Feast, a seafood festival that will be held from 22 September to 7 October in Brixham, a small fishing village in the district of Torbay in the county of Devon in England, hopes to encourage the British to be more adventurous when it comes to trying fish.
The Brixham fish market, which sells forty different species of fish, including brill, bass, scallops, hake, turbot and lobster, auctions nearly 50 tonnes of fish each day, most of which is exported. As an example, 96% of the cuttlefish, which belong to the family of squid and octopus, is shipped to Italy, Spain, and France.
“British people like octopus and squid,” says Barry Young, former chief auctioneer turned managing director, who offer weekly guided tours of the market. “But say cuttlefish and they think budgie cage. Basically, we’re still a cod and chips nation, until a TV chef cooks something different on a Saturday morning.”
For Feast, the Brixham fish market will join restaurants, hotels, bars, and attractions across Torbay to celebrate of all things seafood, with cooking classes, dinners, and a variety of other culinary events. The event hopes to rebrand the English Riviera as “England’s Seafood Coast,” a name that originated with Mitch Tonks, the chef behind Devon’s renowned Rockfish and Seahorse restaurants.
“I was on a trip to Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, seeing the abalone and oysters coming in and enjoying the food. I wondered, what if people recognized Torbay for what it is? The best seafood and fish are landed here, but the work behind it is hidden,” Tonks says, adding that much of what is caught in Torbay is exported to London. He hopes to create a place to enjoy amazing seafood, with a cup of tea or a glass of Muscadet, and views of the sea where the fish was caught. “This coast is world-class, as good as anywhere overseas,” he says.
Torquay, in the north to Brixham, which attracts luxury yachts, also has several fine restaurants, including the acclaimed The Elephant, which has held a Michelin star since 2004. The tasting menu includes “hand-dived Salcombe scallop” and a “crab crumpet.” One of chef Simon Hulstone’s missions is to foster sustainability. and to show what can be done with pollock, coley, and cuttlefish. A guest chef for the restaurant will create a special menu for Feast.
For more relaxed fare, the Palace Hotel in Paignton and the Headland Hotel in Torquay will hold family-style seafood barbecues, with live music and children’s entertainment. Nearby, at Greenway, Agatha Christie’s grand home and gardens will host a champagne, lobster and blackberry dinner, which was also served for Christie’s 80th birthday in 1970.
Many Brixham restaurants will be participating in Feast, including The Curious Kitchen, which will serve a seven-course meal for £35. At Berry Head, kids can join a one-hour sea-creature hunt around the nature reserve, which is organized by the Guardhouse Café.
“Seafood is such a big thing and many livelihoods are based around it,” says Tonks. “The past image kept people away, but I think they will start to rediscover the coast because of the quality of the food – which tastes better here.”