Oysters and chips anyone?

Takeaway food has various connotations; not always healthy, pricey in the evening, sandwiches for lunch. We love it, though. 

There’s also a lot to love about Brett Lindsay’s new fish bar in Newcastle’s Grainger Market. One, it’s delicious; two, it’s healthy; three, it’s good value; four, its location. Grainger Market or a high street sandwich chain – what’s more colourful?

It’s Saturday lunchtime and it’s heaving. There are quite a few young trendy types among the crowd, no doubt drawn by the innovative nature of this venture. Is this, we wonder, The Next Big Thing in fish and chips? We think so.

A chef is cooking up spicy noodles with tiger prawns and chorizo on a counter hob. This is unique. You can imagine someone like Hugh Farnley Whittingstall coming in and palpitating. And this is the wonderful, unpretentious Grainger Market, which makes it all the more appealing.

Opposite is Lindsay Bros fish stall – a family business which, like Chirton’s and March’s next door, has come down through the generations and is part of the soul of this place.

Today, Brett Lindsay is on the stall, slicing through a large plaice, and has little time to talk. He’s pleased with the way his new venture is going, however, and he’s encouraging people to buy from the wet fish counter and take their purchase over the way to have it battered, griddled or stir-fried to order.

“I think there might be places on the West Coast of Scotland doing this kind of thing, but other than that I don’t know of any,” he says, proving the point that this is foodie innovation in action, right here, right now.

Over at Fish to Go there seem to be two extremes. Two cod fish cakes in a buttered stottie (£1.75) is going down very well, as are Lindisfarne oysters (always freshly available apart from a couple of weeks June/July when they’re spawning). “People often buy a couple as a treat,” says Brett. “We do them with lemon and Tabasco for £1 each, or with a drizzle of vodka or Pernod for £1.25.”

Those with a long memory may recall Brett’s father’s oyster bar and restaurant, Lindsay’s Seafood and Grill, which used to do a roaring trade opposite Newcastle Central Station in the 1960s and 70s.

“People would call in for oysters on their way to or from work, and he did a great trade with the theatre audiences,” Brett reminisces. “Then, when the one-way system and parking charges came in, trade rapidly dwindled.”

The trade is certainly brisk here at the Grainger Market, and the young trendy types are happily standing around with their food, eating on their feet. They look perfectly comfortable, though Brett is hoping he might persuade the council to allow him to put in tables. Alternatively, he may be able to get an empty stall nearby for seating.

“I’d also like to do fish and chips, but we only have the space for two fryers at the moment, so for now we’ll keep with what’s doing well and add different things according to seasonal availability.”

Meanwhile, over at the wet fish stall, Brett says he’d rather retire than reduce the quality of his produce. “Anyone can buy cheap fish and sell it cheap, there’s no art in that, but that’s not what we do,” he says.

Instead, here you get fish picked up from North Shields Fish Market that very day. “Supermarkets just can’t do that,” he says, “even the high-end ones. The only halibut we sell is wild North Sea halibut, and we only sell fish that are mature and sustainable. It’s not cheap, but it’s probably the best in the world. The best supermarkets I’ve been to in this country are selling small, farmed halibut for the same price. That’s the difference.”
Fish to Go, Grainger Market, Newcastle,

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