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Sensational Seafood

April 27, 2017

At Lymington’s ‘The Shipyard Bar and Kitchen’ – written by Jo Roche for New Milton Advertiser & Lymington Times ‘Food & Drink’ http://www.adt.press/. Printed 7th April 2017; reproduced with permission of the editor. Photos from Breeze (Louise Flanagan) and Berthon’s Harry Shutler.

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MY husband is not an easy man to please when it comes to dining out. After years of entertaining clients at expensive restaurants for work he has high expectations and does not mince his words or give false praise. So, it was with some trepidation that I let him accompany me on my latest restaurant review.

We had eaten at The Shipyard once last year, soon after it opened, and again more recently to enjoy a cooked breakfast. On those occasions we enjoyed good meals but this time it was exceptional.

Wow, sensational and magic were three words used at various times by Mr R during the evening to describe his dishes and I had to agree, this was the best meal out I had had in a long time.

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The Shipyard was opened on Bath Road, Lymington, last year by chefs Paul Jenkins, Liam Brennan and restaurant manager Lucie Stein, accompanied by a fishmongers run by former fisherman Nigel Hockley from which the restaurant sources much of its produce. Paul has previous experience working at one of the country’s top seafood restaurants, J Sheekey, as well as The Ivy and more locally at The Pig, and Liam’s CV includes a head chef role at Graze.

Arriving early on a Saturday evening, the restaurant was initially quiet with only a couple of other tables in use but quickly filled to capacity and had a low key amiable buzz about it. Looking out over Berthon boatyard to the rear and Bath Road to the front, it has been tastefully decorated in a nautical style while avoiding becoming a seaside pastiche. A soft blue-grey wall is covered in an array of black and white classic Beken of Cowes photos and the bar area is painted in darker complementary shades with a worktop crafted from reclaimed timber. Bare wood tables and chairs and a wooden floor keep the look modern and clean.

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The menu is simple with just the right number of options – six for both starter and main – as well as a shellfish section offering shucked oysters and a roasted seafood platter for two, but the best part for us was the fish board brought to the table with the day’s specials. Always keen to eat local, I was thrilled to see so many options from Lymington and Pennington and opted for potted crab (£8) and whole lemon sole (£26) – both landed on the town’s quay. Mr R opted for a starter of mussels (£9) followed by langoustines with black garlic aioli (£22). Chef Liam explained the langoustine are usually served cold as they believe this gives the best flavour, but they are happy to serve warm if customers prefer – so Mr R asked for them heated.

Although primarily a seafood restaurant the menu, which changes monthly, always carries non fish options and currently includes rustic farmhouse pate and Pennington farm steak tartare as starters and slow braised lamb neck or Pennington sirloin for main. Vegetarians are also catered for with pickled salsify, chicory, beetroot and walnut salad for starter and truffle, white bean and cauliflower risotto with pine nuts and Wookey cheddar for main. The kitchen is also happy to create something special for vegans or people with special dietary requirements but suggests calling in advance to allow time to prepare.

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Chef Liam came to chat to us at our table and was positively fizzing with enthusiasm for the restaurant and great quality food. He told us about all the wonderful local producers the area has to offer and explained the restaurant tries to source ingredients as responsibly and locally as possible while maintaining high quality. Their ethos is to cook top-quality food with the respect it deserves to let the flavours shine through and Liam explained: ‘We are trying to keep this as natural and fresh as possible with a light touch’.

My starter of potted Lymington crab proved delicious – rich flavoursome crab, topped with the traditional butter and mace. It was accompanied by excellent toasted sour dough bread, lightly brushed with oil and a delicately dressed salad. Mr R’s starter of mussels was served with chilli, fennel and chorizo broth. He described the dish as ‘spot on’ and went on to say it was one of the best starters he had eaten in some time. He particularly liked the broth which carried a delicate hint of aniseed from the fennel and a light touch of chilli with delicious chunks of locally cured chorizo.

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When Mr R’s main arrived it produced just as enthusiastic comments. These five sweet langoustines were described as ‘magic’ and combined beautifully with the black garlic aioli and he was particularly pleased the chef had been happy to serve them warm.

For me, flatfish is always best served whole and on the bone and that is just how my lemon sole came. Often, I find this type of dish arrives swimming in a lake of butter which can swamp the delicate flavour of the fish. But this large specimen had been lightly charred on a grill yet remained remarkably moist and cooked to perfection with a portion of béarnaise sauce on the side. Mr R laughed that I would never make it through such a sizeable dish but I proved him wrong stripping it to the bone – although I had to sacrifice my side order of chips in the process to make room.

The other side dishes we ordered were braised leeks with lardons (£3.50) and a purple sprouting broccoli with chilli, garlic and toasted almonds (£4), both of which were excellent. In fact the only dish I could find fault with in the whole meal was the pommes frites (£3.50), not because there was anything particularly wrong with them but they were just chips whereas everything else was special.

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Feeling rather full but intrigued to try the desserts we opted for one pudding and one portion of petit four (£2.50), made by local chocolatier Miss Witt, to share between us with coffee. Our Cambridge burnt cream with passion fruit and shortbread (£7.50) came without the passion fruit but was so good as it was that we really didn’t care. It was just the right size, with a crunchy top and plenty of vanilla, accompanied by a crumbly buttery biscuit.

Fine dining at The Shipyard was named last month by The Sunday Times as a factor which had helped the town achieve its spot in the paper’s list of top 100 places to live in the UK. And judging by the numbers in the restaurant when we visited, most of Lymington has already realised what a great addition to the town this is.

The Shipyard Bar & Kitchen, Lymington

For more information or to book a table see http://www.the-shipyard.co.uk or call 01590 677705.

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