As a cub reporter, I used to hang out with friends into the small hours, in the most alluring French bistro called The Café Pelican on St Martin’s Lane in London. I would linger over a robust, perfectly executed soupe de poisson and watch actors like Simon Callow and Sian Phillips at play. My soup would come with a faint, sweet aroma of the sea, and all the right embellishments – an unctuous, garlicky roule and tangy, mountain Gruyere, which would melt into silken, sticky strands on contact with the soup, which never failed to please.
Now, I have found a new place to enjoy this simple, French bistro classic – The Seaview hotel on the Isle of Wight. Chef Alan Staley learnt the art of cooking well at two great hotels – The Savoy and Chewton Glen. Alan is at the helm at this baby jewel of an English hotel, situated in the sleepy town of Seaview, which turns into Chelsea on Sea in high summer. As you can see, it’s a great spot to watch the world go buy, whilst feasting on a great dish, made even better by the use of the freshest, local, sustainably caught fish – Alan likes to use a combination of: gurnard, whiting and red mullet – which he buys straight from the local fisherman, Captain Stan, in Bembridge. Alan’s soup is thick, comforting and has that all-important hint of a sea breeze – perfect! Of course, a great deal of skill goes into making a really good fish stock, with the right combination of spices and vegetables from the hotel’s own farm. I followed it with a parfait that would delight Barbie – local, seasonal raspberries from the Arreton Valley, transformed into a pretty, fashion on a plate confection, which tasted tart and refreshing, but not overly sweet. Thus, guilt free! I will be back.
To book lunch or stay at The Seaview, a gem of a British hotel beside the sea visit – www.seaviewhotel.co.uk