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Island Fish: from Shetland to the big smoke

July 8th 2020

Speak to your average city-dwelling Shetlander about things they yearn for from back home and there’s a fair chance the difficulty of getting hold of freshly caught seafood will feature.

But – unable to get back home to the islands during lockdown – Shetland Food & Drink’s own Marian Armitage has been enjoying the finest fruits of the local market courtesy of Island Fish.

Established at Marina Business Park in late 2018 by John Martin Tulloch, the fish shop and processor has kept briskly busy doing deliveries all over Shetland over the past three months.

Marian says the second of her two deliveries contained no less than ten different species – haddock, John Dory, catfish, monks, squid, lemon sole, cod, megrim, skate and plaice.

“Spending lockdown in London and tinkin’ lang for Shetland and the things I am sorely missing: fine fresh fish comes very close to the top of the list,” she says.

“I have now had two large deliveries of the very best from the Shetland fish market. I gave John Martin Tulloch a long list of my favourites and I have been in fishy heaven!

“The fish was dropped off at the Lerwick Post Office just before midday on the Monday on ice packs in an insulated box and was on my kitchen table at 1.20pm the very next day. It truly has lifted life for me and we have enjoyed so many delicious denners.” 

If you're signed up to Shetland Food & Drink's bi-annual newsletter, you'll have received Marian's recipe for roasted monkfish tail with stuffing in this month's edition. If you would like to sign up, fill in the box at the bottom of this page. 

John says the change as lockdown came in back in March was “just like a lightbulb – everything switched off and there was no ordering coming through”. But after adjusting the business to focus on home deliveries “if anything we’ve been busier as what we were normally”.

After closing the shop there was a surge in demand and “a lot of folk have appreciated” the deliveries, though as lockdown has eased things have been quieter through most of June.

“I’ve been all over Shetland. The west side is usually pretty busy – the first weekend we went through Aith and Brae, there were about 80 deliveries that we had to do. It was pandemonium, so the next times we weren’t taking any more as maybe 40 deliveries.”

Early in lockdown there was a scarcity of fish, with panic-buying, followed by a glut of fish that resulted in prices crashing. But things are “steadying up now so the pries are really not bad for the boats, not too bad for us or the customer”.

Island Fish regularly supplies Bigton Community Shop and has also got local shops in Bressay and Fetlar on board recently, while in early June he reopened the Gremista premises to one customer at a time.

Cafes and restaurants will be able to reopen from next Wednesday (15 July) and John is hoping to see demand from them “steadily start growing again”.

“We’ll just carry on with delivery until it becomes unviable to do. We have kind of wondered about doing a fish van, selling out of the back of the van rather than just doing deliveries, but I don’t know – as folk goes back to work they’re not going to be in to receive deliveries, so it’s all going to change for us again.

“Hopefully folk will see this as a bit of a reset button, going back to local suppliers and the peerie guys rather than just depending on supermarkets, getting all the fresh stuff locally.”

Along with stocking a wide array of common species, Island Fish also offers some slightly more unusual products including cod tongues and monk cheeks, which are considered something of a delicacy in parts of Scandinavia.

The shop also sells groceries including frozen and chilled foods, shelf items, sauces, juice, sweets and filled rolls.

  • Island Fish's shop at Marina Business Park in Lerwick is open from 10am to 5pm Mondays to Saturdays. Any retailers interested in becoming a stockist can call (01595) 690111 or email.

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