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Restaurant review: We take a bite out of Mourne Fishbox

mournefishbox.com Tel: 028 4176 4919

By Joris Minne

This being the NI Year of Food and Drink provides me with the pretext to go slightly beyond the usual remit of writing about restaurants. While more of us leave the kitchen idle and choose to eat out instead, moves are afoot to reverse the trend. One such move comes from a Kilkeel fish company which has unleashed its cunning plan to get us back to the cooker.

Mourne Seafoods Ltd (not linked to Belfast and Dundrum's Mourne Seafood Bar) down at the Co. Down fishing port has created an online operation called mournefishbox.com selling boxes of freshly landed fish and seafood. For a reasonable fee it is dispatching various sizes of these boxes to homes around the north. I went online to look up the various offers and took delivery of one last week.

The choice of boxes ranges in price and size from £19.50 for a box of filleted fish to £47 for a full dinner party spread featuring everything you'd need for eight people, including oysters, scallops and sea bass.

That's all fine really, but, frankly, who wants to go to the bother? I know there are many of you out there who like nothing better than getting stuck into the pans and stove and creating fabulous meals, but I am not like you. I do not like cooking; I like eating and am good at it.

Yet there is something strangely compelling about the Mourne Seafoods approach which awoke the cook in me. My inner cook had fallen asleep after years of preparing simple, boring dinners for the children. Cooking had become a chore and anything outside the house was going to be far more attractive. You can't do a good burrito, pizza or burger at home the way Acapulco, Little Wing or City Picnic can, so don't try, is my motto.

But the fishbox appeal resonated deep inside me like Jack London's Call of the Wild. Promises of cold, exciting, just-caught fish, landed hours earlier in Kilkeel; fresh from the shore straight to your door; who could resist it? And how practical! Too busy to get to the seaside? Here's a bit of it brought directly to you.

The Winter Warmer box arrived the next day by DPD courier. Iced but not frozen and safely temperature protected in the thick polystyrene box, the contents included loads of vacuum-packed fillets of cod, lightly smoked haddock, a chowder mix of three fish and a book of recipes.

You can ditch the book of recipes because they don't match the contents. Rather, do what I did and go to the recipes on the Mourne Seafoods website. Well displayed, easy to follow and ultimately very inviting, there is an addictive quality to the interchange between screen and pan. It makes a mess of your iPad, though.

I made the chowder the first night, which could have fed eight people. Despite using the wrong potatoes and cutting corners on the recipe, it was still good enough for the teens to go beyond the sniffing stage and actually ingest some of it.

A couple of nights later I got ambitious and looked up the fish pie recipe. You have to understand this was an audacious move because the advisor's mother makes the best fish pie available west of Tokyo, so attempting it was a step into the deep end. But emboldened by the contents of the box and the simplicity of the instructions, I felt I couldn't fail.

Huge success. Carried through the house on the shoulders of maidens to shouts of 'hurrah' and 'jolly good fellow', I am now under pressure to do the smoked haddock risotto with poached eggs next.

There's still a fair bit of fish left, which now sits in the freezer until the next call.

I went from uncertain and unwanting to committed and desirous of more. It's a clever idea well executed. The fact that the fish arrives with four days use-by and freezability is particularly attractive.

What might help is if Mourne Seafood threw in one or two printed recipes to match the contents of the box just to make life a little easier. The recipes are all online, but if, like me, you don't like leaving fishy smears all over the iPad screen, then printouts would be welcome.

The bill:

Mourne Seafoods Box Winter Warmer £30.50

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