Gavin Forman from the Old George and Dragon in East Maitland is the son of the son of a fisherman’s son. His ancestors fished the Irish seas and he felt right at home as the breeze blew and the waves crashed against the break wall outside his ‘kitchen’ window.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes celebrates Christmas eve in an Italian tradition where seven fishes are served at family gatherings. Seafood features regularly on the menu at the Old George and Dragon. Along with his jokes and frivolity, Gavin brought some old favourites and some new gems from The George’s menu. He couldn’t stop himself at just seven fishes, but stretched to include eight different types of seafood to serve to guests at his ‘home’ for the night.
Our first four ‘fishes’ featured in canapés of smoked eel en croute with horseradish crème fraiche, prawn cocktail and salmon and crab cakes with tarragon aioli. They were savoured while we watched the beach below us empty of crowds and the lights begin to twinkle over the city.
Never tiring of the view we were called to the table for dinner. A fabulous Irish soda bread with Hot and Sour prawn soup served in a glass topped with kaffir lime cream and having the appearance of a dark Irish ale! The warm soup slid through the cold cream and the flavours mixed into perfection. As if to punctuate this dish fireworks began to explode from the harbour, pulling everyone from their seats to capture the sight from a birds perspective. The White Rabbit couldn’t claim the credit for these, but everyone was glad to pretend they were for our private enjoyment.
An enormous coal ship passed noiselessly by as our feast continued with a tasting plate of salted cod balls, cinnamon-grilled barramundi and french seafood sausage. Duck fat potato chips saluted an Aussie summer and a side of fennel and orange and a salad of pineapple, coriander, chilli and soft shell crab with caramel dressing were passed around the table like a Christmas dinner party.
It was not just dinner that popped up in the cottage that night. Madeleine Kelman 11 pop up gallery presented the ‘Seven’ exhibition for the Feast. It featured award winning and established Novacastrian artists Michelle Brodie, Nicola Hensel, Jane Lander, Claire Martin, Gordon Snow, John Turier and Mazie Turner who are all represented in our regional collections and beyond. The artworks gave the bare walls of the cottage a more lived in feel and we were able to enjoy the works of local, living artists. All artwork was for sale and the pop up gallery remains open in a virtual capacity until the end of December. If any of the works are of interest contact Madeleine.
Dessert was a tribute to the lemon flavours that typically enhance a seafood dish. A candied lemon panna cotta with macadamia nut brittle, kiwifruit sauce and red wine and cinnamon poached pear. It was fresh and light with a zing and a crunch all in one bite.
A cottage that usually stands lonely by the beams of the lighthouse relived some memories that night. It became alive again as aroma’s wafted from the kitchen, drinks were poured, plates were shared and the views from its windows celebrated the sea, the city and the opportunity to dine in a piece of Newcastle’s history.
Check out the photos.