Rockfish seafood restaurant – can I get sides with that?

One of my favourite things in life is seafood. There’s nothing better than cooking up a bowl full of fresh mussels on a Friday night accompanied by a nice bottle of red. In fact, when I’m holidaying in Greece, I will usually eat more fish than meat as I find it so fresh and tasty over there, which is why when I see what potentially looks like a great seafood restaurant here in Blighty, I try and book a table.

On a recent trip to Torquay I came across a restaurant right on the seafront called Rockfish. With a slogan of ‘tomorrow’s fish is still in the sea,’ and a backstory that incorporates two best mates having a vision to serve only the best seafood from the South Coast of England, it appears to be the sort of place you’d want to try at least once.

The place was packed as we walked in, a good sign and perhaps a strong indication of the fact that in 25 degrees heat like it was that day, people automatically crave the seafood rich diet that is so common in the countries that us Brits like to holiday in.

The one thing that drew me to Rockfish was the announcement that the menu could be made entirely gluten free. First, I ordered the half pint of Norwegian prawns, which I was told I couldn’t have, presumably because there may have been milk in the cocktail sauce. The only alternative for a starter that the waitress could offer was the fresh Devon crab with avocado and lime. It was my first time sampling crab and I do have to say it was absolutely delicious alongside the creamy avocado and spring onion.

For mains, I would have liked the gluten free fish and chips, but again was told I could only have it un-battered and only if it was cod. There wasn’t a lot that I could have off the menu without milk, so I opted for the chargrilled calamari steak but without the garlic butter. In Spain, there is a famous octopus dish that is served with tiny potatoes in olive oil that tastes amazing. I presumed that the calamari steak would come with chips, but it only came with a bit of greenery. It was pretty nice to begin with, but without the butter it got boring to eat on its own and didn’t fill me up.

I don’t know whether because it was a bank holiday the chefs didn’t have time to fire up the gluten free pans, or whether the menu isn’t as adaptable allergen free as first stated, but I left feeling a little disappointed. I have always said that a good chef can adapt dishes but here there wasn’t much choice, and besides, surely putting some potatoes or chips on the plate with the squid wouldn’t have caused too much trouble.

Overall, if you’re a regular eater and you’re looking for a fish restaurant in Torquay then by all means give Rockfish a go. For me however, I probably won’t be visiting again for a while.

**UPDATE**

I am happy to tell you that I gave Rockfish another go in 2019 – this time when on a mini holiday in Dartmouth – and I have to say, the food was exquisite. They have definitely made allergens a key priority since my original review and presented me with a comprehensive gluten free menu on arrival and the statement that almost everything could be made gluten and dairy free. I opted for a big bowl of juicy mussels and the seafood platter, consisting of giant prawns, langoustine, sprats, squid and onion rings – all cooked in a gluten free batter. I was absolutely delighted with my meal and it was terrific to be able to tuck into the impressive spread laid out before my eyes. Well done Rockfish!

(Pictured: Gluten Free Seafood Platter)

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Taste testing Tapas at Casa Med

One of the best things in life in my opinion is jetting off to a gorgeous city like Barcelona for a short break and pulling up a seat in the sunshine at a little café for tapas and a nice glass of sangria. There’s something about those little dishes of yumminess that automatically relaxes me and makes me feel as content as can be.

It’s pretty rare to find a nice tapas place in England that serves up authentic dishes and I often compare anywhere that I try to Taller de Tapas, a restaurant close to the bustling La Rambla market in Barcelona city centre.

I recently took a trip to a new restaurant in Bromsgrove called Casa Med that focuses solely on preparing food ‘inspired by the dishes of the Mediterranean.’ Set in a cute old building dotted with fairy lights and with Spanish music ringing out from the walls as you walk through the alley and up to the door, you can be forgiven for wanting to book a holiday to a sunny destination upon your return home. Granted, the views are hardly of sunny España, but the food takes some beating.

The menu featured the Gluten Free symbol, and although many dishes still contained dairy, I wasn’t disappointed with the selection on offer for me. In traditional Spanish style, dishes were brought out as soon as they were ready and the table was soon filled with an assortment of colours and flavours to suit even the most dissatisfied of palettes.

I opted for Boquerones, which consisted of anchovy fillets with toasted peppers, lemon juice and parsley with a drizzle of olive oil. I’m not always a massive fan of anchovies due to an unfortunate experience in Greece whereby the chef had mashed the fish in with a tomato based sauce which was simply disgusting, but the ones served here were truly delicious and very fresh.

Next I had one of my personal favourites, Pork Belly, which the menu stated had been marinated in apple juice, fennel and chilli and left to slow roast for 12 hours before being served up with a fennel, thyme, ginger and balsamic glaze. I had four and they were cooked to perfection with the crackling nice and crispy.

I then opted for a Salmon and Green Bean salad, which contained a beautiful dressing of honey, chilli and ginger for a real sweet taste, as well as cute cucumber ribbons for decoration.

Finally, I couldn’t visit a tapas restaurant without ordering the ever delicious Patatas Bravas, AKA crispy fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce. I needed a good dollop of carbs on my plate to accompany the meat and fish so this dish was never really going to fail me.

This gorgeous feast was of course washed down with a jug of Sangria and a Bellini – it was happy hour so it would have been rude not to.

A the end of a wonderful night I came out full to the brim and recommended the place to friends and family. Move the restaurant to a secluded spot in Barcelona and I’ll die happy, but for now the grey cobbled stones of little old England will have to do and Casa Med certainly has one satisfied customer in me.

Gluten free at the Colesbourne Inn, Cheltenham

I recently headed to the Cotswolds for a weekend away before the busy Christmas period and stayed in a little hotel in Cheltenham, not far from quaint, pretty villages such as Stow-on-the-Wold and Morton in Marsh where we stopped off to do a spot of shopping and have a wine or two in cosy pubs.

When searching for a hotel, I came upon a lovely place called the Colesbourne Inn not far from where I was staying that had a great coeliac friendly menu. After spending the day in the lovely Roman village of Cirencester, we headed out on the night with a big appetite and a longing for good wine.

My first impression of the pub was that it was the perfect place to stop after what had been a cold day walking around in the rain. A roaring log fire next to a huge sofa and bookshelf greeted us as we walked through the door and we couldn’t have hoped for a better place to settle down for the night. I was presented with a two-sided gluten free menu which not only had a wide choice of main courses, but also had an excellent selection of meat and cheese boards, sandwiches and baguettes, as well as yummy puddings for those diners who can have dairy. The great thing about the coeliac menu was that there were barely any changes when compared to what was listed on the regular menu, which I was told by the waiter was because the dishes are all homemade and the ingredients sourced by the chefs.

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Due to my massive love for calamari, which is often coated in bread batter, I opted for the grilled octopus with lime, apple and fennel for starter. The dish was supposed to be served alongside crème fraiche, but due to my dairy intolerance I had it without the sauce. The octopus was really fresh and tender, and also really meaty so could have been a meal in itself.

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For mains, I chose the shoulder of lamb with beetroot, keel and mash with a port jus from the specials menu. I can’t big the meal up enough apart from saying that it was possibly the best gluten free meal I have ever had in a restaurant. My knife was gliding through the lamb and the port jus was absolutely divine, so much so that I need to learn the recipe so I can re-create it at home with roast dinners. I have never had lamb without mint sauce, but the port jus really complemented the meat and I may have driven my thumb along my plate at the end to mop it all up – shhhh!

To finish, there was a delicious selection of gluten free puds such as chocolate brownie and vanilla panna cotta but unfortunately due to my dairy intolerance I could only have the blackcurrant sorbet, which was deliciously refreshing after such as big meal. A bottle of wine later and I was absolutely reeling from the amazing meal I had just eaten. I really wish that I lived closer to Cheltenham so that I could go to the Colesbourne Inn all the time for dinner. The pub was really cosy, it was reasonably priced and most of all, both gluten free and regular diners came out full of praise for the food. I give the Colesbourne Inn one massive 10/10 for effort.

 

Gluten free at Haesje Claes, Amsterdam

Living with intolerances and allergies is difficult at the best of times and I don’t think ‘normal’ eaters quite appreciate the effort that goes in to planning a trip abroad. The language barrier is concerning, as you never quite know whether the waiter has understood your list of food restrictions, and of course being presented with a menu written in gobbledee gook leaves you scratching your head over what you can possibly order that won’t have you laid up in bed for the rest of the holiday.

After my successful trip to Rome a few weeks ago, I was a little anxious about how I would get on in Amsterdam, as I had heard that the city isn’t the best place for gluten free places to eat. I was staying in a hotel on the outskirts of Vondel Park, Amsterdam’s own version of Central Park in New York and of course, I got googling once again to find places to eat before I arrived in the city.

After being given a selection of choices from a fellow tweeter and googling myself, the top restaurant that popped up on Trip Advisor for gluten free was Haesje Claes. The reviews were fantastic and I learned that they did a special gluten free menu – bingo I’d found the place.

Luckily we’d phoned the restaurant earlier in the day to book a table, as all night long locals and tourists were queuing at the door waiting to be seated. It must be good I thought if people are continuously in and out.

Gluten free in Amsterdam

Specialising in traditional Dutch food, the gluten free menu I was presented with had an extensive choice of appetisers, starters, mains and puddings for me to choose from. I ordered the pumpkin soup to begin, which was served alongside a warm gluten free bap and tasted absolutely delicious and most definitely homemade. My friend who had ordered lobster soup was also presented with pumpkin, and when flagging it up to the waitress was told ‘I’m just as shocked as you are’ – now how can you complain at a reaction like that.

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As it was a typical Dutch restaurant, I wanted to order a local speciality for mains and so I decided on the Carre rack of lamb with cabbage stamppot. The lamb was cooked to perfection and was one of the most tender and beautifully tasting lamb dishes I have ever had. Served alongside a mushroom sauce, cabbage mash and a big bowl full of chips just in case we weren’t quite full enough, I polished off my plate. I have to say, although the stamppot was just your typical national dish with no airs or graces, it was full of flavour, really fresh and I will be cooking it up in my kitchen soon enough – although maybe with a red wine sauce next time for good measure.

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Although I couldn’t touch the puddings due to my milk intolerance, there was a good choice of local puds on offer for those with a sweet tooth, including pancakes, biscuits with Dutch cheeses, apple pie and fruit concoctions.

The staff were very friendly, very knowledgeable about what I could and could not have with the additional dairy intolerance and they even refunded my glass of wine when I decided I had had quite enough throughout the day and barely touched a drop.