As well accomplished The Elephant's food was, the experience seemed cold and passionless. Our lunch the next day at Rockfish in Brixham was a total contrast; the service was warm, knowledgeable and friendly, and the room had a cheerful airiness to it.
Opened by Mat Prowse and Mitch Tonks, Rockfish sits right on the fish harbour at Brixham, meaning the day's catch barely has to travel to get to the kitchens of the restaurant. There are four restaurants now, all serving a menu of sustainable and ethically sourced seafood. At this particular restaurant, the fish market is overlooked by the terrace which unfortunately in November was out of the question; you could imagine on a summer's day that those are the hot tables, especially with a glass of blush rosé. Inside is bedecked in white wood and beams emblazoned with uplifting maritime slogans, and the tables are laid with paper placemats listing different kinds of fish. Our waitress circled and priced the fish from the list that were available that day, all either battered, grilled or both.
As we were 6, we were able to order a variety of starters. Sprats were the biggest I've ever seen; I deconstructed the first as I wasn't sure of the stabbiness of the bones; I needn't have worried, as they were soft enough to munch through, undetected.
Salt and pepper prawns were big fat ones, battered and fried until crisp. I was actually hoping for prawns with heads still on, stir-fried with seasonings so that you could really get stuck in there with your hands, beheading the prawns and the like, but it wasn't to be. I'd clearly not read the menu descriptions properly.
Is there much more pleasing than shellfish cooked in garlic butter? I'd say no. These were cooked with "loads of garlic", but somehow managed to retain their own flavour. I found the bread a bit pointless, but others made light work of it.
The sharing platter of starters came with dressed crab, more crab meat, cockles, whole head-on prawns to get messy with, and 3 oysters. Cockles I avoided - has anyone ever had one that wasn't remotely gritty? Why do we bother with them? - and headed straight for the prawns, ripping shells off, dunking them in aioli - my favourite way to eat them. I am but simple.
The fish was cooked simply and perfectly, lightly grilled on each side so that the meat slid from the bones with ease. The South Devon crab roll, though I didn't try any, was very well received, as were the mussels. I had eyes only for my fish, and the pickles selection.
Service was pleasant and friendly - turns out the most amount of unlimited chips consumed isn't as much as you might think - and they were there when we needed them, and absent when not. We only wished we didn't have to dash off for our train.
Brixham Fish Market,
Brixham, TQ5 8AJ
We dined as guests - all views are very much my own.