Rockfish Exmouth: the opening night – by Lauren Heath

Featured photo courtesy of Rockfish

It could be argued that Exmouth is going through a mini-renaissance with eating places. Over the last couple of years,  great local names like Las Saveurs and The Chronicle have been joined by Oddfellows Exmouth, Ruby Kitchen and now Rockfish Exmouth, which opened on the seafront just before Christmas.

What used to be an aptly named restaurant (The Waterfront) is now owned by Rockfish. Rockfish is small group of restaurants owned by Mitch Tonks and Matt Prowse, with their first having opened in 2010 in Dartmouth, they now have one in Plymouth, Brixham and Torquay. Their vision is to have restaurants right by the sea, and cook excellent fish simply.

Almost all the fish on the menus are from local boats who land fish daily, except for the cod and haddock which is from Norway. This is due to the British being the largest consumers of these fish, and the healthiest stocks are in their seas, and are MSC certified.
So when we received our invite to a VIP opening night dinner, we were very excited.

So on the coastal wall, far right of the town, near the dock area where you catch the boat out to another great fish restaurant (although only seasonally) is this beautiful smurf blue building.

On entry, the restaurant was nicely light and airy; white wood panelled walls, benches and even the ceiling along with baby blue chairs and bench cushions. Seaside charm without the ‘in your face’ factor. A few quotes scribed here and there on the walls and plenty of pictures, wine bottles and cookbooks lining other shelving areas to enhance the white space and make it feel cosy and warm rather than cold and empty. The tables are adorned with paper placemats educating you about the type of fish in the sea.

To the rear of the property is what you could call a conservatory. Having been to this venue pre-Rockfish, I know that on a clear or sunny day, the view is spectacular and you feel as if you are sitting on the edge of the sea, which of course you are. It’s a great spot for the annual speed boat race if anything. I noticed blankets for keeping warm when needed but the roaring fire that was present in the room was certainly doing a great job.

We mingled, as you do, with some local folk we have met before and some new ones. We then had the pleasure of being seated with Catherine Courtenay and Andy Cooper of Devon Life as well as Kate Haskell of ITV fame. We all had a fair few food miles between us and were looking forward to what was to come.

A special shorter menu was on offer to us this evening, and my eyes immediately noticed the calamari – squid, lightly coated in flour, fried crisp and served with a Singapore style chilli sauce. Another fish jumping out at me from the mains was the monkfish, grilled over charcoal and served with garlic butter.

This a very meaty fish that can be tough or stringy to eat if done wrong – a bit like the squid actually, but done right, it is beautiful. It is also a good fish for strong flavours too, such as wrapping in Parma ham or using with a curry sauce.

The squid was perfect, soft to eat, crispy coating with raw chilli and spring onion spread around, to add that much needed crunch and intense flavour, with the sauce adding sweetness should you need it.

The monkfish was a handsome beast; a huge piece served simply, covered in very garlicky garlic butter – yes chef – if it says garlic I want garlic and this didn’t disappoint. The flesh was creamy and meaty and soft, it was delicious. I saw Chris’ tartare sauce and requested a pot for adorning my chips, and I am glad I did. I was lighter than shop-bought sauces, and tangy and delicious.

Pudding was a delight too…nothing gastronomic, but I opted for the sundae with caramel sauce, chocolate brownie cake pieces and topped with popcorn. I think the clever use of ‘Mr Whippy’ ice cream is why I was so happy eating this pudding, it was a ‘childhood-memory-inducing’ dessert – I was just so happy eating it – isn’t that a good way to finish a meal?

I really do look forward to returning here en famille – we are all fish lovers and having looked at the full menu there are some great dishes on there. Coupled with an easy-going environment and the possibility of sitting seaside with the fishies – this venue has the potential for both families and couples or groups to have a great time eating out, day or night.

Below are a couple of photos courtesy of Rockfish:


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