Oysters, lobsters, scallops, tiger prawns, langoustines, monkfish and halibut are advertised as ‘Valentine’s Day specials’ outside this new fishmonger in Camden Passage. It’s the fourth branch – and the first in north London – of the highly respected Moxon’s chain.
A large display of sparklingly fresh, top-quality fish, such as smoked mackerel and un-dyed smoked haddock is prominent in the contemporary looking shop. The selection changes daily, and may include kiln-roast salmon, cod and haddock fillets, swordfish, tuna, skate and rainbow trout. You’ll also find Manx kippers and buckling, a variety of hot-smoked herring with the roe, considered a delicacy, kept in.
On our visit, the large range further included Arctic char, squid, wild sea bass, Dover sole, gurnard, pink bream, Palourde clams, crevettes and cockles. Additionally, there are live crabs, cooked crabs and freshly picked crabmeat. Brightening up the piscine panorama with even more colour are traditional accompaniments like lemons, chillies, parsley and fennel.
Special items include locally farmed, award-winning Loch Duart salmon steaks and fillets; plus spider crabs (£6.99/kg), John Dory (£15.50/kg) and red mullet (£23.50/kg). Mussels are £4.50 per kg, and prawns are £25 per kg. However, these prices are just an indication: they fluctuate daily, depending on the fish’s market value, which in turn is dictated by factors such as weather conditions and availability.
The fishy theme continues in the chiller cabinets, which are filled with the likes of marinated herrings, cuttlefish ink, prepared brown shrimps and assorted caviar. Ready-cooked dishes ideal for picking up after work include chunky cod, garlic and parsley fishcakes (£2.50 each).
With a few exceptions, most of the seafood is from the UK. Branch manager Kevin Hughes is at Billingsgate Market by 6 am every morning; and as the market is closed on Mondays, so is this shop. Fish is also bought every day directly from the coastal markets of Scalloway in the Shetland Islands, Scotland’s Loch Duart and Peterhead, Newhaven in Sussex, Brixham in Devon, and Newlyn and Plymouth in Cornwall. Hughes says: “We buy differently from most other fishmongers, cutting out the middle man, in order to offer more variety.”
He adds that the owner Robin Moxon is “passionate about the industry and building relationships with traders, and it’s important to him where the fish comes from.” It’s sourced sustainably as they are “committed to looking after fish ecology and changing the approach to fishing”. So you won’t find endangered species such as blue fin tuna; there’s no demand from eco-savvy locals anyway.
And to help transform your purchases into dinner party masterpieces, there are a few deli items, too, like calasparra rice, condiments, olives, pasta, freshly made dips and sauces, sushi ingredients, and a selection of cookery books. Knowledgeable staff are on hand to give recipe ideas and advice on buying fish, tailored to your taste and the occasion. Bespoke seafood platters can also be ordered.
“We’re excited to be in the neighbourhood and hope to be of service to everyone in the local community”, says Hughes. Does he have any cooking tips for Valentine’s Day? “Start with half a dozen oysters. No preparation necessary – just open them up”, he advises. “Then follow with something rich, like pan-fried scallops with mashed potatoes and wilted greens.” So now there is no excuse not to indulge your loved one – or, indeed, yourself.
Moxon’s Islington, 110 Islington High Street, N1 8EG. Tel: 020 7704 1120.