The Seahorse in Dartmouth is setting the standard for seafood in the UK. Winning an accolade of awards, including the 2013 Good Food Guide’s best seafood restaurant in the UK and more recently the sought after Observer Food Monthly’s best restaurant award, it pipped my favourite steak restaurant The Hawskmoor at the post. But the Hawksmoor lads aren’t jaded, actually more the opposite. In a strange twist of fate, the Hawksmoor recently teamed up with the Seahorse’s head chef and co-owner Mitch Tonks to open up the new Hawksmoor on Piccadilly’s Air Street.
To say the restaurant, located on the banks of the river Dart, specializes in seafood is an unavoidable cliché. But this is a seafood restaurant with a difference, most of the fish, which is bought fresh daily, is cooked over an open charcoal fire. You can see why the Hawksmoor and the Seahorse team is a match made in heaven. Extremely popular with the locals, more and more tourists and fellow foodies have flocked down to Devon if only to sample some of it delicacies.
The venue is effortlessly stylish and elegant, with dimmed lighting, wooden panelling and yellow upholstered leather banquettes.The Seahorse has a touch of class with a timeless sense of style; which is perfect for a romantic evening on the town.
The menu which changes daily, has a great selection of fresh seafood and meat. Dishes are designed to tantalize even the fussiest of taste buds. You can enjoy a starter of Dartmouth crab, a seafood stew or even a cutlet of tender veal grilled over the wood burning fire.
I was also rather impressed by the extensive wine list of over 180 bins, some of which were surprisingly affordable since only a small percentage is added to the cost price.
The service is attentive and friendly, with a hint of self assuredness but no ego. Owners Mitch and Mat, definitely have got it right here, proving that hospitality is just as important as the food. With just only 40 covers, you are made to feel special.
A glass of crisp aperitivo of St Germain royale prosecco and freshly baked bread, olive oil and a selection of capers and nocceleraro olives from Sicily was a perfect way to start the evening.
The mussels from Elberry cove (£8.90), swimming in a steaming bath of wine, bay & chilli were brilliantly executed. With just a touch of chilli, the sauce achieved the subtle punch that it needed and was so good I could have easily licked the bowl.
The sand sole (£25.50) was delicately balanced and roasted over the fire with rosemary and new seasons olive oil. It was perfectly cooked, literally falling apart from the bone when cutting it. It’s difficult to find fish this fresh unless you caught it yourself.
The sides were also fantastic. The Florence fennel gratin (£3.50) was crunchy where it needed to be, and the hint of aniseed flavour was a perfect accompaniment to the seafood. The spinach, seasoned with chilli, garlic and olive oil (£3.50) was equally impressive.
The monkfish fillet (£25.50) served with artichoke caponata was the winner of the night. Meaty and hearty, the fillet was grilled over the fire which achieved a smoky char-grilled flavour. The monkfish really speaks for itself here and does not rely on a sauce to achieve its depth of flavour.
I was not entirely convinced by the look of the chilled chocolate & salted caramel pudding (£6.90). I usually like puddings of the chocolate variety served warm. However after a taste of this heavenly dish, I soon swallowed my words. This is one to order for yourself if you want to avoid getting in to a battle to the death with your partner while you try to finish every last mouthful. The real treat is the gooey salted caramel at the bottom, which blends harmoniously with the rich chocolate mousse like they were best friends for ever.
The Seahorse was definitely worth every cent and the detour to South Devon. So much so, I better start planning my next trip back soon. Carry on the good work guys! Mitch you’re definitely giving Rick Stein a good run for his money.
£140 for starter, two mains, dessert and bottle of wine and appertifs.
5 South Embankment Dartmouth TQ6 9BH. Opening hours: For Dinner Tuesday – Sunday 6pm – 10pm. Monday closed.