The Seashell reopened in August 2010 after a fire, but has been on this site for decades. The room is quite attractive, brighty lit and with a fish tank in one corner. There was a short wine list. Pouilly Fume Domaine des Fines Caillottes Jean Pabiot et Fils (no vintage noted) was expensive at £27.50 for a wine that retails at about £7, but Sauvignon Blanc Redwood Pass 2008 Vavasour Estate was better value at £22 for a wine that costs around £8 to buy, while Viognier 2008 Domaine de la Chapelle at £19.50 was reasonable for a wine that will set you back about £9.50 to buy retail. There were a few red wines, such as Shiraz Cinsault 2009 at £14 for a wine that cost about a fiver in the shops, and Chateauneuf Du Pape Vigne Regent Gigognan 2004 at compared to a retail price of around £20. Dom Perignon 2000 was also available at £140 for champagne that can be picked up for about £90.
A prawn and avocado salad (£14.50) was uninteresting, with bland sauce and rather limp lettuce (10/20). In a large group, I had the chance to sample a number of different fried fish. The classic cod (£14.50) was watery, its skin left on, the batter greasy (8/20), and a matzo meal batter for haddock (£14.50) was little better. There was one decent fish, a halibut (£25.50) that had good taste, though the batter was still ordinary (maybe 12/20 given the nice halibut). Yet skate (£18) tasted pretty bad to me, while the haddock was OK but its taste obscured by the matzo meal batter. The fish quality of the halibut was really quite good, which made the taste of the cod and skate all the odder. Chips (£3) were truly dire – pale in colour and completely limp in texture. I cannot recall eating worse chips anywhere. Apple crumble for dessert had clumsy, grainy crumble, barely cooked apple and the dish arrived lukewarm; I had one bite and stopped (2/20).
The restaurant manager was very pleasant, and service was fine, though there was a very long gap between the salad and the fish arriving (we were admittedly in a big group). Just as a sanity check, the following night I went round to my local fish and chip shop, which is an entirely run of the mill place; both the haddock and the chips there were better. Based on this visit, I cannot see any reason to return here. I ate here once many years ago and was unimpressed, but thought that the refurbishment after the fire meant it worth another look. I really shouldn’t have bothered. This cooking here has sole but no soul.