An affordable night out at Seafood market

If you are on a tight budget, as most are in January, but still wanting to go out for a meal, there can be few better choices than Balobi’s Seafood Market & Deli at the Port. During the season this cavernous venue was bursting at the seams on most days and word has it that they were serving well over 1000 meals most days. That’s a lot of cooking and that they managed to serve these sorts of numbers truly is remarkable and says a lot about the staff that manager Janet Harrison has put together.

Looking back a couple of years one remembers the Seafood Market only opening on a Friday for a couple of hours. One didn’t have to toss a coin of where to get lunch on a Friday and hake & chips was top of most of those who religiously made the trek to the Port most Friday’s. Its growing popularity saw it opening during the week and finally upgrading from a take-away to a small diner with beautiful views over the ocean. This saw its popularity grow and it wasn’t long before finding an empty table meant getting there a little earlier and as custom grew, so did their operating hours until it quite simply outgrew itself.

And so the decision to close the adjacent Loligos Restaurant and expand the Seafood market into the enormous area that the Seafood Market now occupies. A better decision they could not have made for Loligos simply didn’t work, certainly for this scribe.

Venturing to the Port only once over the season and seeing the crowd spilling out of the restaurant’s doors I beat a hasty retreat, sadly deprived of my portion of the sea’s bounty.

An invitation to celebrate a friends birthday at the Seafood Market renewed my acquaintance on Saturday evening. Although it meant missing out on the fun music of ‘Absent Irish’ and the  ‘taking back St Francis’ party at Legends, friends always come first closely followed by hake & chips. And so eight of us gathered at the restaurant at around 7:00 and were not disappointed. Being so late, they close at 8:00, I expected it to be deserted but whilst not bursting at the seams, it was busy enough  to not make one feel uncomfortable in the knowledge that it wasn’t your table keeping the staff from getting home to their families.

As always the meals were excellent and nary a complaint from anyone at the small birthday bash.  My choice of grilled hake with rice was an absolute winner and unlike so many fish restaurants, Seafood Market doesn’t hold back on the lemon quarters. And the choice of rice rather than chips was rewarded with a really inventive rice dish filled with colour.

Outstanding company, excellent service, well-priced and delicious food served with very little delay and all exactly as ordered.

A few small comments though, not criticisms, just ideas to consider.

Whilst appreciating that the Seafood Market is able to keep their prices low by cutting back on serving and scullery staff, a slightly larger group, such as ours, had a problem ordering. In the end one of our party wrote down all our orders on any available space on one of the menus as there was nowhere else to make up the order. Maybe putting a small note pad with a pencil on the table for larger groups would be a good idea and would certainly make it easier for the person going to the counter to place the order.

The last two comments have nothing to do with the food or service which, as said, were excellent, but rather on the general ambience. Whilst the majority of the restaurant is quite well lit, the area at the back where we were seated, adjacent where the deli products and fresh fish are sold and obviously closed that late into the evening was quite dark and dingy. I spotted a couple of lights above our table but these had been switched off.

The last comment was as one approached the restaurant in what was the old take-away area, seemingly now used as a preparation area. It was left in a rather messy condition with empty food containers on the working counters as if those working there had heard the going home bell and dropped everything in their haste to leave. Appearance is so important and small things can detract from the overall experience.