Marcin Pacholarz wants to inspire us to eat a wider variety of fish…
“Most people in England are close-minded,” says Marcin Pacholarz, head chef at the WestBeach seafood restaurant. “They all love cod and sea bass, but there’s loads of good fish here.” It’s the bounty of fresh fish available from the south coast that excites Marcin, and perhaps a reason why he has stayed in Bournemouth ever since moving from Poland 14 years ago. On his seafood menu, you’ll find Christchurch Bay rock oysters, Poole Bay lobsters and Cornish Pollock – it’s a long way from his home country, where he admits there isn’t as great a variety of fish available. He told us more about the food he ate in Poland, his inspirations in England, and his favourite fish.
My first food memories
I can’t remember the first thing I made, but I did cook a lot with my mum when I was a kid in Poland. She cooked stews, dumplings, fish dishes… In Poland, we eat a lot of smoked fish, and I remember when we went to the seaside when I was a kid, there were lots of these beach huts where you could buy hot smoked mackerel.
The chef who inspired me
My inspiration was my friend, the head chef from The Pig hotel in Brockenhurst who employed me. It was proper fresh cooking – they have their own gardens, they grow their own vegetables, they have their own animals, and I wanted to do something similar. We can’t grow our own vegetables at WestBeach, but we can get the freshest fish imaginable. I’ve got a friendship with one of the local fisherman who brings me fresh fish in the morning. He rows every day, he doesn’t even have a motorboat. He rows to get me fish.
My favourite fish dish
It’s actually from our winter menu – monkfish tail cooked in a shellfish bisque with some fresh samphire. You have to make a crab and shellfish bisque from scratch – you roast your crab shells in the oven, then sweat some diced, mixed vegetables with your shells. Add some tomato purée, some fish stock and cook it, but not for long as you don’t want to lose the flavour.
My favourite fish to cook with
I really love to work with monkfish, because you can cook it using many different techniques – you can braise it in a stew or a bisque, or you can fry it, bake it, you can wrap it in pancetta…
What I cook at home
Most of the time my wife does the cooking, because I do enough at work! She cooks Polish dishes mainly, like goulash with roast potatoes, but she’s really happy when I have my days off, because she loves seafood and fish. So when I’m at home and I want to surprise her, I cook some fish dishes from the restaurant.
What I’d cook with peas, this month’s Vital Ingredient
I’d make some nice pea purée and use some fresh runner beans and sugar snap peas to garnish. Have it with a nice flat white fish – turbot or something like that.
Pier Approach, Bournemouth, BH2 5AA