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The Seafood and Steak Restaurant, Blackpool

Danny Moran takes a summer excursion for anglerfish, seagulls, dancehalls and steak

Published on January 14th 2010.

The Seafood and Steak Restaurant, Blackpool

A Sunday afternoon in Blackpool in June. The prom is deserted. The beach is empty. The unattended slots bleep mournfully.

It isn’t very ‘Blackpool’ in any overt way, beyond a few nautical prints on the walls. There's little in the way of chef’s spesh Fish ‘n’ Chips, or cockles done fancy, on the menu.

In the Tower Ballroom families shuffle out from a dance contest, collect passouts for coffee with coats folded over their arms. On a South Pier rail a seagull checks an armpit for nuclear waste. The drizzle is in, and Blackpool is as last year as Adam and the Ants.

To anyone born within 50 miles, this fading clown’s joke of a town is like some kind of sore tooth you can’t - once in a while - not touch. Some furtive pilgrimage you take now and then, and for what?

The Pleasure Beach. The lights. The sea. The crumbling Victoriana. The blistering nostalgia. The scowling youths with flick knives on street corners.

It’s like Clockwork Orangina over there. Admit it, Blackpool needed a Supercasino real bad.

But you know, it's…Blackpool and it’s in your soul. So every once in a while you find yourself there, peering at a signed photo of Marie Petulanegro with Vince Hill, with your hands in your pockets and the sea stretching out to wherever it goes. You find that you looked forward to going to Blackpool before you went. And more than that, you’re glad to be in Blackpool.

Before you Get The Hell Out.

Doubtless, that’s the mood on the street come ‘conference week’, whenever one of the political parties pitches up. Since the coming of The Blackpool Conference in the Nineties, the Seafood and Steak restaurant has acquired the rep of being the place where late night whispers are dispensed.

This is where the hacks come to pick the trotters of the powerful for gossip on any potential splits in the party. Tucked away on Bond Street, at the South Pier end, it’s a low key affair. The service is friendly, and there’s an old world feel to the place.

Victorian artworks. Woodpanelling. Stained glass shrimps.

There’s nothing caught here. The nearest fishing port is Fleetwood so we won’t be dining on the fruits of the wriggling net out front. Or indeed on something which has been scraped off the end of the pier by a migrant.

It isn’t very ‘Blackpool’ in any overt way, beyond a few nautical prints on the walls. There's little in the way of chef’s spesh Fish ‘n’ Chips, or cockles done fancy, on the menu.

It’s a contemporary card: dover sole, sea bass, salmon.

We get a moules mariniere (£4.90) and a lobster bisque soup (£4.50). The mussels arrive in a small ensemble drowned in a copious garlic and white wine sauce, compared to which the mussels are something of a nibbly support act.

The lobster soup gets a curled lip from my friend – which is a bit of a waste of a pureed lobster if you ask me.

Surf or turf? I go for the steak, my friend orders the monkfish.

“There’s no such thing as a monkfish,” I say. “It doesn’t exist.”

“I know,” my friend says. “I’m having the monkfish.”

For the un-illuminated: there is indeed no such thing as a monkfish. Monkfish refers to the tasty white tail flesh of the hideous-looking ‘anglerfish’, otherwise renowned for dangling gobbets of skin from spines above its appalling clubbed-frog mouth in the guise of bait. It was popularised nevertheless by an enterprising Keith Floyd in the 1980s as a versatile alternative to cod.

As the mid Eighties food game went ‘end of pier’, a name was sought for the suddenly-cherished ‘anglerfish tail’, and ‘monkfish’ won the committee vote.

The monkfish served at the S&S (£16.90) is chopped and scattered enticingly on a bed of mash with chorizo and chopped vegetables. Monkfish has a clean, pristine, almost tasteless, white fish taste – almost the quality of taste you’d associate with sushi – and the benefit of large pieces and succulent flesh.

“It’s a very nice fish, and very satisfying,” says my friend. It cooks perfectly. It goes well with chorizo. There are no bones.

I get a big, 16oz T-bone done medium rare with stilton and port sauce (£16.90). When it is revealed, like a salt plain, I hope that the stilton will hold a Napoleonic grudge against that continent of meat, but it doesn’t. The steak itself is uniformly unscorched by the griddle, and the blush to the middle isn't indicative of raw succulence but of some kind of masticating eternity.

That’s a too large T-bone. A T-bone with a capital ‘T’. Maybe I’m woozy from chanelling Blackpool.

“Not as good as my monkfish, then,” as my friend says.

We round off with a couple of claggy desserts and settle up for just under 50 quid.

Then we head for the car park.

If you’re in town for a show or conference this is no doubt a good bet for a fish dish. You won’t get cockle-warming homeliness brimming from the specials board, at least on the evidence of this visit.

But if you’ve a day’s shenanigans to wash down, there’s a large and varied wine list to go at, a little wooden bar, and plenty of soft lighting to cushion your whispers.

Maybe the trick is not to think like a tourist.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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