To use the word simple to describe the way that food at The Seahorse is proffered to its discerning diners seems a little unfair. Simple implies that what you are getting is somehow plain, easy to conjure up or hasn’t had all that much effort put into its execution, and it couldn’t feel further from the truth.
And yet simple is how it is; oysters on a bed of salt, scallops in their shell with a touch of garlic, a hunk of turbot with one side dish unfussy in its presentation, a slice of cake surrounded with cream. A host of utterly exquisite mouthfuls of food that stand relatively unadorned – but by no means unflavoured – ready and waiting to prove their worth without the need for the likes of dry ice or popping candy to wow the recipient. Simple, yes; simply beautiful, simply elegant, simply delicious.
For 14 years The Seahorse has been proudly affirming its love for Italian food and British ingredients by impressing diners from its welcoming location on Dartmouth’s seafront. Expect a warm welcome as you enter through Joe’s Bar around the corner and make some time before your reservation to enjoy a beverage there. From your spot in the elegant space, you’ll spy The Cantina, The Seahorse’s private room which plays host to friends and family looking for an intimate space to dine and/or celebrate with a dedicated menu.
In addition to these dining spaces and the bar, there’s the addition of coastal eateries Rockfish – a collection of nine restaurants serving up delights that have freshly landed in Brixham, Devon. Expect to spy some new properties in the chain on your next visit to Salcombe, Sidmouth and Topsham, and the new launches don’t stop there as, just last month, Rockfish Seafood at Home was launched. A new way to buy and eat fish, customers will be able to have direct access to the 24-hour fish market in Brixham where they can purchase seafood directly from the boats via the online market and have it delivered to their door within 24 hours.
Today, however, I was sipping Champagne in the bar ready to dine on some of those local delights in Mitch Tonks’ elegant bistro on Dartmouth’s embankment, just a few miles from where the seafood is caught. Seated at our table, my dining guest and I were brought some slices of focaccia with anchovy cream, while we perused the menus, which consisted of a menu del giorno (three courses for £25) with that day’s wines by the glass, and the main menu with plenty of antipasti, starters, market fish cooked on the grill, specialities for two, meats and sides to choose from.
With twice daily fish deliveries to the restaurant, expect the menu to change not just between visits, but throughout the day. Said fish is then prepared over a charcoal fire – a speciality of the restaurant and something which you will also find across many Mediterranean coastal restaurants.
I opted for the plate of salumi, cheese and giardiniera to begin, which included a plate full of tasty treats such as a gorgeous, plump helping of burrata, olives, charred and flavoursome vegetables, pickled vegetables and thinly sliced meats. The oysters, I was told by my dining partner, were beautifully fresh, and served with a vinaigrette to uplift the saltiness.
Both of us couldn’t resist the look of the scallops, especially when looking so great being roasted and served in the shells. Cooked with white port and garlic with a crumb on top, this rustic yet delicious way of serving them was a winner for us and they were bigger than we expected for a local catch. We wondered if they could be elevated with little pieces of bacon or pancetta, but then simplicity is the order of the day here, less fuss and more room to allow the wonderful main ingredient to do the talking.
The main courses involved Dover sole and Turbot – both, as explained on the menu – simply prepared with Fontodi olive oil and the day’s side of fagioli – Verdina beans braised in San Marzano tomatoes – alongside our choices of Carciofi al forno – roasted Jerusalem artichokes, and insalata do pomodoro – Marmande tomatoes with basil.
The Dover sole arrived filleted, as requested, and the quality shone through the sweet, light, delicate fish, while a delightful butter and tomatoes were the perfect accompaniment. The turbot was served on the bone and boasted plenty of mouth-watering meat to devour. The side dishes of roasted Jerusalem artichokes, which were caramelised and had a slight tang, as well as the tomatoes and white, creamy beans, complemented the seafood very well.
We took a little break before dessert to enjoy our surroundings and take in the atmosphere. The elegant bistro boasts an open kitchen and yellow leather banquette seating along two opposing walls, which anchors the open plan space well. Colourful artworks hang on the walls as do an array of signed menus from guest chef events at the restaurant, while a wall of wine creates a useful storage area and also an eye-catching feature in the décor.
Desserts were calling and so I opted for a flourless chocolate cake, which was served simply with cream and made for a filling, rich, sweet and decadent end to the meal. Luckily my fellow diner wanted a bite after his cheese selection as I couldn’t have finished it alone.
After a decent cappuccino along with a fruitilli – a bite-sized Venetian doughnut with fried fruit inside and pine nuts – we were just about done and ready to embrace a little fresh air with a walk along the embankment just outside, but not before promising that we would definitely be back.
In a nutshell
A welcoming atmosphere, friendly staff, and most of all a flavoursome menu of delights from the land and sea, The Seahorse is the place you pop along to for a leisurely weekend lunch, a midweek treat or a celebration, tasting the best that surrounding land and sea has to offer.