Four of the best seafood restaurants
If you’re going to eat fish in the summer, there are few places better than England’s biggest fishing port, Brixham, in Devon. Here, eric’s content director and resident fish fancier Alex Mead, suggests four of the best places to get a fish supper in the town…
Literally right on top of the local art deco sea water pool, Shoalstone, you’ll find the intimate Shoals ‘Café on the Lido’. Visit at sunset, and its uninterrupted views across the bay – taken in with a chilled bottle of Devon Dumpling ale or a local gin & tonic – will have you forgetting why you were there. Glance at the chalkboard menu, and you’ll soon remember.
Owned by a local family whose life has revolved around either catching or selling fish, your fish hasn’t been through a middle man, as they are the middle man. It’s why your options change daily, from fillet of Dover sole, to grilled whole plaice or lemon sole (served with chubby scallops) to hake or haddock. For something richer they’ve also got a dish serving monkfish and scallop with whisky and bacon sauce, and they also do old-school monkfish scampi. In truth, as good as the latter is, first time there, you’ll want to go for something simple, just fresh fish grilled with a squeeze of lemon.
While the daily menu changes with the tides, almost literally, their set menu is extensive enough to keep fish lovers and indeed meat-eaters and vegetarians happy too. With limited inside seats available, booking is advisable.
Simply Fish is another restaurant owned by a fish merchant, but proprietor Robert Simonetti comes from a fish and chip shop family, so not only knows the best fish, but the best way to batter it too.
Sitting right on the harbour, it might be the takeaway haddock and chips that first draws you in – a lovely crisp batter with a nice bit of bite – but it’s worth taking the time to return for a proper sit-down dinner. You can do this either in the takeaway half or head next door to the bistro. The quality is equally high in both, and you can choose to keep it simple with their fish soup, moules marinière, prawn cocktail or oysters, followed by a daily catch on the charcoal grill – beautifully adding that caramelized, smoky sweetness – or you can go to town with an indulgent whole grilled turbot, a whole Brixham crab, or, best of all, The Royal Platter which includes prawns, crevettes, oysters, whelks, lobster, scallops, mussels, tempura goujons and squid.
Beamers & Claws
It’s not only fish merchants who find themselves at the Brixham auction before the sun rises every day, there’s also the occasional restaurateur, and Simone, head chef/owner of Beamers, has been a regular at the market for more than a decade.
Overlooking the harbour, and no more 50 metres from the market, the family also run the nearby Claws seafood hut across the road, which serves up the freshest crab sandwiches, pints of prawns and assorted seafood snacks.
Beamers though is a different beast altogether, offering more of an à la carte feel, with plates both simple – i.e. dayboat fish to share, grilled, shellfish platters – classic, i.e. chicken supreme; duck with cherries, redcurrant and walnut stuffing; beef fillet with pate and madeira etc. Or more creative, with Simone and her team continually evolving the menu by bringing new dishes, and combinations, together on her menu.
Rockfish might not technically be the only one of its kind, but it’s certainly unique – it’s literally part of the fish market. Accidentally drop a prawn through the slats of the decked wooden floor and it could easily drop right back in to the sea from whence it came.
Without doubt the most fitting view of any seafood restaurant, you can literally see the trawlers come in and unload their sea-salty cargo. And one auction later, that cargo could have travelled the few metres up to the Rockfish stoves and grill and onto your plate. This alone is enough to make it worth a visit, but then throw in the familiar name of Mitch Tonks, a Brixham resident, but also renowned for his culinary fish works (ahem) for more years than he cares to remember.
Chargrilled, grilled, fried or battered, the local fish are served deliciously simple or, with a bit of a twist. Like the chargrilled sea bass with Korean-style chilli sauce or crisp-fried prawn tacos. If you want the perfect drink to go with it, try one of Mitch’s blends, he’s made a Seafood Coast Ale with a local brewer and a Xarel-lo white wine with Spanish winemaker Josep Guasch, both delicious.
A final tip, if you want an early morning seafood fix, head to the downstairs Rockfish takeaway first thing, it opens at 8am, for a smoky bacon and scallop roll. It’s also a haunt for local fisherman, so you may even get a few insider tips.