The 30th June to the 1st July saw Gunwharf come alive with food and music – thanks to the Portsmouth Seafood Festival. This celebration of all things fishy aims to remind us all of the beautiful, quality produce on our doorstep and to celebrate Portsmouth’s fishing heritage. I managed to pop down on a VERY hot Sunday, just in time for lunch. My friend L and I were on the prowl for something tasty. Saturday seemed to have been an incredible success, a lot of the stands selling out of a few dishes – mostly calamari to L’s disappointment. But there was still plenty to choose from and we circled the area twice to assess the situation before deciding.
Good old chips from the Fisherman’s Kitchen caught our attention – chips go with everything – and I keep meaning to head down to the Kitchen to try something. They were crispy, fluffy and not at all greasy. Delicious! I’ll be heading there for fish ASAP. Having eased in with something small the heat was getting to me. Luckily, festival goers were just as spoiled for drinks as they were food. Cider and beer stands, Black Chalk were there with their English sparkling wine, prosecco, and Twisted Nose gin as well as local brewers Staggeringly Good who teamed up with Emsworth’s Blue Bell Inn to create “Bishop Slayer – Oyster Stout” for the event.
The music was fantastic, with a variety of singers and bands performing for a full crowd and creating a great atmosphere. It was so lovely to see Viviers with a fresh fish stall, a real part of Portsmouth’s fishing history, nestled alongside new players such as Need Street Food, MIR Seafood and Southsea Deli who were slinging swordfish souvlaki over the weekend.
Everything from fresh Maldon oysters to curried hake naan was on offer. The struggle to choose was real. Eventually, we settled on sharing the fish tacos from Southsea Beach Cafe. Breaded sustainable cod in a soft taco served with Asian slaw, avocado and saffron aioli. It was SO delicious I was devastated I had to share the portion of two. Fresh and tangy slaw with a gentle heat against the richness of the fried fish, which was still succulent, and the soft taco a perfect (slightly messy) way to bring all those flavours together. Eating this in front of the live stage was fascinating. Billingsgate Seafood School ambassador CJ was showing the audience, with assistant Ron, some simple ways to prepare hake. Live demos were on all weekend with a variety of topics and recipes as well as promoting sustainability; encouraging people to avoid the famous five – salmon, tuna, cod, haddock, prawns – and discover other seafood available to them. As well as giving people the confidence to cook these ingredients simply with a bit of love.
The passion of everyone at the festival was easy to see. The vendors and businesses were all excited to cook and show off some beautiful ingredients in the best way possible. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and quality of the festival and hope it continues to go from strength to strength!
Featured Image – Portsmouth Seafood Festival