A Rialto Fish Fix

white sea bass side scales

Gliding around the Rialto fresh fish markets on a cold, crisp winter morning is quite possibly one of the best things a fish and seafood junkie will ever get to do.

Senses on high alert, nerve endings sparking off the rich tapestry of colours and textures – the sheer abundance and variety is something to behold.

Stacks of crayfish, scallops, squid and cuttlefish adorn the myriad of tables, each manned in a unique fashion by a master of his own destiny. Giant crab tussle with lobster for bench space, monkfish display their delicate skin under the throng of swinging lamps and majestic swordfish monitor from the depth of the chamber through menacing, gleaming eyes.

The choice is outstanding, the freshness stamped by the lack of odour, and the only struggle being not what to choose but what to leave behind.


Serves 6

Always allow 1lb of Seabass per person if calculating the whole fish, as the bones and excess trimmings are heavy.


  • 6lb Seabass
  • 1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced in discs
  • 150ml dry white vermouth
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 1 packet or 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley + extra for decoration
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Clean scale and gut the fish [get your fishmonger to do this]. Smear the fish with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill the fish on a barbecue or very hot grill and seal it for about 4 minutes either side. Remove the head and tail if it is too big to fit in your grill and oven and grill separately. [If you do not have a plate that is big enough to serve the whole fish then discard the head and tail].
  2. Pre-heat the oven to Gas 4, 175C/325F. Spread a piece of greased foil or baking parchment on a baking sheet and place the fish on top. [This makes it easier for lifting out the fish once cooked.] Season the inside of the fish. Pour the vermouth over the fish, and the remaining oil. Place the fennel, lemon slices and parsley sprigs inside the stomach of the fish and on top. Tightly seal the foil, making sure there are no gaps for steam to escape.
  3. Place the fish in the oven for about 45 minutes. Wrap the fish head and tail separately if too large to fit on the tray whole. To check the fish is cooked, remove from the oven and open the foil, lightly press the flesh. It should be firm and the eye opaque. [To convince any skeptic, carefully lift a small piece of flesh nearest the back bone. If the flesh is cooked near the bone it is ready]. The fish can rest for at least 30 minutes sealed in the foil before serving. The fish can also be serve at room temperature [ideal in the summer]. Place the head and tail back on to the fish before serving, hiding the join with some of the fennel and lemon and drizzle over the juices from the foil and a few fresh sprigs of parsley.

The fish can also be served with thinly sliced fennel tossed in olive oil and lemon juice and boiled new potatoes.


Aioli is a garlic mayonnaise. The experts say to make a truly authentic recipe, there should be enough garlic in the mayonnaise to give you a brief headache when you eat it! I have added saffron to make it a lovely rich yellow colour. This works very well with any fish recipe or as a dip for vegetables such as grilled asparagus.


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 sachet or one large pinch of saffron blades
  • 200ml [7floz] extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 large lemon
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  1. Crush the garlic in salt and mix with the lemon juice and saffron. Mix the egg yolks in a medium size bowl and slowly pour in the olive oil, drop by drop to start with, beating with a whisk, adding in a steady thin drizzle once the mixture thickens. If the mixture becomes too thick, add a little lemon juice to thin it down. When all the oil has been added, mix in the remaining lemon juice and garlic. Cover with cling film to prevent a skin. Add 1 tablespoon water if the aioli is too thick.
  2. Cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming. Do not over stir before serving as it might split.

Copyright Sophie Braimbridge.

Appetite whetted by this baked seabass recipe? Learn more great Veneto fish dishes on a Stirred cooking course.

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