THEY all rave on TripAdvisor about the calamari at the Clam & Cork on Doncaster’s Fish Market. “Soft and delicate,” wrote one diner. “To die for,” said another. Even grizzled Guardian food critic Jay Rayner approved of them in their salt and pepper batter although he quibbled slightly that all the membrane hadn’t been removed.
So, of course, we had to order some.
It’s quite right. They are as tender as a baby’s bum and as delicate in quite a fiery coating. They are very simply done: The rings are kept moist then dunked to order in a bowl of seasoned flour before being deep-fried. And the membrane certainly wasn’t evident. They were perched on a chipotle mayonnaise. Very spicy, very nice for £7.50.
I’m not sure if the Guardian tried the oysters, Irish from Carlingford Lough. I had four (£1.50 each), well presented on plenty of ice with lots of lemon and an excellent shallot vinegar. They were sweet and briny. They would have been even better if the chef hadn’t doused them under the tap after shucking to remove any stray splinters of shell. That lost their exquisite natural juices.
The little stall, with not more than 18 seats on three sides round the kitchen and a few tables outside, opened last year. I read Rayner’s enthusiastic review a little later and wondered whether it had anything to do with the broadly similar Med at the Market which we visited in 2013, feasting on Catalan fish stew and fish kebabs. It hasn’t and that is now closed.
The Clam & Cork has been praised for its friendliness and informality and good food, as well as being an unexpected outpost of culinary excellence on what we must call the Costa Del Donny.
We went on a Wednesday, not the busiest day of the week for most of the stalls are closed (try Tuesday, Friday and Saturday) and some of the ones that would have been open were not as their owners were attending the funeral of a popular market butcher. There was loud clapping as his hearse, a coach and horses, went by during our meal.
The eaterie, squeezed in between two shellfish stalls and a fish stall proper, has a short, simple menu of small and large plates. The former listed calamari, fried monkfish, Pil Pil prawns, scallops with lime and coriander and prawn cocktail, the latter cod and chips, monkfish burger, coconut fish curry, pan roasted salmon and sea bass with a crab salad and brown crab mayonnaise. No sign of a clam, though.
Along with two generous glasses of pinot grigio we ordered two more small plates to follow. The monkfish (£7.50) was a generous portion and came in a similar batter to the calamari, this time on a coleslaw spiked with tamarind.
The prawn cocktail (£7.50) was nicely stocked and was served, purists will be pleased to see, in a large wine glass. It was also trendy. The traditional Marie Rose sauce had been dumped for pink grapefruit and avocado. I wasn’t offered any but was told it was good!
The bill with wine for a relaxed and pleasant lunch was £39.50 and I can quite see why the Clam and Cork is number one in Doncaster on TripAdvisor. You can’t reserve seats so choose your moment to go, perhaps for an early or late lunch. The place stays open until 4pm.
For those seeking a wider range and more inventiveness with fish then Mann’s fish bar closer to home at Sheffield’s Kommune Food Hall takes some beating. But that, as yet, hasn’t had a visit from Jay Rayner.