Bream with a Bang

Cooking for large numbers can be a real pain, especially when you’ve got an oven for four people with a changeable attitude to temperature and you’ve had a skinful while preparing the food. This dish is simple to prepare, simple to cook (you do need to check that the fish is cooked all the way through when cooking in bulk) and simple to present.

I made this for a birthday lunch and wanted the dish to have the wow factor. The bang here comes from the presentation. I’m lucky enough to have had an extra long board – if you don’t, then buy a 3ft piece of wood/scaffolding plank to serve from. Serving this individually lacks the punch of serving it as a centre piece (you’ll get the oohs and aaahs you’re hoping for).

I’ve chosen tarragon for this but basil works well too. Another combo is swap the tarragon and lemon for thyme and bitter orange.

Music to listen to while preparing this dish: ‘Happy birthday’ by Stevie Wonder


  • 8 whole and filleted sea bream – all the same size
  • 1 pack of salted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 big bunch (or 3 supermarket packets) fresh tarragon, pluck the leaves, discard the stems
  • Juice and zest 1 lemon
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 3 packs lambs lettuce


  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Mix butter, herbs, juice, zest and pepper till well combined.
  3. Score each fish on one side (three times should do it).
  4. Rub the butter into each of the scores on the fish and add a knob into each cavity.
  5. Arrange head to tail in your dish and cook for 20 – 30 mins (this really does depend on your oven – I’ve had to vary cooking times in different locations).
  6. While cooking, cover your board witht he lambs lettuce
  7. Once cooked, arrange your fish on your board diagonally head to tail.
  8. Decant the melted butter (there will be a lot of it) into a jug to serve alongside the fish

Serve with Pol Roger… and plenty of it, it’s a birthday after all.

And if you don’t believe me

My colleague Jo, in Dubai, made this and sent the picture through. I love how she’s presented the fish and has given me ideas for when I don’t have that big board to hand… Thanks for sharing Jo!

Jo’s bream, beautifully presented, nose to tail.

And an alternative is sea bass stuffed and topped with chopped black olives, fresh oregano and sliced lemon. 

Thursday night fresh fish feast. The bass is Greek so the stuffing of olive, lemon and oregano is too

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