FOOD MONSTER: The Barge of the Brayford, Lincoln
SO FAR, since taking over from the previous Food Monster, I've found myself enjoying lots of meaty dishes.
Maybe it was because I started in the new year and the dark, dank weather always tended to push me towards those nice comfort foods.
However, in recent days, we've been lavished with sunshine in our glorious county and I was hungry for something that would fit this beautiful weather.
Tapas was a consideration, but I struggled to find somewhere that really caught my eye – so if anyone knows of a good authentic Tapas place in the local area, give me a nudge – I would love to try it.
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In the end, I was feeling the urge for some good fish and my Far Better Half (FBH) and I plumped for the well- established Barge On The Brayford.
The Barge has been berthed on the north side of the Brayford Wharf for as long as I can remember.
It has always struck me as a intriguing-looking place and it was interesting to finally step aboard and experience it for myself.
We were met quickly by a friendly member of staff, who informed us there was sadly no room upstairs on the upper deck. Initially I was a bit disappointed, because the views over Brayford Marina made it quite a special little place to dine.
Instead, there was room on the lower deck and we opted to descend down there. Any worries of it being a dank little venue were soon forgotten as we stepped into a wonderfully intimate little dining area.
After taking a table, we were presented with a very appealing menu of fish.
The appetisers ranged from £3.50 to £9 each, but what was on offer was very good. It went from homemade soup and deep-fried mushrooms for those not wanting to over do the fish, to full-on platters of mussels, king prawns, langoustines, whitebait and calamari. There was also fresh dressed crab, prawn cocktail and Scotch smoked salmon.
Both FBH and myself felt this would be a bit too much to eat and were hankering to get stuck into a good main.
Again, with the mains there was a good range of options, especially when it came to fish. For those who are not taken by that, there is also a good range of chicken, game and steaks.
There is also some big speciality dishes to dig into, which can be shared between two people. Sadly, my budget cannot stretch to lobster.
FBH was torn between the salmon fillet poached with lemon, herbs, white wine and a cream sauce, or the giant Mediterranean king prawns.
In the end, the prawns got the vote and she tucked into five massive shellfish, which had been beautifully sautéed in butter, garlic, parsley and white wine.
The flavour of the shellfish was not overpowered by the other elements of the dish, so you had a good taste of it.
I deliberated between the Cajun sea bass cooked with tomatoes, peppers, onions, chilli and Cajun spices and the more simple sea bass with lemon and parsley.
Sea bass is one of those fishes that has been launched to stardom in recent years by different celebrity chefs.
It is a plain white fish, but not a big fillet one like cod or haddock. It is very light in taste and texture and wanting to enjoy that, I went for one without the added Cajun spice.
I'm glad I did because it was cooked perfectly. The flesh fell off the bone and it was light and enjoyable – perfect on a summer evening.
Both the meals were presented in big, colourful plates and served with the house special of Mediterranean potatoes, onions, peppers, salad and a good wedge of lemon.
The waitress was also on hand with a little bowl for each of us in case there were any bones we needed to pick out.
The portions were a good size, although FBH felt we should have ordered some extra vegetables.
For dessert, FBH was hankering for something savoury, so went for the cheese and biscuits. I plumped for the homemade strawberry and white chocolate cheesecake.
Both were decent portion sizes. FBH enjoyed a good range of soft and hard cheeses, while I had a smooth cheesecake.
The bill at the end was probably a bit on the pricey side, compared with some of the deals you can get out there.
I felt happy to pay out what I did for my dish and I accepted that sea bass is an expensive fish.
That said, the Barge is not oblivious to this and offers a two-meals-for-£15 menu and a number of deals throughout the day, which are worth checking out.
The service was really good, too. There was no waiting and staff were really friendly. Next time, I think I'll book ahead and try to get a table on the upper deck, but I would be happy to eat downstairs again.
It is a nice and genuine place and I think that is what I enjoyed the most. It is not pushing any exclusivity and was a warm and friendly place to dine.
THE DAMAGE: Giant Mediterranean king prawns £20, sea bass £20, cheese and biscuits £6, strawberry and white chocolate cheesecake £4, water £2.
FINAL VERDICT: The price for the fish means the meal can be a bit more expensive, but so far I've found no other place that does such good fish so well. It was a perfect place to eat on a summer evening.