It wouldn’t look out of place along the harbour side in any Mediterranean fishing port. A few tables, a bottle of wine and the fish you chose off the counter a few minutes ago, landed fresh from the boat this morning, now cooked to your liking, plated and set in front of you. Simply mouth-watering.
But you’re not sitting in a street-side cafe in Rhodes, nor admiring a view along the Amalfi coast. You’re sitting outside Boathouse Fisheries, purveyors of fine fish and seafood, in St. Mary’s Bay, Romney Marsh, tucking into a Boathouse brunch prepared by in-house chef, Emma Bryant, and cooked just the way you like it.
The Boathouse almost hides round the corner from the local Post Office and Costcutter mini market, the last place you’d go looking for an exquisite dining experience. And to be honest, you don’t come here for fine dining – you come here for the freshest fish, landed each morning from boats in Rye, Hythe and sometimes Folkestone.
Opening in June 2018, Boathouse Fisheries was the brainchild of 38-year-old Kieran Bull, a fishmonger through and through, saltwater runs in his veins and after 22 years with Griggs of Hythe, what he doesn’t know about stocking locally sourced fish probably isn’t worth, well, a pinch of salt.
Initially opening as purely a retail fishmonger, Kieran’s reputation from his years at Griggs quickly provided a kick-start to a wholesale operation that now includes restaurants, cafes, hospitals and numerous pubs across Kent and Sussex. “The wholesale has rapidly become our mainstay” says Kieran, “but the fresh fish counter has an increasing number of regular and repeat customers, largely through word of mouth recommendations, which is fantastic.”
Working alongside Kieran from the start has been 54 year old Richard Honeyball, another ex-Griggs employee. Richard enjoyed 13 years with Griggs but welcomed the opportunity to help Kieran start his new business, a business which now, just 13 months after opening, employs six full time members of staff including a a driver, a salesman responsible for developing new business and the chef, Emma Bryant, whose arrival this May heralded the start of the restaurant operation.
Following an apprenticeship at Eastwell Manor, 28-year-old Emma has enjoyed time as pastry chef at Leeds Castle and learnt international styles of cuisine while working in France, Switzerland and Australia.
While also preparing the daily deli counter specials such as pate, potted salmon, quiche and salmon en croute, her primary role is creation of the ‘Brunch Specials’ and the ‘Cook For You’ menu, where customers choose their favourite fish from the counter and Emma cooks it to their preferred style and taste. One of the most popular among regulars is Emma’s signature dish, Onion Bahji on Salt Crusted Cod.
“We’re passionate about everything we do” says Kieran. “We only use local boats. Rye and Hythe and sometimes Folkestone, but it’s very important to us that we support our local fishing industry and local fishermen. We’re very particular about our quality and will always pick and choose the very best of local resources.”
This passion and attention to quality has no doubt driven a very successful opening year for Boathouse Fisheries, but where next? “We’re looking at expanding the restaurant side” says Kieran. “It’s something we’re all very excited about and with Emma on board we have the right staff to succeed.”
Above the counter in the Boathouse is written a slogan left by a previous tenant of the building: ‘Doing what you like is freedom – Liking what you do is happiness’.
Somehow it seems very appropriate to Boathouse Fisheries.
Image Credits: Chris Lawson .