In the foreword to The Seahorse, the new book from the owners, The Times critic Giles Coren describes the meal he ate at the eaterie, which stands on the banks of the River Dart, as being one of his "top 10 of all time".
Everything he ate, from the smoked cod roe to the cuttlefish in red wine and the scroppinos (a lemon-flavoured cold posset), screamed of the kind of simple, honest dishes you always hope to eat by the British coastline.
The Seahorse was born after Tonks and Prowse turned their backs on the FishWorks group of restaurants they had created but felt had become too big. Their new restaurant focused on the fish and seafood that was landed virtually outside the front door, combined with a charcoal fire inspired by the open fires used for cooking in Northern Spain and Italy.
A major section of the book focuses on fish - and the occasional cut of meat - cooked over the searing heat of the fire for maximum flavour. The introductory essay on how to get the most out of cooking over fire is fascinating, with useful hints on the best fish to cook this way, the ideal grill seasoning mix and how to best serve a simple piece of grilled fish.
Tonks and Prowse explain that cooking a whole monkfish tail over a hot fire is the obvious method for a fish so firm and meaty. The result is incredibly juicy, with a flavour that is a mix of "fire, salt and sea".
While I love this collection of inspiring, unpretentious recipes, it is a shame that the images don't have the same freshness and depth of the dishes they appear alongside. I'm not sure whether it is due to poor lighting and the wrong paper quality, but unfortunately, this is one of the few food books I have seen recently where the photography does little to enhance the finished product.
By Mitch Tonks and Mat Prowse
Absolute Press, £25
If you like this, try these
- Fish: The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion, by Mitch Tonks
- Nathan Outlaw's Fish Kitchen, by Nathan Outlaw
- Fish & Shellfish, by Rick Stein