Seafood Seasonal update - July 2017

The Staff Canteen


Are you in tune with what your diners are looking for when it comes to local? In its own right, “local” can mean different things to different consumers right across the UK. This month’s update looks at provenance on menus, as well as seasonal species lobster and velvet crab.

Trending Now: “Local”

In England, consumers consider a more defined geography to mean “local”- their region or county. Whilst in comparison, Scottish consumers see either Scotland as a whole or their region/county to mean “local”. 

The “local” trend looks to continue to grow as a recent poll carried out by trade body Scotland Food and Drink shows, over 40% of consumers (and over 60% in Scotland) plan to buy more local food and drink in the future.

However, the same research also suggests that more than half of UK shoppers thought Scottish labelled products were better than those from elsewhere within the UK. Two-thirds of UK consumers perceived Scottish salmon, whitefish and shellfish as better than those of other origins and results from London were even higher! It makes sense to highlight “Scottishness” on menus.

So, what’s to learn? Know what your consumer is looking for, use local, highlight provenance and if in doubt, source from Scotland!

(*Scotland Food & Drink / Survation Survey conducted September 2016. Sample sizes Scotland 1018, RoUK 1008)

Species in Season 

Lobster is enjoying an unprecedented popularity with increased domestic sales recorded at both Easter and Christmas. Fresh Scottish blue lobster from Shetland, the Outer Hebrides and around the coastline is renowned as some of the highest quality in the world. As fishing continues in the summer months, the inshore boats are often out at sea for over 12 hours a day!

Ian Conway, executive head chef at the 3 AA Rosette Lochgreen House Hotel in Troon, has gone one step further than most restaurants may manage and installed a live lobster holding tank at the Kintyre restaurant. It houses mostly shellfish caught each week off the southwest Scottish coast. He sells up to 100 a week either as Thermidor at a very reasonable £30 or in a Lobster, Chorizo and Mango tart as a starter. He proudly labels it as “native Scottish lobster” on the menu.

It’s prepared simply by first freezing the creatures to make them sleepy, then plunging into boiling water for eight minutes for the body and around 13 minutes for the claws.

“Scottish lobster is melt-in-the-mouth, very sweet, and really meaty. Why would we source from anywhere else, when our own is second to none in terms of quality, flavour and freshness?” he said, adding that his American customers, many of whom come to the region for the golf, particularly appreciate locally sourced lobster on the menu. 

Once considered a pesky bycatch, Velvet crab, is also in season. This purply brown crab with a furry yet hard-shell is mainly traded in Spain, loved in Galicia, whilst in the UK there is little consumption outside of making stocks for soups and bisques. 

Yet Carla Lamont, chef at the Ninth Wave restaurant on the Isle of Mull (shortlisted for the upcoming Highlands and Islands Food Awards “Seafood Restaurant of the Year”), has them on the menu all year round. 

“I love velvet crab. They’re small and a bit fiddly but their white meat tastes very sweet and fresh, and sweeter than brown crab,” she told us. “I like to simply boil or steam them for a couple of minutes, and serve them with a bottle of chilled Gerwurtztraminer. We like to encourage diners to chill out and enjoy our local seafood at a leisurely pace. Velvets are not well-known in Scotland yet, perhaps because they take a bit of work to eat, but the taste is phenomenal.” The brown meat, by contrast, is bitter and not recommended for eating.

Monthly Catch

To name or not to name….that is the question!

Some chefs believe that since the local food movement has become the new “norm”, they no longer see the need to name their sources, suppliers or provenance of key ingredients…we’ve reached “peak provenance” and diners now assume all or most ingredients are locally-sourced. 

Efforts required to manage a “direct” and local sourcing policy can be expensive and timely, yet for some, it is still a restaurants USP. The White House seafood restaurant at Lochaline on the remote West coast of Scotland, for example, serves salmon from Ardshelach, hake from the Minch, hand-dived scallops from the Isle of Mull and brown crab from the Sound - all just a few miles from the restaurant. Locations which to most of us would be unheard of, yet for those eating in the restaurant, make the experience. 

Founder-patron Jane Stuart-Smith said: “The very reason we opened here is because everything was being shipped to France and Spain, so we decided to try and snaffle some of it. Sourcing locally and putting the provenance on our menu is absolutely critical for us. It takes a lot more effort and we’ve spent years building up local supplier contacts, but diners expect it – and they are happy to pay more for the ‘story’ behind it, the name of the boat and even the fishermen. It’s something they can’t get anywhere else.”

Whilst others believe it’s in the arms of the experts, the suppliers or wholesalers themselves to be named and highlighted as heroes. James Devine of Noble, Holywood (Belfast) and the reigning Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year, told us: “Naming the suppliers involved in the seafood on our menu makes a 100% difference to our restaurant. Providing more information on where and who our suppliers are and where our products come from seems to give them more confidence, helping to make sure they know it is high quality.”

With social media and communication channels more and more readily available to get hold of our producers, fishers and supplier and customers expecting a wider understanding from front of house of the products on their plate, are we in a position to not drive this agenda forward. Let’s let the products provenance take centre stage. 

Scotland produces some of the world’s finest seafood from the cool clean waters of its deep lochs and surrounding seas.

>>> Take a look at what else is available from Scotland here



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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th July 2017

Seafood Seasonal update - July 2017