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The Seafood Cave and Grill
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire
01332 955151
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Dinner At The Seafood Cave and Grill, Matlock Bath

Published On Sunday 19 May 2024 by Sticky Beak
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Seeing Chef Ian McGhie is always a pleasure (he’s just one of those cheery, friendly souls), but it was especially wonderful to see him recently. For those who don’t know, Ian was involved in a horrific incident at the start of 2024, breaking many parts of his body; to see him back at work is nothing short of a miracle, and one I am very grateful for!

Courtney greeted The Man and I as warmly as ever and showed us to our fave table, right in front of the kitchen pass where you literally see the magic unfold. After Ian had introduced us to his new Sous Chef, Emillian, who he’s worked with for over 20 years in various establishments (!), it was time to attend to the first task: order drinks. There is a great selection of wines on offer at The Seafood Cave and Grill, so I had a glass of NZ Sauvignon Blanc; I had expected His Nibs to go for a bottle of lager, but he also fancied a glass of the Sauv.

As always, the restaurant was full to capacity (not many places can say that at the moment, so it’s testament to the quality of food that Ian produces) and the aromas were making our mouths water. Courtney brought over a pair of Amuse Bouches for us – dinky spoons bearing crispy Tempura King Prawns with Pea Purée and micro Pea Shoot. The batter was absolutely gorgeous; no greasiness anywhere, just super-light crispy joy that allowed the gentle flavour of the juicy King Prawns to shine in the mouth. I was a bit gob-smacked that His Nibs ate the Prawn, you all know his feelings towards seafood generally.

Regular blog readers will be aware of The Man’s ever-growing confidence in trying new foods, and my frustration at the rapidly reducing extra portions that are making their way onto my plate as he passes things over! There are a few things that I have utter confidence in, however, that are always going to be mine: fresh, uncooked Tomato, Mushrooms (unless they’re chopped finely and are in a sauce or some-such), Smoked Fish, and Prawns. Given the fact that he’d just declared that he’d enjoyed the Amuse Bouche, my faith was wobbling a smidge, as he ordered the Surf ‘n’ Turf for his main. Would I be the recipient of extras on my plate, or would yet another morsel be added to his repertoire?

First, though, we had our starters to savour. I had opted for the Cave Cocktail (£14) and The Man had Seared Shetland Scallops with Stornoway Black Pudding Bon-Bon, Pea Purée and Samphire from the specials board (£15). Ian gets his seafood FedExed down from Scotland fresh every day, so you can be sure that you’re getting top-notch morsels, and also ones that are at their peak. 

We’ve seen some Scallops in our time, but the ones at The Seafood Cave and Grill are about the largest we’ve sampled…and they are wonderfully sweet and fragrant, with a surprisingly meaty texture. His Nibs loved the contrast between the delicate seafood flavour and the oomph of the Black Pudding; everything was balanced perfectly by the sweet Pea Puree and the salty Samphire, making this a stunning beginning to The Mans’ meal. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a Prawn Cocktail and this one was mind-blowing, the Marie Rose sauce zhuzhed up with Vodka to impart a bit of warmth at the back of the throat. The skewered Tiger Prawns were pimped with Garlic and Herbs, which enhanced their fragrant flesh, and the Smoked Salmon Mousse was light and airy in texture, contrasting with its rich taste. Toasted Focaccia added a bit of crunch, texturally, and the Soused/Pickled Cucumber rose provided a blast of sourness on the palate.

It came as no surprise to Courtney that our plates were spotless as she collected them when we’d put our cutlery down; she’d already asked if we were enjoying our food, and got huge grins in response, and Ian had been watching from the pass whenever he’d been assembling dishes for other diners. Not long after, our mains were being put together on the plates and all the elements carefully placed to maximise their visual appeal.

The specials board had been on our table when we’d first sat down and I’d spotted the ½ Devon Lobster, so that was me sorted – as soon as I see ‘Lobster’, I’m sold!! Alongside the Lobster was a 4oz Derbyshire Fillet Steak, Spring Greens and Shellfish Reduction, and Ian’s iconic Truffle Parmesan Fries; all this costs £45, and for the quantity and quality, is really good value. I mentioned earlier that The Man had gone for the Surf ‘n’ Turf (£34) and this is comprised of 8-hour Braised Derbyshire Beef Shin and the days’ ‘Market Fresh’ selection of Fish and Seafood. On this particular day, the Market Fresh was Smoked Mackerel, King Prawns, Sea Trout and Monkfish; I was rubbing my hands in glee, anticipating that at least the Mackerel was coming my way!

Lobster is simply wonderful, in my opinion, all sweet, succulent and gorgeously perfumed. Devon is clearly the place to swim and live in if you’re a Crustacean; this beauty was massive, and bear in mind, I was only having half! Ian had done a lot of the work for me, teasing out most of the claw meat, so I only had to use the pick for the smaller, fiddler jobs. I’d asked for my Fillet Steak to be rare, and it was done perfectly: no blood oozing, but just the outside seared brown. The beef was every bit as tasty as the seafood and was earthy where the Lobster had been sweet, making for a beautifully balanced plate. Asparagus and Samphire were still crunchy and bursting with spring exuberance, matched by the exquisite Shellfish reduction that was liberally swirled around the periphery of the platter. You can’t beat the combo of seafood and fries, just look at ‘Moules Frites’ in its utter marvellousness; and you definitely can’t beat Ian’s Truffle Parmesan Fries! These minxes exude rich, bold flavours: deep, musky Truffle and pungent Parmesan, mingling with the gentle nuttiness of the humble spud that is fried to crisp glory.

Whilst chowing down on my dish, I’d been keeping a stealthy eye on His Nibs’ progress, anticipating the arrival of Smoked Mackerel and King Prawns on my plate. A bit like staring at a kettle, it seemed to be taking ages for anything to materialise, so I enquired as to The Mans’ enjoyment of his food: ‘blooming fantastic, I’m actually loving the Mackerel and King Prawns, which I never thought I’d do”, came the reply. Nope, I never thought you’d like them either, bud – is nothing sacred? I swear down, if he likes Mushrooms then it’s gonna be divorce!! For literally years, I’ve been pestering His Maj to try Prawns and ‘fishy’ fish, saying that if it’s super-fresh it doesn’t taste fishy; and whaddya know, I’ve been proved right, though it was a bit of a hollow victory. Ian is obsessed with the quality and freshness of the produce he uses, and after 25years as a Chef, he knows what he’s after; to that end, he gets FedEx deliveries daily from Scotland and used DHL for the Devon Lobster.

Yet again, Courtney was carrying empty plates and bowls back to the kitchen and returned with the dessert menu; proper temptress she is…or maybe our gluttony precedes us??!! Returning to the specials board whence his starter choice had been made, The Man opted for the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream, Puff Candy and Salted Caramel Sauce (£8). I went for Lime Posset, Marmalade Shortbread Sandwich, Honey Roasted Berries, Puff Candy and Lemon Curd (£8) and it wasn’t long before Courtney was winging them over to us with her huge, trademark smile.

Turns out, Puff Candy is what I’d call Honeycomb/Cinder Toffee; whatever, it was intensely sweet with that intriguing burnt hint at its edge, and it went really nicely in both sweet treats. My Posset was luxuriantly creamy, with a citrus hint that cut through the richness superbly, and I fell in love with the contrast of the crumbly, buttery Shortbread rounds and the tang of the thick-cut Marmalade; Paddington Bear would definitely be falling over himself to get his paws on this morsel! Assorted Berries and pleasingly thick Lemon Curd provided another layer of tartness to this dessert, though with the supremely creamy Posset, the palate could take it.

Across the table, His Nibs was spooning mouthful after mouthful of his dessert, smiling in that way he does when something’s hitting his brain’s pleasure centre. The pudding itself was quite mellow in taste, leaving it to the Salted Caramel to really impress the palate; this it most certainly did, breezing in like some blousy New York dame! The Puff Candy provided a hefty dollop of texture and cool Vanilla Ice Cream provided a great temperature contrast, melting against the Toffee Puddings’ warm outer. You always know when a dish is good because you can hear cutlery scraping against crockery in that desperate bid to garner every last scrap and pop it into eager mouths and bellies.

Yet again, this had been an incredible meal at The Seafood Cave and Grill in Matlock Bath, and it had been lovely to see children in with their parents, too. I think part of the magic is that Ian doesn’t faff about with the fish and seafood overly much, preferring to let the natural flavours flood over our taste buds. Fresh herbs are liberally used, but to augment rather than dominate, and ingredients found near the sea/coast also factor prominently, their action being harmonious and sympathetic rather than jarring: the ozonic tang of Samphire, for example.

If you haven’t visited this amazing venue yet, all I can say is “why on earth not?!”. The food is beyond excellent, the service is superb and the restaurant is intimate and quirky – yes, it really does have its own cave! The under-cover courtyard also allows dogs in, so if you’re visiting with your pooch, you can still eat well. To book a table call 01332 955151 or visit the website www.theseafoodcave.biz – you can also view the menus here. The Seafood Cave and Grill is closed on Tuesdays but opens Monday & Weds-Fri 5pm-10pm and Noon-10pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The only thing left to say (if you haven’t guessed by now!) is that Hot Wings are very happily awarded here. Thank you to Ian for inviting us along, you and your wonderful team gave us another memorable evening.

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