Book review: Rockfish: The Cookbook, by Mitch Tonks

22 July 2021 by
Book review: Rockfish: The Cookbook, by Mitch Tonks

With over a quarter of a century in the industry, Mitch Tonks has earned a reputation as one of the biggest names in British seafood. His seventh fish-focused cookbook takes his nine-strong chain of Rockfish restaurants as loose inspiration, although his introduction reveals this is more about embracing "the Rockfish style" than a full dissection of its menus.

There is little to challenge the professional chef here, but Tonks' ethos is not one of convoluted techniques or lengthy processes; he proudly proclaims that "when it comes to fish cookery, freshness is everything and after that, it's simplicity. These rules have never changed for me and they still stand firm today."

The first recipe for dressed oysters solidifies this philosophy, with Tonks taking more care to describe his favourite suppliers, how the oysters are farmed and how to shuck, with the dressing suggestions taking a backseat (although blended kimchi is certainly new to me).

This interest in sourcing is perhaps unsurprising given Tonks' background as a fishmonger, and each recipe provides useful information on the species featured. With UK fisheries under extreme strain at the moment, any chef can help out by stealing some of Tonks' tips. For example, tonnes of UK cuttlefish are exported to Spain and Italy each year; Tonks serves it calamari-style, using a familiar dish to introduce native produce to wary guests.

The book is divided into two halves, summer and winter, with a short section on sauces and sides. As one would expect, summer recipes are lighter and fresher, with highlights including ceviche of salmon, dill and celery, while winter dishes tend toward the heartier – although I refute the suggestion that fish and chips must be reserved for the colder months.

Rockfish: The Cookbook perfectly encapsulates what people want to eat by the sea, but what resonated with me was its focus on sustainable and local fishing. Tonks' consideration of how to best preserve our oceans should be emulated by any restaurateur worth their weight in (sea) salt.

Rockfish: The Cookbook, by Mitch Tonks (Jon Croft Editions, £18)

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