The Fish Club, Clapham

From the moment you walk in, the people who thought up the award-winning Fish Club on Clapham Common begin to set the scene. Turquoise walls with wave-shaped mirrors help recreate a seaside feel, giving the impression that you've entered an oceanic world, whilst the priced-up blackboards and take-away stands maintain the more familiar rustic notes that we have come to associate with our traditional English chippies.

Then, just as you begin to imagine the fabulous delights that might be in store, there they are - the range of sustainably sourced fish available for your consumption, arranged and presented in classical fish-monger style.

The service was personable and efficient, without that dreadful sense of being rushed out whilst conveying that this is fundamentally a grab-a-bite, catch-up, eat-up and leave type place, with the all important option for a take-away. And whilst it may not be the cheapest of chippies, the prices for such well-prepared, freshly caught, delivered that day fish in London are surprisingly affordable.

What I particularly loved was all the different types of people that had chosen to eat there –city yuppie-ites enjoying their transient Clapham residency, a fair few true south Londoners, and best of all, several of the elderly holidayers of seaside-towns gone-by, forever keen to enjoy the great British battered fish on a bed of thickly cut chips, soaked in an array of sources.

The food available was faultless from coley (a sustainable cousin of the cod), to oysters, to royal bream and the enormous pot of prawns, which introduced a rather unsure turned now pro-prawn-peeler, James to the delights of real seafood eating.  And for all you lovely health-conscious foodies out there, yes there is the option to have your coley grilled and served alongside a portion of low GI sweet potato chips. My 'sole' criticism? Eating fish with cutlery requires a fish-knife Mr Fish Club, although I suppose the back of my knife just about sufficed.

But really what is this place about? Well you’d have to be an ostrich to have missed the extensive media coverage a few months ago about the real cost of our insatiable appetite for a very small number of fish species, including the Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon and Bluefin tuna. And if we keep on, we are going to run out. Scary? Yes. But unfortunately it is as simple as that.  

Now I am 100% not telling you to cut fish out. After all, there is increasingly great evidence to support the government’s current recommendations that all of us should be eating two portions per week, one of which should be a sustainable oily fish such as mackerel, sardines or yellow-fin tuna.

Fish is lean and full of protein that we absorb very readily. The non-oily varieties are very low-fat, whereas the oily choices are packed with those much-discussed omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to all sorts of magical yet scientifically evidence-based benefits such as a reduced risk / better management of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and depression.

Just make sure you’re making the sensible choices and  avoid the following, which Green Peace have published as their absolute ‘Fish to Avoid’.

·        Atlantic cod (excluding line-caught Icelandic)
·      Plaice
·      Tuna, including Albacore, Bigeye and Bluefin (but excluding Skipjack)
·      Tropical prawns (wild and farmed)
·      Haddock (except line-caught Icelandic)
·      European Hake
·      Atlantic Halibut
·      Monkfish
·      Atlantic salmon (wild and farmed)
·      Swordfish
·      Marlin
·      Sharks (including dog fish and huss)
·      Skates and rays 

This is a huge issue and there is so much out there to help you make the best decisions – websites guiding you towards the best choices for eating out as well as the shops that have turned sustainable; apps so you can check on-the-go and; if in doubt the Marine Stewardship Council’s logo, which certifies that the 8,000 plus fish products and eateries emblazoned with it have been certified by the MSC as sustainable.

And as more of us start to buy the other types of fish, thanks to the magic of supply and demand – they’ll start putting more on the shelves. End result –no extinct species and a much more varied choice of fab-tasting fish for us all to enjoy! So support the businesses like the Fish Club that have taken the plunge to promote these fabulous poisson d’alternative, and this Friday make sure that your lunchtime office treats round is for a dozen, fish-friendly, sizzling mackerel baps and chips.

The Fish Club
Clapham Common: 57 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7TG - 020 7720 5853
And don't forget to check out the second site - Clapham Junction: 189 St John’s Hill, London, SW 11 1TH -            020 7978 7115
Opening timesMonday 5pm-10pm; Tue-sun 12pm-10pm.      Prices: Mains £6.70 - £14.95

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