Whilst down in London for a meeting representings our trade association, Craig Maw and Nikki Mutton (Kingfisher in Plymouth) and myself managed to grab a tour round Billingsgate Fish Market. It was a bit of an early start as we got there for around 5.45am but it was certainly worth it to see this vibrant market in full swing! Dwarfed by the skyscappers of Londons Docklands, Billingsgate is still the Uks biggest fish market.
We were told to knock on one of the office doors upstairs, belonging to the Company of Fishmongers, and ask them if they could possibly show us round. Barry O’Toole, Senior Fisheries Inspector, was our guide round the market.
Barry first showed us some of the live lobster tanks. These tanks are fillet with aerated saltwater to best replicate the chemistry of seawater. This enables the lobsters to be kept alive and shipped in top condition.
Barry Explained that some of the Lobster is exported all over the world and using this method they can be packaged and flown whilst alive.
The Market has changed over Barry’s 25 years there, the type of fish has radically altered. Fish is flown in from all over the world, at night, so it is fresh for the market the next day. There were all sorts of interesting fish, all in tip top condition!
The customers have changed too, there are many asian and african customers and the choice of fish has changed to adapt to their tastes. Salted cod is one product that has increased on the market. There were other fish line spotted grouper and Trevelli, a reef preditor, that can now be found on the market and as fresh as when they were caught. Many of the foreign supply companies have invested heavily to ensure their products are top quality.
We were then shown the training facilities upstairs. They can train up to sixteen students how to fillet, prepare, artrange displays and cook fish. The students can range from trainee fish mongers to offices on team building days.
The market was all over by 8am and everyone was packing up. Nefore we rushed off to our meeting we managed to grab a bite to eat, freshly smoked haddock with poached eggs.. absolutely delicious! The morning was a really great experience and its nice to see the market doing so well.
I have been in fish and chips for 21 years and currently hold the position on President of the National Federation of Fish Friers