“ 128 Whiteladies Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2RS. Tel:+44 (0)117 973 7384 „
When the Rockfish Grill and Seafood Market opened its doors in May just around the corner from my office on Whiteladies Road in Bristol, I was intrigued and looking forward to the taking the opportunity to sample its fish-based menu, as I'm a big fan of seafood. So when some clients visited for a late morning meeting, my colleague and I decided to take them there for lunch afterwards.
The Rockfish Grill is located in what was formerly the Bristol branch of the Fishworks chain. Fishworks had a number of restaurants in Bristol, Bath and London, but was a victim of the recession and shut its doors earlier this year. The Bristol branch was the first of the Fishworks restaurants to open, and according to the local press, had still been turning a profit, despite the group's collapse. I believe that the building is owned by Mitch Tonks, the celebrity chef who founded Fishworks. He sold the business before it went bust, but retained ownership of the building. Rockfish Grill is a new incarnation of Fishworks, set up again by Tonks.
We booked a table for four for 12.30 on Friday lunchtime. We weren't sure if our clients were going to be able to stay for lunch until they arrived, so we only had a couple of hours notice to confirm the booking; luckily the restaurant managed to fit us in.
We arrived and a helpful and friendly waitress showed us to our seats. We were immediately impressed by the light and airy feel of the restaurant that cleverly combined retro and modern interior décor. We particularly liked the very retro half-window blinds that gives diners a sense of privacy from the busy street outside, but allows lots of light into the restaurant. The kitchen is visible from the dining area, which allows customers to view their food being prepared.
Having previously visited the restaurant when it was Fishworks, I noticed that as the Rockfish Grill, the smell of fish was a lot less prevalent. That is because previously, Fishworks had operated a seafood market from the main entrance to the property that customers had to walk through to enter the restaurant. The Rockfish grill has retained this seafood market concept, but this has been relocated to a separate area accessed from a side road. Therefore, the overpowering smell of raw fish has gone.
The waitress immediately took our order for drinks and gave us paper menus. Because the restaurant buys fresh fish from Devon on the day of selling them, the menu changes slightly every day depending on what is in season and what has been caught. The waitress explained that there was a small error in the menu which she said was her fault as she had updated the menu that morning. She was very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, pointing out what was specially in that day, the flavour of certain types of fish, whilst adopting an informal tone, which was refreshingly different from the rather stuffy tone some waiting staff use in good restaurants.
The price of starters on the a la carte menu ranged from about £5-£10, and included such delights as Brixham mussles, oysters and grilled calamari. However, we opted for smoked cod's roe with garlic and olive oil to share between the four of us, with bread for dipping which is billed as a appetiser at £1.95 per person. This tasted heavenly, light and creamy, and was just the right starter for a lunch time meal.
The main courses include a selection charcoal grilled fish served with an accompanying sauce of your own choice, and other delicious sounding dishes such as bouillabaisse (fish stew), crab salad, a platter of fruits de mare and langoustines. The prices varied from £12 to £32. However, most of the main courses were available for under £18, which we found to be reasonable. The restaurant also offers a small selection of meat dishes in case fish isn't your thing. The main courses do not come with side orders or vegetables and chips; these are available for £2.50 per side.
All of us ordered a main and a side order of chips. We also ordered some vegetables including peas. I opted for the langoustines as my main course at £16, which was served with mayonnaise. I must say that I was slightly disappointed with my langoustines; they were beautifully presented, but there were only three of them. Despite the huge amount of space they took up on the plate, once I had broken the shells, they were not much bigger than King Prawns. They tasted delicious, but for £16, I would have expected a bit more! I would also add that no equipment was provided for cracking the shells, so I had to use my fingers. However, my colleague and clients all chose more traditional fish which was served in much bigger portions. They all agreed that their meals tasted great and were cooked to perfection. I was very envious, and will be having a more substantial meal next time I go!
The restaurant also does a set menu of £12 at lunch for bouillabaisse and a glass of wine and a two course set menu for £15 and a three course menu for £20, both without the wine.
Three of us had a glass of the house wine, which was quite steep at £5 per glass. We also ordered a bottle of sparkling water, which the waitress informed us they make themselves in the kitchen. This only cost £1 which was excellent value.
In total the bill came to £88 for four, without service, which we rounded up to £100 as we were pleased by our attentive waitress. This is certainly not cheap for a lunchtime meal, but I can't deny the quality of the food. The restaurant's motto is "Tommorrow's fish is still in the sea" and it prides itself on its commitment to sourcing the freshest, highest quality fish. Most of the fish comes from Brixham in Devon, which at about 100 miles away, is relatively locally sourced. The restaurant is certainly well used - we were the first to arrive at 12.30, but by the time we left, it was full and the staff were turning people away!
I haven't discussed the seafood market in this review, as I've never purchased fish from there. I have heard that it is the best fishmongers in Bristol, but it's also very expensive, so I generally stick to the supermarkets for food to cook at home. I believe the restaurant is easily accessible for disabled customers, but I can't comment on the toilets, as I didn't use them!
The restaurant is closed on Mondays and Sundays, but open every other day. It opens for two sittings, from 12 - 2.30 for lunch and from 6-10.30 for dinner. It is located on Whiteladies Road which has good bus links and is near to a railway station and there is on-street parking nearby (you'll be lucky to find a space during the day)! They have a comprehensive website www.rockfishgrill.co.uk which allows you to book a reservation online. If you're in the area and fancy some quality fish, it's definitely worth checking out!
The RockFish Grill and Seafood Market is all about the freshest and best seafood. We have direct links with the fishermen in the port of Brixham on the South Devon coast where some of the best fish in the world is landed, we get the best of the day's catch - every day.