Inside the Bullring Fish Market (2024)

● 21st March 2017 – In PrintFood

Good food starts at the market, a truism, applicable to every great food city in the world. It’s not the food that people sell but what they cook that is the soul of the place. It’s not what you read in press releases about Birmingham food but what you are cooking and eating every day that counts. That’s why we have to reconnect with Birmingham Markets.

I’ve been shopping here for close to forty years, from being dragged around by my mother in the dingy basem*nt of the old Bullring to shopping for fresh seafood for one of my cookery classes at Loaf. I’ve always loved the atmosphere at the market, here you will find all kinds of people. It has no pretensions to being multi-cultural, it has always been inclusive and is the centre of diversity in the city. It will continue to be as long as we all want it and use it.

Inside the Bullring Fish Market (1)

The best thing to shop for at the market is seafood. We are lucky in Birmingham to have access to some of the best even though we are as far from the sea as is possible in this country. Our transport networks mean good seafood has to come through us. So here’s a guide to my favourite stalls and what to look out for:

George Smith Shellfish. Always my first stop, not least because it’s the closest stall to the large double doors leading from Chinatown. Check out the live crabs to one side of the counter. Pick them up, if they feel heavy for their size then they will be packed with meat. Same thing with lobsters, the more they wriggle the fresher they are too. Ask questions, they always have more in the chiller. If you’re not in the mood for live shellfish, buy a ready to eat platter and hunker down next to the old gents at the back counter. A squeeze of chilli vinegar and a tinkle of salt accents the fresh seafood and instantly rekindles memories of seaside holidays. Snap back to Brum to explore the rest of the market.

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Next door to George Smith, Ebanks is the retail arm of one of the major players at the wholesale markets. The stall may look small, but they only display what’s needed. The fish is consistently the freshest, so it’s a good habit to check this stall first before gaming the rest of the market. This is true in any fish market in the world. You do not buy the first thing you see! You don’t even buy what you think you want. You buy what is freshest. The small market sushi joint Otoro orders salmon and tuna here so they know it’s best too.

The flatfish at Ebanks is always very good, Dover soles firm, lemon soles slimy fresh and shoreline halibut when in season are a real treat. They also always have fresh fish roe when in season and don’t miss out on the smoked fish. They sell my favourite Craster kippers, deep funky smokey fishy goodness. If you have it for breakfast it’s guaranteed to repeat on you for the rest of the day.

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It’s clear when you go to a fresh fish counter at a supermarket that there’s a lack of diversity. Take flatfish, for example, there might be some fillets of plaice at your big Sainsbury’s with a fish counter. At the fish market, there will be plaice, lemon sole, Dover sole, halibut, turbot, brill, megrim and dabs. All fresher than at Sainsbury’s. That’s just the local fish. You should see the fish people from other parts of the world eat. The diversity of it. They’re all here and they are all amazing. All the hues of tropical waters, turquoise parrot fish, scarlet groupers, conch shells as big as your head and actual Bombay duck. Big fat Mediterranean octopus, squid and cuttlefish, reminiscent of long hot summer holidays. If you want to broaden your culinary horizons just jump on a buzz to the market and leave the passport at home.

Most of the fish stalls at the market have global fish, some turnover faster than others so trust your senses. Touch, nudge, check gills and eyes for freshness. Ask other punters how to cook it or just take it home and experiment. That’s the beauty of seafood, not only in its inherent diversity but also the countless ways you can prepare it. If you want to eat good food, just start cooking and eating seafood. Do Brum a favour and go to the fish market.

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Inside the Bullring Fish Market (2024)

FAQs

Do fish markets scale fish? ›

Whole, pan roasted fish look really impressive, and are crazy easy to cook, but some home cooks are put off by the idea of scaling, cleaning, or otherwise dealing with fish guts. The good news is that any fishmonger at any decent seafood counter will prep your fish for you—you just have to use your words.

What type of organization is Pike Place Fish market? ›

As a result of the public vote, in 1973 the City of Seattle created by charter the Pike Place Market PDA, a not-for-profit organization, to own and manage the day-to-day operations of the Market.

Does Birmingham still have a fish market? ›

The Bull Ring Indoor Market is one of the UK's largest fish markets. Other specialities include fresh meat and poultry, exotic fruit and vegetables, clothing, and a variety of household goods.

Where has Birmingham Wholesale market moved to? ›

After nearly 50 years of trading, the market was moved from its birthplace, Birmingham City Centre, to The Hub in Witton, an industrial park located by Aston Villa FC's stadium. Opened in February 1974, the old market comprised of the largest integrated wholesale fresh produce market in the UK.

Are fish scales good? ›

We can reduce the exposure to potentially dangerous substances by eating fish with skin that is lower in mercury and other pollutants. If properly cooked and completely cleaned, fish scales are edible. Collagen, a fibrous protein that may be healthy, is also known to be present in fish scales.

What does scale do on fish? ›

Scales protect fish from predators and parasites and reduce friction with the water. Multiple, overlapping scales provide a flexible covering that allows fish to move easily while swimming.

Why do they throw fish at the Pike Place Market? ›

The repeated shouting of fish orders started out as a prank on one employee, but became a tradition as the display was enjoyed by customers.

What do they yell at Pike Place Market? ›

Throw The Damn Fish Already: Marketing Lessons From Pike Place Market. “We got a SALMON!” the man at the front calls. “OOOH OOOOOHH SALMOOON SALMOOON,” shouts his team in a drumbeat of response. Seconds later, a fish flies through the air and lands with a thump in the arms of a tall, bearded fisherman.

Who owns Pike Place? ›

Management & Oversight

The Pike Place Market PDA which began operating in 1973, owns the majority of the Market and manages the day-to-day activities to support the hundreds of farmers, craftspeople, small businesses, and residents.

Who owns the fish market in Birmingham? ›

George Sarris, owner of The Fish Market, has expanded his catering company specializing in Weddings, Rehearsal Dinners, Corporate Events, Showers, Birthdays, Receptions, Reunions, Holiday Parties and luncheons etc...

Can you fish in Birmingham? ›

You can also fish at Sutton Park National Nature Reserve, in Blackroot, Bracebridge, Powells and Keepers Pools. These pools have designated fishing areas.

What do they sell in the Birmingham market? ›

Other specialities include fresh meat and poultry, exotic fruit and vegetables, clothing, and a variety of household goods.

What is the history of the bullring market in Birmingham? ›

The area was first known as Corn Cheaping, a reference to the corn market on the site. The name Bull Ring referred to the green within Corn Cheaping that was used for bull-baiting. The 'ring' was a hoop of iron in Corn Cheaping to which bulls were tied for baiting before slaughter.

What is the history of the Birmingham market? ›

Birmingham's wholesale food markets date from 1166, when the Lord of the Manor Peter de Birmingham obtained a royal charter permitting him to hold a market at “his castle at Birmingham”, though later members of the de Birmingham family claimed that markets in Birmingham had been held since before the Norman Conquest.

What is the biggest wholesale shop in the world? ›

The Futian District market, or Yiwu Market, is the largest wholesale market in the world, with 5.5 million square meters of space that spans 7 kilometers.

Do fishmongers scale fish? ›

We can remove the bones and scales from fresh fish fillets for you by de-scaling the skin side of the fillet and remove the small line of bones known as "pinbones".

Do all fish have to be descaled? ›

Fish Fillets:

If you choose a salmon or trout family fish, it needs to be scaled (or de-scaled). You can ask your fish monger to do that, but generally you would need to purchase the entire fillet for them to do that. Halibut and black cod have very small scales and could forgo descaling.

Who do fish have scales? ›

A fish scale is a small rigid plate that grows out of the skin of a fish. The skin of most jawed fishes is covered with these protective scales, which can also provide effective camouflage through the use of reflection and colouration, as well as possible hydrodynamic advantages.

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