Crispy calamari, meaty octopus, welcome to Hackney Wick’s seafood restaurant, Baltic Barge, a Turkish twist on fish and chips…
It isn’t every day that you see a fishing boat on London’s inland waterways. Barges maybe, but not fishing boats. So, if you do, it’ll most likely be Ali Sis’ Baltic Barge, the latest edition to Hackney Wick’s seafood landscape.
With a festival flag billowing in the wind, its stem attached to the bright cheery red fishing boat, and the words ‘Baltic: Daily Fresh Seafood’ painted in a youthful eye-catching green on the boat’s side, this is a barge with a difference.
Having moored in Hackney Wick since 10 August, where the Lee Navigation meets the Hertford Union Canal, Baltic Barge has quickly gained a loyal following of foodies, and we can see why.
In hurried handwriting on a plain whiteboard, the menu offers seabass, salmon, prawns, calamari, and octopus and the sides include salad, garlic bread, and chips. Your classic East End fish ‘n’ chips this is not, but, despite the exotic menu, this is anything but pretentious.
It opens daily at 11am, ready for the lunchtime crowd but for Sis, a former car dealer from his hometown of Chingford, his day starts much earlier.
After helping his three children get ready for school, he’s at the cash and carry, buying his day’s supplies of produce, and driving it to his boat in East London. His seafood arrives daily at 10am, delivered from East End’s celebrated Billingsgate Fish Market.
With generosity and warmth in his voice, he explains: ‘I cook my food like I am cooking for myself and for my family.’ That being the case, then his is one lucky family.
Sis tells us that his bestsellers are seabass and octopus.
Not wanting to feel left out of the party, we tried his octopus; it did not disappoint. An array of spices, salts and peppers were added, not at random but with thought and care, while it cooked on the grill. Just as Sis was about to dish up, he squeezed half a lemon, like a spritz of summer, straight onto the tentacles. It created a wonderful mix of meaty and filling, yet light, succulent, and tender meat.
We also tried a Mediterranean holiday classic: calamari. But this was not your average calamari, often rubbery and overly coated in an underwhelming batter. What was delivered to us came straight from the pan: it was golden, hot, and lightly crispy on the outside, and buttery, almost creamy, on the inside. The little pot of tartar sauce added an extra kick to the calamari dish, but with or without, it was the perfect snack or starter to give you a taster of what more could come from this brilliant canal fishing boat.
Due to mooring regulations, Sis will be staying in the area for another couple of weeks. Dubbed Captain Ali by his customers, he will steer the boat westwards towards London Fields, and then onwards to Kings Cross and Camden Town.
If you want to catch the fish of the day, then visit Sis’ Baltic Barge now. Open for take-away between 11am and 9pm (the boat’s twinkling lights in the evening are hard to miss!).
Check his location on the Captain Baltic’s Instagram @baltic_fresh_sea_food_
If you enjoyed reading this, then take a look at our book review of The East End Canal Tales, a history of the locals who lived, walked, and made their businesses along the canal.
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