Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Seahorse - Dartmouth

The Seahorse, located in the incredibly picturesque town of Dartmouth makes good use of it’s position on the harbour front, a stones throw from the mouth of the river Dart, and from there, no more than a mile or two upriver, the English Channel where the moored Fishing boats, viewable from the restaurant ply their trade. Ensuring that, as primarily a seafood restaurant, it’s reputation is second to none. This is about as fresh as it gets.

In addition, with the extremely well respected, self taught Chef, Mitch Tonks in the kitchen, of whom it could be said; knows just a thing or two about fish. Seafood lovers visiting the restaurant are in for a treat. A recent Giles Coren
review raved about the food and the atmosphere, and with me being in Dartmouth for the weekend accompanied by ‘E’ and it being her Birthday, the choice of restaurant to celebrate the occasion was clear.

Walking down the cobbled harbour front, along past the still waters of the Dart, on an unusually mild late February Saturday evening, and entering the rather smart balconied frontage of The Seahorse it all felt very right, soft ambient lighting, a very smart bistro vibe to the table layout, incredibly only open since April 2008, but feeling like it has been established for much, much longer. The dining room has that settled, lived in feeling, of real character. A large window at one end of the restaurant giving an interesting view onto the kitchen brigade, busy at their work. The Final piece of polish being a friendly greeting from the Maitre'd, perfectly pitched at professional politeness with none of that saccharine, forced bonhomie you often encounter.

Taking our seats at the table, we were really very excited about the meal ahead, and decided to have a Prosecco cocktail aperitif whilst studying the menu and dipping the proffered bread in some smoked cod roe, very nice.

To start, I went for the Lyme Bay scallops with garlic and white port roasted in the shell over the charcoal fire, as Giles Coren had me salivating over them in his review. ‘E’ chose Oysters from Bigbury Bay.

The scallops were incredible, rich, garlicky and succulent, with an almost toffee like consistency to the roasted garlic, port and breadcrumbs surrounding the meat. Seriously, I consider these to be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Delicious.

Across the table, ‘E’ was happily wading into her oysters. Served with a choice of lemon or shallot vinegar, I tried one, and it was superb, fresh and with that characteristic taste of the sea.

Setup nicely for the main course, I went for Sea Bream cooked ‘al cartoccio’ (Roasted in paper, if you don’t know what it means…. I didn’t). With chilli, roasted garlic, rosemary and olive oil. ‘E’ chose Fritto Misto, served with aioli, the smaller print underneath informing that this consisted of monkfish,john dory, red mullet, whitebait, carabineros prawn, squid and chiperones. So a veritable haul of seafood there then.

With our mains, we ordered some sides of exceptional, buttery charlotte potatoes and roasted seasonal vegetables.

The Sea Bream was lovely, beautifully cooked and redolent with the perfume of the garlic and rosemary. Although, I couldn’t detect any chilli at all, despite poking around in the paper bag for a good few minutes… a little drunkenly by this stage, I might add. (We’d ordered a bottle of ‘Tonnix’ a white wine, which is the result of collaboration between Mark Hix and Mitch Tonks, it’s been produced to match well with seafood. It was very nice indeed, and did go perfectly with our food).

‘E’s Fritto Misto looked superb, and she was more than happy with the, as promised wide selection of local seafood fried in a perfectly light batter, one of the beauties of this dish being there are literally minutes of fun to be had trying to work out which piece of battered fish is which. (errr...just me then?)

Onto desserts, and this is where I made an uncharacteristic pudding slip up. I went for Rhubarb and Blood Oranges with caramel and cardamom – expecting something a bit more substantial than what actually arrived…. I guess now, I think I was expecting some kind of crème caramel pudding with fruit…not a small plate of fruit in syrup. I was inconsolable…. I mean, it was nice…. but just not £5-50 nice.

‘E’ on the other hand had chosen more wisely, ordering a baked chocolate pudding…. I stared sadly at her stuffing this much more substantial dessert. Me, casting by turns desolate and envious looks across the table.

Coffee slurped, and bill settled, we left the glowing confines of The Seahorse extremely happy with the meal we’d just eaten. The seafood is sublime, beautifully cooked and the restaurant itself exudes a certain cheerful atmosphere, which is infectious. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what generates the happy vibe – but The Seahorse is obviously doing something very, very right.

If you’re ever in this part of Devon, The Seahorse is a must visit.

The Seahorse Restaurant
5 South Embankment

Telephone: 01803 835147


PDH said...

It all looks amazing, shame about the pudding fail though, nothing worse than food envy especially at the pudding stage. If we ever make it out that way I think we'll need to pop here, my Mrs loves seafood so I think she'd be extremely happy with this.

Paunchos said...

Looks awesome. Ever since I read Coren's review I've wanted to go. And this has only heightened my desire. Hard cheese on the pud!

josordoni said...

Are you saying that she didn't pass a 2nd spoon to you and let you share her choc pudding????


Gilroy said...

Getting some fresh food is the key to the fame in the name of the restaurants.
I can’t always get good, fresh fish by the sea in England, which has always been heart breaking to me.But in the Seahorse i find an amazing fresh fish than any other place.

The proprietor of the Seahorse, Mitch Tonks is a good restaurateur.

E said...

Erm, I did share the pudding, so there! ;) Best birthday EVER.

Luiz Hara said...

Wow, it looks like a fantastic meal, I love fritto misto as well. I wish there were more seafood restaurants in the UK like The Seahorse, or that good fish was more accessible or affordable to most of us in London. Good write up as always.

Luiz @ The London Foodie

Graphic Foodie said...

Looks fantastic and so fresh (apart from the diet choice pudding!)

Dan said...

Paul - Glad you agree with me about the pudding envy, and if your ever over that way and like seafood - this is THE place to visit.

Paunchos - Same here, the Coren review completely sold me. And thanks for the sympathy on the pud choice.

Josordoni - hahaha I can't remember - I'm sure I probably got an ickle taste...see 'E's comment further down.

Gilroy - Agree with everything you said.

E - Hahaha I think I may have been offered a spoonful....glad you had such a good birthday!

Luiz - Thanks, I agree - I wish there were more restaurants like this in the UK...considering that we're an island nation - amazing that there aren't. BTW, lovely to meet you the other night at Pho.

Fran - yes, it was seriously good....apart from the diet choice pudding hahahaha, nice term...which was nice, if you like that sort of thing. I like stodgy substantial puds.

Unknown said...

Those scallops look brilliant - one of the best things you have eaten in your life is a big call but looks like they were worth it!

The Ample Cook said...

Oooh what a lovely meal and such a nice part of the country to be in.

Your fish in particular looked so fresh and the flavours sounded wonderful.

I'm sure you made up for the pudding failure the next day wih a hearty breakfast ;)

LexEat! said...

I was here last November! Incidentally the very same weekend of Giles Coren's review! Luckily we had booked in advance.

Several of the dishes you had looked familiar. We loved being able to see into the kitchen.

Glad you enjoyed!

Eating out in Devon said...

Dartmouth is a lovely little town. I'd recommend it on the August bank holiday as it's the regatta and thousands of people go there to watch the airshow. It's probably the best event in the calendar for Devon.