Food: A fantastically fishy day at Billingsgate Market

By Beth Allcock on March 7, 2014 4:05 PM |



It may have taken a couple of months, but my rather fishy New Year resolution has finally raised its head above water.

After last year's lukewarm attempts to travel more and become a whizz at photography, 2014 was going to be different. I would master the preparation of fish.

Stepping off the DLR at 5.30am I headed to the seafood-scented Billingsgate Market, to begin my journey.

Along with a small group, I'd opted to try the Catch Of The Day One course, an eight-hour session for beginners covering the basics such as knife skills, preparation and cooking techniques, run by the market's seafood school.


And by the end, surrounded by a bubbling pot of fish heads, beady eyes, discarded fins, a blood-streaked chopping board and slippery hands smattered with scales, I felt inspired.

Since stepping into the aromas of Billingsgate in a full-length overall, I'd ripped the head from a fish by way of its gills and learnt the most effective way to manipulate a scaler, something I'd previously shunned in favour of a dash to Waitrose.

But no more. Previous fears of the market's fishy tang have evaporated. If you've not been to the market before you've been missing a trick. Just have an early night, set your alarm and go for it.

And thanks to the course the feeling of being a fish-out-of-water fizzled out quickly. Heading to the kitchen with fellow classmates bred camaraderie but it was the expert leadership of Billingsgate's fishmonger of 13 years, Adam Whittle that helped transform my fears into a nascent passion in the space of a few hours.


He said: "The course is about giving people the confidence to go and buy a whole fish and know what to look for and how to process it at home.

"We are still largely behind other countries around the world in how fish is perceived as a good, nutritious and healthy food to eat."


Opting for a pescetarian diet, I've often wanted to expand on my basic fish suppers, and this course was the perfect starting point.

With a mixture of first-hand experiences, advice and all important taste-tasting, it delivers the perfect balance for those keen to top-up their knowledge or start from scratch.

It's exciting, infectious and motivational and has changed my perspective on fish for good - when pay day next rolls round, the tips I've picked up have prompted me to opt for a starter set of my own.

I'll also be swapping the supermarket for the fish market, a pre-prepared fillet for a whole fish and taking over the kitchen to create my own weekend feasts from scratch, much to the delight of my stomach and my housemate's cat.

In future editions I'll be tackling more tricky species and sharing the tips I've picked up on how to prepare them.

Next course runs tomorrow (Friday), and starts at 6.15am. It costs £198pp.

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