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Pan Fried Brill with Sauce Vierge

Brill is one of the superstars of the sea and here “baby” brill is pan fried in butter and served with a delicious French sauce vierge.

The sauce benefits from sitting for 90 minutes, but I have a hint to hurry this up and the fish will take around 20 minutes to prepare and just 6-7 minutes to cook.

Overhead pan fried brill fish served with sauce vierge and fried potatoes.

Pan Fried Flat Fish with Sauce Vierge

When it comes to cooking, fish holds a special place in my heart, I love the stuff and my weekly trip to the fishmongers is always a treat.

Of course, the “big-selling fish” are well represented here but I also love showcasing fish that people are less likely to cook.

I have everything from sea-bream to halibut and grey mullet to coley, my latest offering is some lovely pan-fried brill.

Among many fish lovers brill sits pretty close to the top of the tree, right behind Turbot. It’s a flat fish and it has the most beautiful firm white flesh that is incredibly succulent.

This recipe uses small fish that are cooked on the bone and it is served with a sauce vierge. A French sauce created in the 70’s as a “response” to fancy pants cooking.

It rocks tomatoes, herbs (basil in this case), lemon juice, garlic and shallots, it is gloriously simple and utterly delicious.

It also compliments the plan fried brill beautifully!

Close-up pan fried brill fish served with sauce vierge and fried potatoes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it difficult to remove the skin from the brill?

No, but if you are uninitiated it can be intimidating. It is a very similar process to the one that I use for my lemon sole meuniere recipe.

I also have a video of the process (below), the only difference between the two is that I remove the skin from the tail end of the fish here rather than the head end.

Can I use different types of fish?

Yes, this recipe works perfectly with most smaller flat fish, anything from the plaice, sole or dabs family would work perfectly.

I don’t like fish with bones, can I use fillets?

The flavours will work with any type of white fish, but you will need different timings.

However, if you don’t like fish bones then flat fish is perfect for you because there are no pin bones.

When cooked properly the flesh slides from the bones very easily, leaving you with the perfect “Tom and Jerry” skeleton, and most importantly, bones in your mouth.

Do I have to leave the sauce vierge to sit for 90 minutes?

In order to get the flavours to work and make the best sauce then yes, it needs time. However, there is a shortcut.

Place the garlic, tomatoes and olive oil in a very small saucepan, pop it on the hob/stovetop at its very lowest setting, and gently heat for 10-15 minutes. You are not cooking here you want to very gently warm to accelerate the exchange of flavours.

Then all you need to do is add the seasoning, basil and shallots and off you go.

Pan fried brill fish served with sauce vierge and fried potatoes.

Serving Suggestions

I’ve served my pan fried whole brill with sauce vierge and some simply fried new potatoes in these images.

Potatoes offer a lovely crispy texture in contrast to the beautiful fish and my crispy straw potatoes would work equally well. But if you don’t want to mess around with frying, then some buttery herby boiled potatoes work equally well.

Potatoes are not your only option for a side though, this dish works wonderfully with some green veg on the side.

Everything from my air fryer asparagus or green bean amandine to some roasted tenderstem broccoli would be perfect. It would also work wonderfully with my samphire and shaved asparagus salad.

If you want a sauce that does not have such a long “waiting” time then a classic salsa verde would work well too.

Close-up overhead pan fried brill fish served with sauce vierge and fried potatoes.

Equipment Used

I only mention brands of equipment if I think that they make a material difference to a recipe. But, if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.

  • Hob/stovetop.
  • 30cm or 12″ frying pan.
  • Chopping board.
  • Kitchen knife.
  • Tea towel to remove the skin from the fish.
  • Kitchen scissors or shears.
  • Mixing bowl.
  • Fine mesh sieve and a spoon.
  • A combination of weighing scales, measuring jug, cups and spoons.
On-the-bone pan fried brill served with sauce vierge and fried potatoes.
Yield: 2 Servings

Pan Fried Brill Recipe with Sauce Vierge

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Resting Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes

This recipe is a tour-de-force of simplicity, whole on-the-bone small brill is quickly pan fried in butter and it is served with a delicious tomato and basil sauce vierge, and it tastes incredible.


  • 2 Small (350g Each) Whole Brill
  • 2-3 Tbsp Flour
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • 35g (2 Tbsp + 1 Tsp) Butter

For the Sauce Vierge:

  • 75ml (⅓ Cup) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Small-Medium (200g Total) Tomatoes
  • 1 Small (25g) Shallot
  • 24-36 Basil Leaves
  • ¾-1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • ¼ Tsp Salt
  • ⅛ Tsp Black Pepper


  1. Pour the olive oil into a bowl.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves, then crush them with the side of a knife and add them to the olive oil. Don't bash them too hard you will be removing them later.
  3. Cut each tomato into 8 wedges, then cut out the seeds, roughly chop the flesh and add it to the olive oil. Then place the seeds from the tomatoes into a fine mesh sieve and press out the juice from the seeds using a spoon into the bowl.
  4. Cut the shallot in half, peel it, then dice it as finely as you can and add it to the bowl.
  5. Roughly chop the basil leaves and toss them into the bowl.
  6. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to the bowl (do this to taste) and give everything a mix, then allow the sauce to sit at room temperature for at least 90 minutes *SEE NOTE BELOW!
  7. Whilst the sauce is getting funky prepare the fish. Begin by cutting the tail off each fish, then trim the fins top and bottom with some sharp kitchen scissors, then trim off the dorsal fins, there will be one on the dark and one on the light side of the fish. Cut off the head (optional), then finally pick at the tail end of the fish to loosen the dark skin, then grab this with a dry tea towel and pull, the skin will pull away, this will take a little effort, but should not be difficult.
  8. When you are ready to cook, season the fish with salt and then lightly dredge it in flour, making sure you tap off any excess.
  9. Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and when it is hot, add the butter, when the butter begins to foam, add the fish, add the side you removed the skin from first, and cook it for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  10. Serve immediately with the sauce vierge making sure that you remove the garlic cloves from the sauce.


You can speed up the process of making the sauce vierge by heating the olive oil, tomatoes and garlic on the lowest heat of your hob in a small pan for 10-15 minutes. Be sure not to add the seasoning and basil until you have got the flavours all mingled together.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 603Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 32gCholesterol: 118mgSodium: 1082mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 42g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

Did you make this recipe?

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