HDYTI guest contributors Lorraine & Dennis Simpson share their experience at a Loire Valley Wine and Seafood Tasting Evening held at Billingsgate Seafood School.


Date night: Billingsgate Seafood School

Long before the silver towers of Canary Wharf appeared, and nestled just north of the River Thames, Billingsgate Market market has been resident in the area for over a hundred years. It is also the location of Billingsgate Seafood School where we attended a special Loire Valley Wine and Seafood Tasting evening.

Entrance | Loire Valley Wine and Seafood Tasting at Billingsgate | via @dipyourtoesin

*All images were taken by Lorraine Caballero Simpson*


My husband and I were intrigued to attend the wine and seafood tasting event if only to vanquish from our minds the image of Will Smith’s unfortunate allergic reaction to seafood in the film, Hitch (worth a watch by the way!).

When we arrived at the school, we were warmly greeted by the school managers Chris Herlihy and Funda Cizgenakad who showed us around and gave us some background history of the market. As there was no practical element to the event, the agenda was to spend the rest of the evening eating a selection of seafood, complemented by some classic wines from the French Loire Valley.

After mingling with the other visitors and bloggers, we were introduced to Chef Denna Smith who provided further insight to the seafood training school. Noteworthy was hearing how chef and CEO CJ Jackson opened up the school from a core audience of fish related trades to a wider audience that now includes restaurants, catering colleges, schools and food lovers in general.

Deena outlined the menu for the evening. Our dégustation tasting would include: Taramasalata with Carrot sticks, Squid, Skewered Chilli Mackerel, Plaice Goujons, Salt Pollock Fish Cakes made with sweet potatoes (yummy!) and Gravadlax (Filleted Salmon) on rye bread.

Wine expert and writer Joanna Simon was on hand to give us a quick history of the wines of the Loire Valley. We would be sampling a few wines with mainly Muscadet appellations that evening.

The elemental feature of the Muscadet region, located near the mouth of the Loire Valley is that the coolness of the valley gives the wines a light and crisp composition and the right fruitiness and acidity that makes them an excellent choice for seafood.


Loire Valley wines and seafood pairing

The first dish of the evening, presented by Chef Clare Philips, was the Taramasalata with Carrot sticks paired with Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire 2014.

The dish itself was made up of smoked cod roe (skinned) whizzed together with garlic, greek yogurt, sunflower oil and the juice from half a lemon which made the taramasalata warmer and smoother.

This was complemented wonderfully by the paired Muscadet. The resulting feeling was one of an incredibly light, refreshing and easy to drink wine with a pleasant after taste. Definitely one for the wine cellar, when we get one!


The second dish was a squid affair paired with Touraine Sauvignon 2014. This was such a difference to our previous personal experience with squid. We much preferred this version which was sliced smaller, pan fried and dressed with olive oil, parsley and paprika that turned it into Cinderella! In fact, the dressing was the key to our enjoyment of this dish.

Compared to the Muscadet from earlier, the Touraine was slightly stronger, more earthy. Joanna described it as a more ‘elegant wine’ and from its taste, it did have a more evening feel to it in contrast to the Muscadet.

Dish three was Plaice Goujons. They were light, crunchy and the tartare sauce gave them some zest! The plaice was cut into strips, covered in fresh breadcrumbs, fried and then garnished with some parsley and chopped figs.

The fourth dish, Chilli Mackerel, received wide approval from the entire audience. The mackerel was cooked for 5 minutes on each side and seasoned with ingredients that included honey, olive oil, sesame oil, root ginger and finely chopped red chillies. The mackerel was accompanied by a simple but refreshing salad made up of a handful of bitter salad leaves, rocket, chicory, mint and coriander leaves. But the best bit was the white wine vinegar, brown sugar, and ginger added to it; the sweetness blending ever so well with the mackerel.

The intricate dance between wine and seafood continued. Joanna paired both the Roultiere Sauvignon 2013 and the Bruno Cormerais 2012 to go with the Goujons and the Mackerel. We felt they were less fruity than the previous two, and drier, but the latter worked well with the mackerel.


To add variety to the evening, we had an Anjou 2011 to taste. The Anjou was a deep red wine, fairly strong and almost bitter to taste.

The next dish was Salt Pollock fish cakes with Salsa. Fish cakes, in general, tend to be bland. However, these fish cakes were made with sweet potatoes and so they tasted even better than we thought they would!

Clare had soaked the pollocks for 24 hours before draining them. She then poached them in lemon juice and peppercorns.The sweet potatoes were mixed with the pollocks and then covered in breadcrumbs and lightly fried. The accompanying salsa made up of avocado, red onion, tomatoes and lime juice extended the flavours of this dish even further.

Our final dish of the evening was Gravadlax Salmon. The 24 hour cured salmon was fresh and mild to taste due to the sugar. This final dish was paired with The Comte Leloup 2010, a Muscadet. A favorite of the evening, this wine’s crisp, citrus, fruity was only topped, we think, by the Coteaux De La Loire 2014.


Seafood school – A quality product

We really enjoyed our experience at the Billingsgate Seafood Training School. We couldn’t help but be enthused by the school’s management and staff. Their passion, their professionalism, the quality of product and service were all a delight.

Their collective desire to bring the benefits and knowledge of seafood to a wider audience is inspiring. In addition to their evening and weekend courses for food lovers, as a charity, they also seek to engage young people through community outreach projects.


Book a course. Go visit. Learn. Wax lyrical. Return…and experience again, with a Muscadet in your right hand and a goujon in your left. Adieu!



To find out about courses and special events at Billingsgate Seafood School, visit their website or call 020 7517 3548.

Billingsgate Seafood School is located at Billingsgate Market, Trafalgar Way, London E14 5ST


Disclaimer: We were invited as guests of Billingsgate Seafood School, however, all opinions and views remain our own.

*All images were taken by Lorraine Caballero Simpson.


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Wine and Seafood Tasting at Billingsgate Seafood School | via @dipyourtoesin.com



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They met many years ago, her zany as Tigger, him optimistic as Eeyore, their unique ingredients created something...magical. They blend their perspectives through the lens, and craft interesting stories with their pens.