England's Seafood FEAST event: 7 courses, 7 restaurants, 7 hours in Torquay
To celebrate the seafood coast and the produce brought in from the waters of the English Riviera, a two week series of events called England's Seafood Feast was planned, highlighting and giving people the chance to eat some fantastic seafood and enjoy the best of what the English Riviera has to offer.
I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in a kick-off event titled '7 Chefs from England's Seafood Coast'. A marathon of an event eating 7 courses at 7 restaurants over 7 hours - all along a quarter of a mile stretch of the Torquay promenade, in aid of The Fishermen's Mission, which helps provide emergency support, financial support and emotional care to active or retired fisherman and their families.
Fishing is up there as one of the most dangerous and toughest occupations and one in twenty fisherman will not live to see retirement age, all to bring us the fish we love to eat.
With empty stomachs, my wife Lauren of Dining Devon and my son Kyle's Kitchen and myself arrived at 9:45am at number 7 Fish Bistro and Wine Bar and met with the other people taking part in this public event (around 20) in the upstairs wine bar. We were introduced to our host Kelly, who I must say did a wonderful job of shepherding the group from restaurant to restaurant, with perfect timing that we never felt rushed.
To start the day we were presented with a glass of chilled Lyme Bay Reserve Sparkling Wine and the first of three crab canapes were handed round by the friendly team. The canapes, two cold variations on bruschetta and one warm crab bon bon, were all packed with beautiful picked crab and with not a piece of shell in sight and was a great start to the day. With the downstairs restaurant and the well stocked wine bar on the first floor, this is a great place for a meal or just a glass of wine while looking out over the harbour.
It was time to move to our next stop and within a stone's throw was The Elephant Restaurant by Simon Hulstone; the first restaurant in Torquay to be awarded a Michelin star which it has maintained for the last 14 years. With its bright interior and attentive staff serving Salcombe gin with Fever Tree tonic, we were treated to local Brixham scallops with roasted onion, Rusty Pig pancetta and sweetheart cabbage.
I'm not a big fan of scallops, but this was perfectly cooked and the clever marriage of the other ingredients especially the pancetta, which cut through the sweet scallop making the most of simple but well cooked ingredients.
At this point we were all feeling relaxed; this might have been due to the drinks we had had so far and it wasn't even 11 o'clock but also to the fact that this was going to be a day to remember.
Just across the road, right on the harbour is Below Decks, a family run restaurant for the past ten years and our next stop; we were served mussels in a cream and white wine sauce with Hunt's Misty Maid cloudy Devon cider.
The mussels were some on the most succulent mussels I've eaten in long time and, with bread to soak up the sauce, this was a great next course on our adventure. The venue also boasts a very nice outside area, perfect for a summers day and with attentive staff and a cracking location this needs to be on your list of places to visit - Kyle gave it the thumbs up!
With three down and four to go, we headed to Twenty1Lounge and Cocktail Bar. Again, overlooking the harbour, this tapas style eatery is set over three floors with a stunning open top garden bar where we were all seated and treated to an amazing non alcoholic Sea Arch gin with Fever Tree tonic. I have to say the drink was stunning, not only in taste but also in the way the professional staff presented it with accompaniments of cucumber, mint and rosemary.
We were served a visually impressive dish of mackerel bruschetta, heritage tomatoes, mango, pomegranate pickled shallots, sesame seeds and balsamic glaze. This was stunning; every element perfectly cooked and prepared and the mackerel with its crispy flamed skin was the best I've eaten. If you're looking for a tapas style lunch head up stairs to the garden bar, enjoy the food and the views and unique offering.
Special events are a great way to highlight amazing produce and entice people to try more things - in fact it is now National Seafood Week; but with such great bounty from the sea all year round, why only enjoy it at certain times when you can do so all year round. So gather your friends, and eat more seafood - let's keep this sustainable, healthy, top notch produce in our local restaurants and not have all the excess sent abroad for others to enjoy.
This event wouldn’t have been possible without all the chefs, independent restaurants and drinks producers involved. Plus Brixham Fish Market, Brixham Seafood Food Farms, The Blue Sea Food Company, Carlsberg & SHOT BY ROB.
*Thanks to Shot By Rob for the photos from the day, as he followed us round, getting tasters too (tough gig but someone's gotta do it!).