At Table: FT Restaurant Offer

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This year we have reduced the number of price categories to two - £12.50 and £15 - to underline the FT’s emphasis on quality. To take part, please book directly with the restaurant, quoting Lunch with the FT. Click here for a list of restaurants and to print off voucher to give to the restaurant on the day. If you fill out the FT questionnaire after you have lunched, you could win a meal for two worth up to £200 at the restaurant of your choice in our prize draw.

This year Lunch with the FT has joined forces with the Marine Conservation Society (www.mcsuk.org), the UK charity dedicated to protecting the marine environment and its wildlife. We hope this association will be reflected in the fish that participating chefs will be buying, the menus they will be offering, and, gradually, in how we all think about the sustainability of the fish we order in restaurants or buy to eat at home. The problems of overfishing are increasingly being recognised, and the MCS offers practical advice to restaurants and consumers. Its Good Fish Guide is an excellent reference for anyone wanting to eat “eco-friendly” fish.

As part of the Lunch with the FT promotion, 15 species of fish and shellfish have been selected from the MCS “fish-to-eat” list. These include sustainably harvested clams, mussels, scallops and cockles, as well as farmed native oysters - all of which make wonderful first courses. For an enticing main course there is lemon sole, mackerel, Dover sole, mahi-mahi, Pacific halibut, red gurnard and farmed organic salmon. Lunch with the FT 2005 has stipulated that all participating restaurants use at least one fish or shellfish from the list on their FT menus during the three-week offer.

Many chefs who are taking part have voiced their support for the MCS campaign. This is partly a result of their day-to-day contact with their fish suppliers - they see the price of sea bass, turbot, haddock, cod, bluefin tuna and halibut rocketing as demand outstrips supply. Chefs also see something that the restaurant-goer doesn’t: the size of these fish continues to diminish as more under-age specimens are caught, often illegally, in the increasingly sophisticated nets used by large, modern fishing vessels.

Charles Clover’s book, The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat (Ebury Press £14.99), has been an inspiration to us. For anyone who enjoys eating fresh fish it makes dramatic and depressing reading. Clover’s conclusions are important: unless we all - fishermen, suppliers, chefs, restaurateurs and restaurant-goers - act sensibly now there will be precious little left in the oceans for our children and our children’s children to enjoy.

Nicholas Lander is the FT’s restaurant correspondent.

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