Flute: Seafood flair in the city

Lobster Benedict and Kedgeree Arancini combine with Breakfast Martini and Blackberry and Champagne Cheesecake at the recently opened Flute Seafood Café and Bar. Words by Emma Clegg

Flute, the seafood café bar on George Street, offers a dining experience that is defined by Champagne and oysters savoured in a laid-back, elegant environment. However there are way more dining and drinking options than this. The extensive opening hours – from 8.30am to 11pm Monday to Thursday, 8.30am to 2am Friday and Saturday, and 9.30am to 11pm on Sundays – are designed to capture (and merge) distinctive food and drink socialising pockets. These include visits for breakfast/brunch, coffee and cheesecake, cocktails and savoury snacks, sharing plates and main meals – or just late night cocktails with friends as you wind down.

Breakfast includes a choice of non-meat or fish dishes such as Loaded Porridge with Coconut Milk and Toasted Brioche with Whipped Butter and Berry Jam. But seafood takes a leading role in the café bar’s offering, alongside the vegetarian, vegan and gluten- and dairy-free options and some classic dishes with meat components. Executive chef Kasae Fraser says, “Breakfast does have some crowd-pleasers – we do a full cooked breakfast and bacon rolls – but the emphasis is on fish with dishes such as Smoked Salmon Waffles, Lobster Benedict and Arnold Bennett Omelette (with smoked haddock).”

Born in New Zealand, Kasae started cooking professionally with fish when she worked at a large-scale upmarket seafood bistro in the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. More recently she worked as sous chef in floating restaurant La Peniche in Falmouth where they would collect the fish directly from the fishing boats.

While Bath isn’t quite as close to the sea, Flute work with Wing of St Mawes, a Cornish supplier of top-grade fresh fish and shellfish. “Having fresh fish and seafood deliveries makes our menu more fluid. We often change a dish on the menu once we have the delivery based on the repertoire of dishes that we know work. So if we have red mullet or John Dory we know we have a recipe that will work as a special – and it’s a good way to keep evolving the menu.”

Flute’s Seafood Trolley – piled high with delights such as mackerel paté, mixed salmon dishes and tiger prawns – creates a diverting spectacle, offering some theatre as clients choose their dishes. Another choice is the classic Pint of Prawns pub dish, served with chard, baby gem lettuce, bread and a Bloody Mary mayonnaise. Kasae says, “It’s literally king prawns in a pint glass, but we do most of the work, running a pair of scissors down the back of the prawns and taking out the elements you don’t want to eat, so it’s easy to peel but you still have the fun of peeling it yourself.”

Kasae works with Flute’s head chef Alex Smith who has a particular interest in desserts and is an expert on chocolate. His Flute desserts feature Blackberry and Champagne Cheesecake, Caramel Apple Tart and Caramelised White Chocolate Mousse. “The whole ethos of our menu is taking things that people are comfortable with and putting our twist on it. And not pushing people out of their comfort zone – we just want them to say, ‘Ah, I’ve not had that before!”, Alex explains. “Cheesecake is a regular feature of most people’s diets, but adding Champagne gives it a different quality.”

When it comes to Champagne, bar manager Sam Bradford takes the lead. “We are proud of our Champagne and wine sourced from all over the world, including rosé Champagne from Australia. We also have many English sparkling wines. Our cocktails take influences from all over and we use a variety of ingredients to suit different palates – including sake liqueurs such as usushu. We want to make sure our cocktails stand out to match the quality of the food. We’ve also got a great spirit collection and we offer draft beer stout, IPA and lager.”

On the breakfast menu is an Ultimate Bloody Mary and I ask Kasae what dish might pair well with this: “I would pair a Bloody Mary with the Arnold Bennett omelette, because the smokiness of the haddock and the hollandaise mixed with a rich béchamel bites through the acidity from the Bloody Mary.”

There is plentiful advice on pairing food and wine. Sam says, “We don’t impose anything on the customer, but we talk a lot about flavour pairings because it’s important to know what types of wine appeal to the palate. There are red wines that pair well with fish, for example, and we can recommend the options.

Kasae continues, “It’s easy to assume you should drink rosé or white wine with fish, but there are so many different garnishes and sauces and you can play around with the different textures of fish. Red wine is often better for really deep rich lobster bisques, but a meatier, fleshier type of fish such as hake combined with a red wine butter sauce can really stand up to a light red wine.”

Kasae and Alex have a support team of young chefs at Flute, and they both take time to encourage their professional journeys. “It’s really nice to see young people coming through – Alex and I are really passionate about getting that new generation of chefs excited. It’s important to show them that working in a kitchen is not Kitchen Nightmares – this is a really exciting industry to be in and you can take it anywhere you want it to go.”