Meet the three suppliers bringing fresh fish to the masses
PUBLISHED: 10:22 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:22 27 June 2017
Fish is becoming increasingly popular, whether as a healthy addition to your diet or as an alternative to add a touch of pizazz to your summer barbecue, so it's not surprising that our county's fish and seafood suppliers are busier than ever. Stephanie Mackentyre went to meet some of the county's best
Leigh on Sea
The Osborne Brothers have plentiful experience in selling shellfish since opening their first cockle shed more than 100 years ago. Their range has extended with the opening of a fishmongers in November 2015 and now includes not only cockles, but jellied eels, roll mops, salmon, sprats, anchovies, cod, trout, sea bass and also mackerel. Thomas George Osborne started the business in 1880. From a simple cockle shed in Old Leigh, he sold cockles. Today it’s the site of their cockle processing factory. It took 30 years for his family to purchase their very first boat, the Old Galley was purchased for £10 by sons Ernest, George, Frank and Walter.
During the 1980s, Peter Osborne (whose grandfather was George) and Steven Lawrence (son of Great Aunt Florence) took over the business. In 1991 a fourth boat was launched which is still currently in use today. Cousins Peter and Steven each have a son now running the business. Graham Osborne and Andrew Lawrence jointly run the business and between them they have managed the cockle boat, factory, the original popular café on the quayside (known locally as The Shed). Last year they opened a shop in Cockle Row selling shell fish and also seafood.
The shop is run by Terry Burley, the general manager. ‘Most popular on the shell fish side is still the cockles, but then its jellied eels and whelks. On the fish side, it would be cod, skate, salmon and sea bass.’
Some of the fish is still caught locally. ‘The skate, the gurnard and the odd Dover sole comes from local boats and the rest is from Billingsgate and the Shetland Islands,’ adds Terry. Last summer they introduced barbecue fish including fish kebabs plus chilli and garlic bream sold ready to take away and pop straight onto your sizzling barbecue.
‘As soon as we launched it, it went down a storm. We also do a barbecue salmon and prawns, and also tuna.’ In the trade for 30 years, Terry hadn’t discovered Old Leigh until he came for the interview. ‘When I saw this opportunity, I just knew I had to apply. Since we opened I’ve created a beautiful shop, using traditional methods, but also with a modern twist. Now I live here, as I’ve made Leigh on Sea my home – it’s a lovely little town.’
Little Fish Company
Maria Nash and her partner, Phil Wright, started The Little Fish Company nine years ago, supplying fresh fish and seafood products to the catering trade. Their home in Kelvedon gave them a shop front three years ago and enough room out back to prepare the fish for sale for their trade customers. Now the couple are moving again, this time to Langham, and with some of the three acre plot they are planning to build a new processing unit. Together the couple offer their customers the freshest fish they can possibly find. They also source from a number of local fishermen and all locally-caught fish is prepared and on the counter within 24 hours. Some of their fresh fish comes from markets including line-caught cod from Lowestoft in Suffolk, halibut, haddock and coley from Peterhead in Scotland and salmon from Loch Duart. From Billingsgate Market Phil can also source more unusual wet fish including tuna, swordfish, snapper and pink bream.
Phil says ‘We have an apprentice Daisy who, along with my brother Steven, who are going to run the shop so that we can concentrate on deliveries, as we’ve just purchased another van.’
The couple only manage one week’s holiday a year. Maria says: ‘Phil won’t ever retire, he’s a workaholic!’ However he does fit in time to go out on a friend’s boat to land fish whenever his deliveries allow. Interestingly Phil’s not a fan of seafood. ‘I don’t like eating fish, I just supply it,’ says Phil. ‘I always used to eat it, but now I see so much of it, I’d rather have a bacon sandwich!’ Starting their business with just five pubs to supply, they now deliver to many chefs all around Essex. ‘We still have four of the original pubs as customers and the fifth one is no longer a pub. We don’t go touting for business, as we get all of our work by word of mouth.’
Lambton & Jackson
Lambton & Jackson is an artisan smokery, run by Sean Jackson and Darcy Lambton. Head Smoker and businessman Sean was raised in the Maldon area and has been smoking fish professionally since he left school. After joining forces with Darcy Lambton things have been really smoking!
‘When Darcy and I first met, I’d already been in Chigborough smoking fish for a year,’ says Sean. After setting up business together in 2013, Sean and Darcy are now exporting their smoked eels and salmon all over the world. ‘Now we are producing almost four tonnes of smoked fish each month,’ adds Sean. The Lambton & Jackson brand has made it as far as Naples and Poland, with many customers furnished in London as well as of course here in Essex. In their very first year they got a spectacular break when Marcus Wareing put Lambton & Jackson’s Maldon deep smoked salmon on his menu at The Berkeley and their special smoking process is a closely guarded secret.
‘Because of the old traditional method I use, my products have a 40 day shelf life and we only smoke salmon and eel,’ says Sean. Sean was taught by a master smoker, since retired, who originates from Brightlingsea. ‘The art is having smoke not fire and it’s also all down to the salting. Other smokeries cover the fish with a little salt, but we literally bury our products in salt to draw the moisture out.’
So go on indulge yourself this summer, enjoy guilt-free, oh so fresh, fabulous Essex fish.
Get the taste
01702 477233/01702 477387
Little Fish Company
34 High Street
Lambton & Jackson