga chips that M&C had eaten in some of the Island’s poshest restaurants. This was fantastic street food, and it was soon finished. “I thought I wouldn’t manage all that crab.” said Cat, passing over a few remaining chips to Matt with a smile, “But I did!” The seagulls never stood a chance.
Newport already features an existing wet fish shop and, of course a plethora of chippies. So opening Seafood Corner is a bold move. Matt and Cat hope that it will able to hold its own in this crowded market. It stands a good chance with its impressive and competitively-priced meal deal and extremely fresh produce from the Island. Recommended.