Fat Belly Fred’s is the answer to a quest for fresh and delicious seafood in the centre of Barnstaple.
Location: Maiden Street, Barnstaple
Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday 6pm-10pm, lunch service Friday-Saturday 12noon-3pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
To book: call 01271 345 700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (allow 24hrs notice)
Why it’s on my list
Fat Belly Fred’s has always been a recognised name in Barnstaple, but it really jumped on my radar after my uncle from London came down to Devon last year and raved about how wonderful it was after dining there. The freshness of the fish and the head chef’s detailed knowledge of how it had all been sourced was particularly impressive.
I owed my dad a thank you for helping us put up a fence recently, and as a former chef and Asian man, thank yous come in the form of food. He is a hard one to impress and he eats a lot of fish, so I put two and two together and came up with…Fat Belly Fred’s!
What we had
I ordered the seafood platter, which I shared with my husband. It was a mighty feast, which included:
- Dusted squid with an aioli dip
- Sweet chilli king prawns
- Seafood paella
- Seafood gratin (we chose the white wine sauce)
- Mini moules a la creme with bread for mopping up the sauce
- French fries
- Mixed vegetables
It was £40 for two and was definitely enough to be the equivalent of a starter and main course. I also had an Amaretto cheesecake for dessert.
My parents had a king prawn, ginger and spring onion starter, and a scallop, ginger and spring onion starter. They both had sea bass on crushed new potatoes for main. They clearly have similar tastes!
I’ll only speak for what I ate myself, but their food looked bright, fresh and simple – in a good way. Here are their dishes in photo form.
The seafood platter was definitely a good choice; the sheer variety of fish and styles they were cooked in was a great taster for someone who doesn’t normally eat a lot of fish – that would be me!
Crunchy squid and velvety gratin provided a variety of textures.
My husband liked the sweet chilli king prawns most; the sauce had a nice kick and the prawns were well cooked – lovely. It may look like a small portion, and that’s because it is. But it packs a punch in a platter that is anything but small.
The seafood paella was wonderful and my highlight. It featured chunky prawns, tasty chorizo, cockles and mussels, and I loved the delicious white fish – it just melted in the mouth. The rice was well cooked and flavoursome – I would definitely recommend ordering this as a main.
The fries were great.
Normally the bread roll at the start of the meal doesn’t get a look in, but I have to mention how much of a pleasant surprise it was – it had the colour and subtle taste of saffron and crunchy corn dusted on top.
Not quite the best
The mussels were delicious and well cooked, but the gratin was in a sauce that was very similar, if not the same, so I think we missed a chance for variety. The sauce itself was nice, but too rich, salty and cheesy to appear in two of five seafood dishes. We should have gone for the tomato sauce with the mussels.
The mixed vegetables were a little underwhelming – carrot and broccoli, so the kind of thing I would have at home – and I prefer my broccoli to have a little more vibrancy of colour and some more bite. Some well cooked and seasoned Mediterranean veg would have been perfect.
Warm, clean, well located for car parking – it was unfussy and ideal for us. The chairs were comfortable, and they were kind enough to move a table so that all five of us could sit downstairs – my nan didn’t want to tackle the stairs because of her knee. Nicely lit, so you can see your food. Background noise was as unfussy as the decor – I enjoyed the sounds of the kitchen (a very organised noise!) and the entertaining chat of the owner when it got quieter. Geoff clearly knows his fish and isn’t afraid to slip in the fact that he’s served a stint at the Mason’s Arms.
Dine early – a customer came down and said her thank yous before leaving, during which she thanked Geoff for giving her the last lobster. I would have definitely ordered lobster if it had been available; lobster is simply the best when cooked well, and I have no doubt they would cook it well at Fat Belly Fred’s. Dine early is the rule to live by when you choose a restaurant whose menu is based on the availability of fresh ingredients.
A good meal and a good night. The place to try a variety of seafood.