Buying Guide

A guide to buying fresh fish, shellfish & seafood

The Fish Quay is a great place to buy a variety of fresh seafood, there are a few useful guidelines to bear in mind when buying and using seafood. Whole fish should look shiny, moist and bright, with clear markings where applicable. The eyes should be bright and moist. Fillets and steaks should have a good shape – they should not be damaged or broken. The fish should have a good texture – firm rather than soft or flabby – and it should look moist and succulent. White fish should look translucent and white, not off-white.

If you’re looking at a whole fish – take a good look at its eyes, they should be clear and bright, not sunken and cloudy. The gills should be a deep red colour and the skin shiny and slippery. If you pick up the fish it should feel firm, not floppy like some old rag doll.

The eyes of a whole fresh fish will be bright and firm, not sunken in and dried. The eyes will still be up with bright black pupils. Avoid those fish with sunken in and dull colored eyes. The gills of the fish will also be bright and the color red.

If you’re after shellfish there’s 2 very simple rules to follow. Before cooking, if it’s open and doesn’t close when tapped sharply don’t buy it or cook it. After cooking if it’s still shut, don’t eat it.When buying crab or lobster, pick it up, it should feel heavy for it’s size. Shellfish should have undamaged tightly closed shells. Live crustaceans, such as lobster, crawfish and crab, should be lively and react quickly when touched. Cooked shellfish should be carefully displayed – remember that cooked prawns or crab should appear good enough to eat even before cooking.Smoked fish, such as salmon and mackerel, should have a good colour and not look dried out, wrinkled or curled.


Like most produce, fish and seafood are no longer seasonal foods. Worldwide food transportation means that the majority of fish and seafood is available throughout the year. However, weather conditions do affect the availability and price of fish and seafood, so although a large specialist supplier may provide anything (at a price), the choice at an average fishmonger varies throughout the year. The spawning and shoaling habits of the fish also affect quality and availability. The seasons given here reflect the main source of supply and times when fish is likely to be at its best.

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