{Brixham, Devon} Rockfish

Back in 2013, I had lunch at Mitch Tonk’s flagship restaurant, the Seahorse in Dartmouth. There wasn’t the opportunity to repeat the experience this trip but we were able to come to this branch of his mini-chain of seafood restaurants.

It’s a perfect location, right on the harbourside, where most of Tonks’ seafood is landed, often from his own boar, the Rockfisher. The menu is clever. Starters are listed and there’s a handful of standard main course dishes – the likes of fish & chips, or scallops in batter. But it also lists seafood which may or may not be available that day, depending on what the boats have brought in. Freshness is a key element here – the chain’s slogan is “Tomorrow’s fish is still in the sea”. The server tells you the varieties available and how they’ll be prepared. There were four.

So, for starters, there were crisp squid rings with what was described as a Singapore dipping sauce, but most folk, me included, would know this better as Thai sweet chilli sauce. Lots of chilli in the sauce and lots of thinly sliced red chilli across the squid. For want of a better pun, it “rocked”. The other plate was also the essence of good seafood cookery – take top quality ingredients and do very little with them. Here, scallops had been grilled on the shell and served with a scattering of crisp bread crumbsand garlic butter. And there’s bread for mopping up the sauce.

There was a whole Dover sole for one main course. Just simply grilled. For the other, a traditional dressed Brixham crab, served with thick slices of bread, mayo and a small handful of rocket. All main courses come with either a mixed salad or unlimited chips. “Unlimited chops” , eh? Music to the ears of this northerner. We ordered a salad and the chips. They also come with your choice of still or sparkling mineral water. Both plates were as perfect a seafood plate as you could wish for.

Only one of us wanted dessert. They are not big on desserts here. It’s only ice cream or the “dessert of the day”. And that day, it a lovely cheesecake topped with summer berries. Rich, sweet, fruity – you don’t really need more from a pudding.


I’d lived in Singapore for most of my adult life and can safely assure you that there is no such thing as a “Singapore dipping sauce”. :joy:
If there is to be one regarded as such - the closest would probably be the sambal belacan, an infernally hot combination of red Cayenne chile peppers and the obnoxious-smelling belacan/fermented shrimp paste - certainly not something any British restaurant would serve to their customers. If Scoville was that robot from Space 1999, it would go berserk with its “Warning, warning, danger, danger!” alarm.

Once, I had a Chinese colleague from Shanghai visiting me in Singapore, and I took him out for a Nyonya dinner. I forgot to warn him about the sambal belacan dip, and he looked like he was going into death throes when he tasted it! He must’ve drunk a gallon of water there & then.


I’m sure this was a bit of “restaurant speak”, trying to distinguish it to customers from the bottle of Thai sauce you’d get from supermarket.

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Oh yes, and Thai ingredients are much more readily available in the UK (just as they are in the US, as well) compared to Singaporean ones.

When I was working in San Francisco back in 2006-2010, I used to be a regular at the Straits Cafe in Westfield SF Centre, owned by Singapore restaurateur, Chris Yeo. Its food offerings were the closest I could find to the cuisine from my part of the world. And yet, the sayur lodeh (a Nyonya vegetable curry) it served was actually Thai green curry, with its distinct galangal, Thai basil leaves and lemongrass scent & flavors - all ingredients one never finds in sayur lodeh. My guess was - Straits Cafe’s kitchen simply utilized store-bought Thai spices to cook their curries.