The English Seafood Feast has landed in Torbay. The two-week celebration, which is ongoing until 6 October, aims to throw the spotlight on this country’s top-drawer coastal bounty.
Restaurants across Brixham, Paignton and Torquay – including the likes of Number 7 Fish Bistro and Rockfish – have curated special taster menus and platters for the occasion, which are available throughout the fortnight.
Meanwhile, there is also a wave of activities to get involved with, including tours of the legendary Brixham fish market and a family-friendly fishy-themed treasure hunt around Berry Head Nature Reserve.
To mark the launch of the event, we sampled seven of the restaurants taking part in something of a seafood crawl. Simon Hulstone and the team at The Elephant Restaurant (who are currently offering three courses for £30 as part of the celebrations) served us a plate of delicate Brixham scallops with roasted onion and sweetheart cabbage, all topped with wafer-thin slices of melt-in-the-mouth pancetta.
Around the corner on Victoria Parade, Twenty1 Lounge presented us with a vibrant sharing plate loaded with a tongue-tingling mango, pomegranate and heritage tomato salad – a colourful bed for a fillet of flame-smoked mackerel.
No sooner than that we polished that off than we were shipped next door to quirky Jamaican joint Fat Cow, who put their signature spin on a lobster roll with a (thankfully sympathetic) jerk seasoning. The sliders contained a good wedge of delicious buttery meat in a sweet brioche roll and were served with zesty coleslaw and fries (which was about as close as we got to classic fish and chips all day).
Other highlights of the Seafood Feast offerings included chilli crab canapes at Number 7 Fish Bistro, the delicate meat taking on a nice heat from the chilli, and super-fresh, velvety mussels in a simple white wine sauce at Below Decks.
Someone must have tipped Pier Point off that we might be needing something light by the latter stages of our tour, as there we took receipt of a beautiful piece of pan-seared hake served with clams, soft and buttery samphire, and fresh dill. The dish was brought together nicely with a slightly saline seafood foam, which seemed especially apt as we watched the sea lap up against the harbour wall.
From what we saw, the Seafood Feast doing a great job in showcasing the sheer variety and quality of seafood to be found in this fine isle’s shores. In fact, our seafood, right here in the South West, is regarded as some of the best in the world and it’s this idea that Mitch Tonks, chef and Rockfish founder, has built his career on. He explained why he was keen to get involved with the Seafood Feast.
“I’ve eaten seafood all over the world – the quality and diversity of the fish caught locally off our coast is the finest anywhere. Nowhere is the seafood as good and yet only 10 per cent of it is currently consumed locally.
“We have a long-standing fishing community in Brixham, thriving processing and export businesses, and some of the best fish restaurants and seafood chefs. The Seafood Feast will ensure the world knows about England’s Seafood Coast!”
A portion of the money made from the sale of Seafood Feast dishes and activities will be donated to The Fisherman’s Mission, a charity that aims to provide a lifeline of welfare to fisherman and their families.
For the full list of activities and participating restaurants, head to England’s Seafood Feast website.