Good Food Review: Olley's Fish Experience
This was the first of our restaurant reviews. Being The ‘Eel, we didn’t want to stop at ‘tastes nice, great atmosphere’, so we chatted to our friends at the Sustainable Restaurant Association before sending Zoe McIntyre out…
When a proliferation of glossy menus wielding tags of ‘local’, ‘seasonal’ and ‘organic’ can often feel like box-ticking ploys, it’s reassuring to find a dining experience like Olley’s Fish Experience, where genuinely sustainable seafood in served in a refreshingly authentic setting.
Standing across from Brockwell Park in Herne Hill, the rustic restaurant has a topsy-turvy verve to it, with wonky walls of exposed pink brick, wood furnishings and a mezzanine dangling with pendulous pot plants. My companions and I bundled in on a blustery Tuesday, one of their gluten-free nights, and were pleased to see both classic fried fish and chips as well as healthier steamed and grilled alternatives on offer.
Owner Harry Niazi has worked hard to source Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish and seafood and has removed from his kitchen any species listed as unsustainable by the Marine Conservation Society. The restaurant has snapped up various awards thanks to its ethical ethos. But they love humans as well as fish, sponsoring a local jazz festival as well as supporting charities StreetSmart and The Fishermen’s Mission, as well as offering discounts to elderly customers through Dulwich Helpline.
The menu brims with a great array of fish and seafood, well-marked with clear indications of sourcing. Traditional favourites like MSC-certified cod (line caught from the North Atlantic) and Whitby scampi sit alongside premium-grade, organically-farmed Scottish salmon and hake that once swam in Cornish waters. Fishy feasts come with chunky chips cut from British-grown potatoes and there’s a wide choice of vegetable sides, from wilted spinach to mushy peas.
To start, my friends and I ordered scallops that were satisfyingly fleshy and served in their shells with a good smear of garlicky butter. After, many of us succumbed to the intriguingly named Cilla Black’s Experience – a gargantuan plate of haddock, cold water prawns and scampi served with chips and onion rings. Perhaps not the most elegant choice for a blind date, it was certainly enough for two to share and, at £16.50, more than on nodding terms with great value. Those of us defeated by the portion sizes were encouraged by the staff to take our leftovers home to prevent food waste.
The waiting staff were affable and attentive but could have been more forthcoming with conveying the provenance of the fish selection and the ethical virtues of the restaurant. Nevertheless, this did little to hinder the overall enjoyment of the evening.
Interested in knowing more about Sustainable Fish? Read our Fishy Business article here.
Food Made Good
Dine out without leaving your principles at home by keeping an eye out for the Food Made Good mark. Run by the Sustainable Restaurant Association, the scheme uses a simple star rating to give diners a guide to eateries’ sourcing, social and environmental practices. Think of them as the Michelin stars of sustainability, rewarding excellence for people and planet, and find somewhere near you that’s making food good.
Find out more at the FISH IT Food Talk, Thursday 21 June 2018 at Kings Cross Impact Hub
This feature first appeared in The Jellied Eel magazine issue 53, January 2017