I well remember back in 1986 when Gay and Freda Fleming opened their fish shop in Dominick Street. I was a regular customer and it had a great selection even then. After a few years they decided to move into the home delivery business and have been delivering to customers as far away as Dublin ever since.
So why is their business any different from the franchise type vans one sometimes sees delivering frozen fish around the country? To find out some more I headed out to Ros a Mhíl on an extremely wild morning, and while standing at their premises looked out to sea and wondered how in God’s name fishermen venture out there for days and manage to work in such appalling conditions. I think the answer is that it is in the blood, although fewer and fewer local young people are following in their parents’ footsteps. When you realise the hardship that is involved in some fishing expeditions it is hard to say that fresh fish is expensive.
Gay Fleming has been fishing since he was a child and knows his business inside out. It is a small organisation, just husband and wife, with occasional part time staff as needed. Their building is beside the sea and just up the road from where the fish is auctioned. The fish is bought at Ros a Mhíl auction just after the boats have landed their catch, and the auctions are held usually twice a week. He will only buy the best fish, and to demonstrate this he had a good and a bad hake on his cutting bench. I could not tell the difference but Gay explained that he could tell that one had been dragged on the seabed and would be damaged inside. Sure enough, he filleted both and one was perfect, the other not as good.
If the fish at auction are not perfect he simply waits for the next auction. This is something that is only possible because his business does not require a daily stocking of fish varieties. He buys as and when the right fish are available. He filleted several types of fish while I was there and his aim is to remove all the bones (within reason ) and trim all the excess, then freeze and vacuum pack, all within 24 hours. I asked what the effect of freezing the fish is, and Gay said that once defrosted he would challenge anyone to tell him the difference from fresh fish. To defrost, just put the plastic bag under a cold tap and in a few minutes you can cut the bag open and the fish is ready. I did this myself at home and have to say that the quality is unlike any frozen fish I have had before. So is it cheaper than in the shops? No, but you have the benefit of every single fillet of fish or whole fish being guaranteed as perfect, also once you are a customer they will customise your order to suit your family. While I was there Freda was sending out an order to one of her best customers, large black sole, very large turbot, supreme prawns, while another customer was getting similar fish but much smaller. It depends on the size and appetite of the individual family.
Another part of their business is specialising in prawns. They supply most of the frozen prawns we eat here in Galway. Every prawn is shelled and de-veined by hand, then individually frozen and subsequently vacuum bagged. If you want a real treat order some of their supreme prawns, I would rather a meal of these ahead of lobster meat any day. They are the biggest prawns we land here (the real biggies are sold at sea to the Spanish trawlers ) and I have seen them for sale in Spain at prices up to €75 per kg in the full shell.
To celebrate 25 years in business Fleming’s are going to have a customer raffle with five prizes of €100 each. If you want to sample their fish just log on to the website or call on the numbers below. A minimum order is €50 delivered to your door. What a nice present it would be to give someone a voucher for €150 worth of fish as a wedding present, it might seem unusual at the time but I guarantee the recipients will appreciate it at a later date when a delivery arrives.