People in South Africa who stumble across this blog will be amazed that Ocean Basket is worthy of writing about. At least I assume that’s the case. It’s very unfashionable to bother to review, never mind praise, a chain. When was the last time you read a review of a McDonalds restaurant?
Only when we stepped through the door of Ocean Basket in Ayia Napa in Cyprus did we realise we weren’t in an independently owned fish restaurant. Why should it matter anyway? Are chain restaurants so good at automating the process and buying homogenous products that they truly are interchangeable? Is there such a thing as a chain which stands up against its independent competition? There was a time in Britain when Harry Ramsden probably filled that space. From a single restaurant on the outskirts of Leeds it spawned a chain of good fish and chip restaurants that certainly offered better product than many independent fish and chip restaurants. This may be a reflection of the performance of some of the competitors but it also reflects that fish is in essence a simple food that needs to be fresh and cooked to order – volume definitely helps.
Apparently there are over 180 Ocean Basket restaurants around the world with the vast majority being in South Africa. There is a little pod in Cyprus which reflects the roots of one of the managers of the business. According to staff in the restaurant there are rumours of expansion further afield and even to London. The greeting in Ayia Napa was warm and the surroundings are bright and fun. The ‘tablecloth’ is made up of bits of the menu, background to the company and some funky design which continues across the walls and on the backs of the chairs…but all chains have the capital expenditure for this kind of thing and it just covers the poor food doesn’t it?
We had three sides to kick off proceedings. I love soft shell crabs and we had a good basket of crunchy and sweet crabs to dip in a feisty garlic dip, a hot chilli dip and a smooth tartar sauce. We had the sensational prawns and cheese. It sounds hideous but I promise we wiped the pan clean with the bread. We also had the new special – calamari stuffed with feta. It was great. So was the price – most starters were 4 euros. They were served in the pan which just enhances the brand but it was done well.
The mains focus on sharing platters so we had the Port Platter with half fries and half rice. It has 18 Prince Prawns, a large piece of hake and some calamari. There was also a nice side salad. It’s a bit like Subway in that you choose your ingredients and then how it is cooked. It’s a simple formula..just how fish should be. The food quality was fantastic. The calamari was tender. The hake was superb. I’m not a big fan of shell-on prawns but these were butterflied so they were easy to eat. The rice was nicely spiced and seasoned.