The Fishmarket Shellfish & Oyster Bar is situated at the bottom end of Benfleet High Street; just two miles south of the A13 London Road and just a couple of minutes stroll from Benfleet main Railway station.
The simple pleasures in life are often the very best. Quality fresh seafood ranks very high on my list. Just a trickle of fresh lemon juice, a dollop of good quality mayonnaise and a large glass of chilled Chablis will be all you require to turn the wonderful bounties of the sea into a gourmet banquet.
I remember as a young girl trudging off to Leigh-on-Sea with the family to explore the estuary, get knee deep in mud and buy some fresh shellfish from the sheds for our supper. Once home we would all help break through the natural armour of fresh crab, a pint or two of whole prawns and feast upon their sweet juicy meat with just a thick slice of bread and butter – delicious.
Unfortunately these wonderful flavours, tastes and textures are becoming increasingly more difficult to find. Salty, pappy prawns, vinegar soaked gritty cockles and watery bland crab have made their way onto the market, which to me is a crime.
On one of my journeys to seek out the best of Essex food and drink, I stumbled upon the Fishmarket; not only a superb seafood restaurant, but a high quality seafood bar. By bar, I do not mean an indoor, gently lit, cosmopolitan dining area with stools, I mean a real seafood bar which opens up to the outside and sells anything from the finest freshly cooked lobster to perfectly spiced rollmops.
The seafood on sale is brought in daily, the owner of the Fishmarket, Maggie, just happens to have a side line – or what others may call a second full time job – running a wet fish business in Billingsgate. With decades of experience in sourcing and selling the finest fish and seafood to businesses throughout the UK, Maggie ensures that the produce on sale at the Fishmarket really hits the wow factor.
The fresh crabs and lobsters are brought in live and quickly cooked on the premises; the shelled prawns taste absolutely fantastic, just like those you would buy whole and peel yourself and even the cockles are sweet and juicy with the subtle vinegar complementing their flavour rather than drowning it.
There is seating set out in front of the seafood bar, or you can just buy and flit off. If you have time to sit down and enjoy, for a non seafood treat, try the fabulous pie and mash on offer – the plump meaty home made pies, delicious creamy mash and subtle parsley sauce converted me to this East End delicacy and that’s saying something.
The Fishmarket Shellfish & Oyster Bar is by far one of the best suppliers of fresh seafood and shellfish you will find in the area. The tastes, textures and quality speak for themselves. From superb Oysters, freshly cooked crab and lobster, to plump jellied eels and subtly spiced rollmops, you will certainly not be let down by The Fishmarket. Even their pie, mash and liquor is undoubtedly the best I have tried. Highly recommended.