I grew up by the sea, but I've learnt by now not to miss the cry of the gulls, the salt spray in the air and all the other maritime clichés: Oxford must be about as far from any coastline as it's possible to be. So at first sight Fishers was a bit of a curiosity. It serves almost exclusively fish and shellfish (on a main menu of 23 items I counted two vegetarian dishes and a single meat option; that's not including the various shellfish platters), sourced and delivered daily from all over Britain.
That means the menu changes regularly, and this includes the lunch/early evening set menu (two courses for £8.50, three for £10.90) that the Dark Destroyer and I sampled on a day when enough rain was falling outside to make it seem that the sea was a bit closer to Oxford than normal. The restaurant does feel like the interior of a ship or at least a boatshed, with tasteful bits of memorabilia dotted around and a sail pinned to the ceiling. Service was fine: friendly but understated, although one waiter's enthusiasm for the food was infectious and, as we found out, justified.
My starter of rollmops with beetroot salsa and horseradish cream was a good way to wake up a slightly tired palate, as the salty herring clashed agreeably with the tart beetroot, although I was surprised that the horseradish cream (which appeared to be just that, cream with horseradish) wasn't a bit stronger. Salt cod cakes with aioli had plenty of garlic and hadn't been bulked out with too much potato.
What came next was excellent. The Dark Destroyer's smoked haddock and prawn kedgeree was soon demolished: it struck the correct sweet curried note but he felt that the haddock wasn't overwhelmed. From the other side of the table, the egg on top looked perfectly boiled. I had a salmon fishcake with chips. I'm sometimes dubious about serving fishcakes with chips (potato on potato?) but once again big flakes of properly-seasoned salmon made up most of the dish. I also liked the crunchy, almost burnt top, though that may or may not have been intentional, and anyway the chips themselves were a great success: crispy on the outside, billowy within and piping hot. The lemon butter sauce on the side was silkily smooth and subtle; it was rich without being overpowering and in fact 'sublime' was the word that came to mind.
I hadn't planned to have a dessert, but it was only another couple of pounds with the set menu and by this stage we were keen to see if the high standards already set would continue. Fortunately, sticky toffee pudding and treacle tart confirmed they would. As with the earlier courses, the portions, although not huge, were well-judged and well-presented (and the whole menu is excellent value anyway). The treacle tart in particular was delicious: delicate, warm and sweet without being sickly, the pastry caramelised so that it was falling apart slightly. Fishers may be a specialist restaurant, but it seems pretty good at everything it does.
36-37 St Clements