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Tue 19th May 2015 at 16:29

Crumbs Magazine Restaurant review: The Spiny Lobster:

Crumbs Magazine - May 2015 Restaurant review: The Spiny Lobster

MARK TAYLOR visits the ever-evolving Whiteladies Road fish restaurant

 

After A few days in Cornwall, I still hadn’t had my fill of fish. So it seemed only right that I still had sand in my shoes when I arrived at The Spiny Lobster the minute I landed back in Bristol.

 

Until recently, this corner site at the top end of Whiteladies Road was Rockfish and, before that, FishWorks. For those locals with elephantine memories, it was even a fishmongers called Lloyds back in the 1970s, and it was a wet fish shop prior to that. That means fish has been sold here for at least 40 years, maybe longer, and it is Weston-super-Mare born restaurateur and chef Mitch Tonks who is continuing this tradition.

 

The recent change of name, and gentle refurbishment, is to do with separating this Bristol business from Tonks’s group of Rockfish restaurants, which are slowly spreading their tentacles along the Devon coast. More family-oriented seafood restaurants, Rockfish is all about eating high quality fish and chips and knickerbocker glories within sight of the sea. The latest flagship Rockfish, which opened in Brixham last month, overlooks the harbour and you can virtually touch the boats that caught the fish you are eating – what better way to encapsulate Tonks’s mantra of ‘tomorrow’s fish are still in the sea’? As well as Rockfish, Tonks also owns the highly acclaimed Seahorse restaurant in Dartmouth, a more fine dining seafood experience and a place that is a regular fixture on lists of the UK’s best eateries.

 

In many ways, The Spiny Lobster is a sibling to The Seahorse in that it’s a more grown-up, special occasion restaurant with linen tablecloths, Art Deco table lamps and sea-green leather banquettes. Walls are plastered with seafood identification posters and photos of Tonks’s family and friends, as well as the weather-beaten Brixham fishermen who risk their lives every day to ensure we can eat some of the best fish you’ll find anywhere in the world.

 

Although he occasionally hosts special events here, Tonks doesn’t cook in Bristol, but head chef James Davidson has worked for him for years and sings from the same hymn sheet when it comes to produce-driven seasonal menus and respecting the raw materials by doing as little to them as possible. Many of the dishes are cooked over charcoal in the searing heat of the Josper oven, including the non-fish options – on this visit, these included bavette with rosemary and red wine sauce; and spring chicken roasted over the fire with sage.

 

Tonks has forged close links with his fish suppliers in Devon, and 95% of the menu is written around the catch of the day. A starter of cured salmon with fennel and blood orange (£6.90) was as pretty as it was delicious – the firm, sweet fish perfectly complemented by the slices of crunchy raw fennel, and the oily richness countered by the citrus burst of the vivid red blood orange segments.

 

A Spanish-inspired main course of hake with sherry and capers (£18) was a fine example of intelligent fish cookery. The snow-white flakes of hake were precisely timed and remarkably fresh, the creamy, slightly sweet sherry sauce studded with piquant capers. Other choices being enjoyed around me included pickled red mullet with chilli and orange; Royale bream with caponata; Dover sole with lime and sage; and monkfish cooked ‘in the style of Romagna’.

 

From a list of seasonal springtime desserts that included panna cotta with Yorkshire rhubarb, Gariguette strawberries with crème fraîché (£6) was delicate, refreshing and a sure-fire sign that summer is just around the corner.

 

It may have a new name and identity, but The Spiny Lobster continues where Rockfish left off by serving the freshest fish and seafood in an elegant but relaxed dining room. It might be a long way from the sea proper, but this is one restaurant that continues to make a big splash on the local food scene.

Wed 06th May 2015 at 13:06

TASTE THE BEST OF THE WEST WITH MITCH TONKS & FIRST GREAT WESTERN:

​As headline sponsor of this year's Food Connections Festival in Bristol, First Great Western​ is presenting a one-off dining event showcasing some of the best seafood to be found in the West Country, hosted by Mitch Tonks, here at The Spiny Lobster on Wednesday 6th May.

Mitch works with FGW to create the Pullman First Class Dining Menus, and on the evening of the 6th, he and FGW chefs will recreate a menu celebrating the new seafood that is now being served on board. All of which is sourced from producers and suppliers near to where FGW tracks run throughout the South West.

 The evening's menu will start with a glass of Prosecco, followed by

- Gurnard escabeche with olives & celery

- Roasted scallops with fennel butter

- Soft polenta with mixed seafood & garlic

- Grilled Dover sole with fennel gratin

- Olive oil cake with grappa syrup

 Mitch will introduce and chat about each course, the food available on board the Pullman, his ongoing development work with FGW and its commitment to sourcing local produce.

 Doors open at 7.15pm for an 8pm start. The menu is £50p/head* pre-booking is advisable.

To book your table contact us

 - enquiries@thespinylobster.co.uk

- tel: 0117 9737384

 We look forward to taking you on a culinary journey down West!

 *wine to be purchased separately

Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 13:47

Rebrand and launch of new restaurant:

We are very excited to be giving our restaurant a fresh new look both inside and out. We've also got a new name... The Spiny Lobster

Opening in mid January we're still be serving the very best in seafood cooked over fire

Sat 26th Jul 2014 at 10:39

Shellfish Lunch :

After the success of 5th anniversary lunch last month many have suggested we do something similar again so we have put on a special menu celebrating our wonderful shellfish. Have a look at the menu here and please call 0117 9737384 to book your table.