Anyone who knows Cambridge will inevitably remember Tatties and for those of you who don’t know Cambridge think of it as your go to hangover breakfast, weekend panini and chips or for those who live opposite, coffee break. It’s a Cambridge institution (at least if you’re a hungover student) so it didn’t go down too well when a more expensive fish and chip shop restaurant opened there this year (Despite the fact there is still a Tatties 3mins walk away it’s the principle). Having said that, despite being as far from the sea as seemingly possible, Cambridge needs a good fish and chip place, we have so many kebab/burger/Chinese/Italian/gastropub places I think this might be the one obvious thing we are missing. So this weekend I took full advantage of the parents coming up to get them to take me for a nice lunch (after all what are parents for but making sure you’re not just living off pot noodle – on second thoughts, as if!). Coast started out well. We sat downstairs and the waiters were so desperate to take our drinks order and bring us our drinks we hardly had time to think. Ironically they then got the message rather too well and didn’t come and get our food order for another 20mins meaning we’d finished our drinks before we ordered. However this did give me time to peruse the extended menu. The first thing that struck me was that the breakfasts looked incredibly exciting (watch this space) all smoked salmon scrambled eggs etc and for about the same price as old Tatties. The main menu was equally enticing with a wide range of fish mains (fish pie, seafood tagliatelle) as well as the option to choose your own fish for fish and chips, fish cakes or grilled, all satisfyingly coming with chips. There were salads (typically overpriced) and a small number of meat and veg courses (although why you would come to a fish restaurant I have no idea). Admittedly it is a little out of student budget (Bills or Browns prices ) but it is possible to get a decent Portion of fish and chips for under £10 and they even do takeaway.
When they finally took our order they were very efficient about bringing our food out. Since the parents were paying and we were all dashing around too much that evening to think about eating, I suggested we have two courses each (also so I could try more). I may have mentioned in my San Francisco blog post how much I love crab, and I really do . I was a little sceptical of the fact fresh crab tastes the best and Cambridge is do far from the coast line….. But I was pleasantly surprised.
The crab mayonnaise was salty and with a kick, not overly creamy and very heavy on the crab meat which is always better. The crab mayonnaise came in two huge quenelles and a hunk of bread on the plate which made me extremely happy, I always hate when you order something like this and end up with about 5 slices of bread with a teaspoon of crab on the side, the filling should always be more than the bread, not visa versa. It came with a well dressed salad and garnish of caviar which at first seemed superfluous but in fact lifted the dish, I was a very happy customer.
My dad got incredibly excited by his prawn and avocado salad because of its edible flowers and caviar, however it was concluded that my dish was better value for money as his dish was smaller, less filling and the caviar was an unnecessary addition as were the flowers. My mother’s was a lot of fun. She had piri piri prawns that came dripping in a very tasty (and messy) sauce and required a lot of work, a finger bowl and 4 napkins, but it came in a cute fake newspaper wrapping and was a good starter for anyone who likes playing with food and wants something slightly lighter but still with a burst of flavour.
Mains arrived almost as soon as our starters were picked up and they did not disappoint. You can see why the prices are higher than you expect, the portions were huge and extremely satisfying. (For real value for money go for the fish burger, only a tenner and about the size of a small dog) my mother and I went for the more expensive grilled mackeral with mash and ratatouille, while my father went for the lemon plaice, grilled with chips. Again I think we picked a winner.
The mackeral was fiddly (it was a whole fish) but it had been butterflied and main bones removed, with a mass of charred rosemary and thyme on top. The fish was a little under seasoned (I took the lemon out of my water and spritzed this on top which lifted it) and the edge was over cooked but this just meant the centre was perfectly cooked so I could see why. It was served with a chunky pseudo-ratatouille which went very nicely with the fish but could have been a little more saucy. The best thing about the dish though was the mash. I don’t know what they did to it ( although I suspect they cooked it a little after it had been mashed with lots of butter) but it was possibly the best mash I’ve ever tasted. It was very thick and smooth with a faint garlicky hint, it was so good I finished off my mum’s! My dad’s was also apparently well cooked and the huge mound if chips were very good, very chippy like. I tried one and they tasted so much like the takeaway chips we used to get while on holiday in Brighton, thick, chunky and slightly squashed, very impressed.
I am not easily defeated by food (see midsummer house) but after that I certainly couldn’t manage a pudding (shame I would have liked to have seen if they were any good) and was full for most of the day after meaning it didn’t matter I didn’t eat supper till 10.30. In this sense Coast is very good for filling up while your parents are here so you don’t need to spend so much on food at other times.
All in all I was quite impressed with this restaurant. Not for anyone on a diet (I’m pretty sure the salads wouldn’t be worth the extortionate price) but otherwise the portion size proves what you get for your money and the food straddles the line between homely comfort food and that extra restaurant lift. Not everyday but good for a reasonably priced treat. However I’m pretty sure it will never become as beloved as Tatties.