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.
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.
‘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