Meet our fishmonger, Barney

So, we started our interview with Barney with the question everyone wants to ask a fishmonger, do you actually like fish?

To which he replied yes, phew, we got the right man for the job. So much so our very own Captain Birdseye went on to tell us his memories of the first fish he ever caught whilst out fishing, just aged 6, where he proudly caught his first trout.

Fishing has since become one of his favourite, chill time hobbies that he spends most his weekends doing out on his little rib boat, mainly at his favourite destination Chesil Beach in Dorset.

Bristol born and bred from just round the corner in Cotham, Barns is not a stranger to the hospitality industry, with 30 years working in a number of highly thought of venues across Bristol from The Pony & Trap, Primrose, The Glass boat & Blue goose. He has worked his many skills from pot washing, to front of house (all though that didn’t last very long, you may want to ask him about his waiting skills, lets just say we are glad he came to us in his calmer days) to being a chef in the kitchen. He then turned his hand to fishmongery at the Valley Smokehouse, where he then went on to learn everything there is to know about fish, and how to come home smelling like one apparently, according to his lovely partner Nina, who tells us she makes him undress on the front door step every night before being allowed to step inside. Even in the winter!

After spending 16 years at the Smokehouse it was as though Covid hitting us happened for a reason and it was time for a change, as Barney found his way to Spiny Lobster and what a great time we have had with him so far, taking the fishmongers to a new level where ‘The little shop on the side of the restaurant’ became our whole world, and for what became the new normal for quite some time.

This made Barney with his trademark beard, blue apron and his fisherman wellies image, truly become the celebrity icon he deserved to be of Whiteladies Road, and we were so excited to share him with you.

He now has quite the fan base judged on the regular feedback from customers and the number of likes/ comments on Instagram and social media.
So, when we asked Barney what he enjoys about his job his humble reply was warming and touching, as he said, to make a difference, to help others and to give people what they want.

When we asked Barney what is a great day in the fishmongers, he said, having a fully stocked counter, a variety of different types of fresh fish, and that feeling first thing in the morning when the fish is delivered straight off the day boats from the Brixham market, where you know it has been caught and auctioned that day, and sent straight up to our door, knowing it doesn’t get much fresher than that!

Don’t let his big, strong exterior fool you, he really is a big pussy cat at heart, and the leader of the pack it would seem, as he gets a regular visit from the cats of Wellington Park for their daily smoked salmon fix.

Now if you have met Barney you will know he a is a bit of a cheeky chappy, with a personality that oozes with pizzazz, charm, cheekiness and sarcasm, as he loves to have a laugh and get to know everyone who comes to his door. This doesn’t go down as well with the chefs when he just really can’t say no to customers and sells the restaurant fish,

To Charlie’s fury we have many games of hide the fish played on a Saturday, all to which Barney would win by saying, “just buy more fish, I’ll sell it”

Barneys fish preparation and knife skills are second to none, nothing is too hard work, and as he says when people ask him ‘‘is it ok to fillet the fish’’, he replies ‘’of course, that’s what I’m here for”, and he really is, he will prepare your fish for you any way you like, and even help you with advice on how to cook it, and great recipe ideas to go with it. When asked what is the most popular question he gets asked in the shop from customers, he said “what shall I have for dinner” to which his reply is usually “something expensive”.

His experience and knowledge over the years means he is awesome at answering this question and helping you create a wonderful dinner.
We hope you love Barney as much as we do, we couldn’t help showing him how much by putting his name in lights on the shop awning outside! Whilst capturing this cheeky grin we said give us your favourite fish pun, “There’s a time and a plaice for jokes” he laughed.

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