Selling seafood is nothing unusual for Matthew Fletcher - his family have been in the business for well over a century. What is new is that over the past six months Matthew and his wife Donice Sousa have been delivering great fish dishes - along with some genuine Yorkshire hospitality - at the Three Horseshoes pub at Winkwell, near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.
Matthew says: "My family have been selling fresh crab and prawns in Scarborough since 1886, and still do today - so you could say seafood is in my blood. We wanted to bring a flavour of the North down to Winkwell. My ancestor Matthew Leadley was sadly killed in the Whitby lifeboat disaster of 1861, and to preserve his memory the pub supports the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) charity at every opportunity."
The pub itself, which faces the Grand Union Canal, dates back to the early 16th century. "We have been open for nearly six months now and we have really put our mark on the place both in terms of decor and the food offering," says Matthew. "The menu is based on traditional British ingredients, including a range of fish dishes, such as fresh cod coated in our home-made beer batter. We have also chosen the wholetail scampi from Whitby Seafoods for our menu as it has real regional provenance from the Yorkshire coast."
The pub is starting to make a speciality of dishes cooked with beer as well as matched to it. Fresh cod coated in Hoegaarden beer batter is currently on the menu, served with mashed potato and fresh vegetables, and a cider batter recipe is planned for the near future. "When we took over the pub it had a very basic menu with no fresh produce to be found in the kitchen," Matthew explains. "We have given the menu an identity and raised the quality, so customers will remember their experience and come back for more. We are now serving at least 1,000 covers per week.
"We always have three guest ales on offer, with a broad range of lagers and ciders, which we are planning to match with the food menu during the summer." Other popular seafood dishes at the Three Horseshoes include smoked haddock with cracked pepper mash and red onion gravy, while the Sunday lunch offer includes a luxury seafood buffet.
Scampi is served at the Three Horseshoes with traditional rustic skinned chips, homemade tartare sauce, fresh peas or green beans and a fresh lemon. Made with langoustine caught by trawlers in the cool waters around England, Scotland and Ireland, it is sourced using pioneering thawing and freezing methods to ensure the freshest taste.
Each langoustine tail is hand-prepared in Whitby. The process is designed around preserving the tail's freshness at every stage so, on delivery, pubs can be confident customers are being served a pub food classic in prime condition.
Funky fish cake dips
Whitby Seafoods has recently introduced two new luxury fish cakes, Thai and cod and pancetta, to capture tastes from both the East and West to add interest to the menu. Try them with:
Hot Catch - chilli and coriander dip
- Mix a spoonful of mayonnaise with low-fat yoghurt and a lashing of soy sauce
- Add a finely chopped, seeded, small fresh red chilli and a sprinkling of finely chopped fresh coriander
- Finish with lime wedges and a bed of salad leaves.
Refreshing Dip - melon salsa
- Finely chop a rock melon, drain and mix with juice of a lemon, a pinch of salt, a little chopped spring (green) onion and fresh coriander
- Throw in a couple of chopped chillies if desired
- Instead of rock melon, try fresh mango.
Cool Trawl - cucumber crème fraiche
- Mix a dollop of cool crème fraiche with chopped cucumber and accompany with a pot of tartare sauce and a portion of zesty lemon and new potatoes.
The new offerings join the existing range, which is comprised of smoked haddock fish cakes and spring onion and salmon fish cakes with lemon and dill.