Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Article excerpt

I had my niece - the little one, aged 5 - to stay again recently and her quote of the week came one night when I was putting her to bed and she asked of my partner, 'Do you find him boring?' In his defence I should say that she largely feels this way because her uncle simply cannot get wildly excited about nail varnish, playing schools or Barbie. Also, in his defence . . . no, that's about it. As it happens, I am writing this in the evening and I've just been downstairs to ask if he minds if I use her quote but, as ever, he's fast asleep in front of the telly, lying across the sofa as immovably and monolithically as a fallen standing stone. And this, I know, is where he will stay until 2 a.m. or thereabouts, unless, in the meantime, I make for the remote control and switch over, in which case he will open a malevolent eye and say, 'I was watching that. Turn back.' This is very much a man thing. It may even be a boring-man thing. However, in his defence. . . no. Why pretend?

So, things that are boring. Drinking two litres of water a day is boring. (Although I've stopped now. I just don't have the bladder for it, I'm afraid.) Stopping for petrol is boring. ER's quite boring now. I'm certainly boring, judging by the number of people I meet at parties who say 'I'm just popping to the loo, won't be a minute' and then never return, even though I'm still pathetically waiting there several hours, if not several weeks, later. Even Barbie is quite boring, although when I suggested as much to my niece, when I put it to her that I might be Barbied out, she looked at me in utter disbelief and said, 'Barbie is never boring.' Unlike her uncle, one supposes. And then there is FishWorks, which is also quite boring, although I'm not yet sure why. FishWorks is a great idea. It may even be a brilliant one. It was founded by Mitch Tonks, a one-time accountant whose passion for seafood and the fact he could not buy decent fish locally (can anyone? Everything in our local fish shop seems to be 'previously frozen') led him to open his own fishmonger's, FishWorks, in Bath. Its success then led him to open a cookery school, add a restaurant, and open up other shops around the country (Bristol, Christchurch, Chiswick). As someone who loves seafood but is often rather too scared to cook it at home - how dull is that? - I am truly, truly excited about this place.

We go to the Chiswick one with my niece, her older sister and their parents. It's on a small, trendy street just off Chiswick High Street, with a sea-themed blue awning outside and a mouth-watering window on to the fishmonger's: bream, mullet, crab, sea bass, oysters, prawns the size of fists, winkles, and cockles so plump they are almost off-putting, like big fat juicy swollen bogeys (what a thing to die for, I am thinking). The fish are largely flown in directly from Cornwall, and look fresh enough to leap their way into the kitchen by themselves. The girls, by the way, enjoy poking them in the eye with their fingers, then recoiling in total hysterics. This is such a good game that we're promptly told our table is ready, would we like to come through now?

A friendly waiter leads us into the restaurant. My brother-in-law thinks he looks rather like a cod - quite gaping-jawed - and wonders if you have to look like a fish to work here. …

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