The Seafood Interview supported by BIM - Martin Shanahan


BIM Seafood Circle

This month Marilyn Bright talks to Ireland’s most famous ambassador for fresh Irish seafood, Martin Shanahan of Fishy Fishy Restaurant in Kinsale, Co Cork- whose motto is “no skin, no bone, no fear”

Everybody knows that Martin Shanahan is “Mad About Fish”. The hit cookery programme first screened by RTE Cork in 2009 spread the fame of the chef/restaurateur far beyond his Kinsale base in the golden food triangle of West Cork.

Fishy Fishy was originally a fish shop and deli opened by the Shanahans 25 years ago as the Kinsale Gourmet Store, morphing to become Kinsale's first dedicated seafood café, drawing throngs of diners happy to queue for space at tables or sit on walls in the sunny forecourt with their fresh crab rolls or bowls of chowder.

Martin ShanahanBecoming a seafood legend in his own lunchtime, Martin expanded the business to open a fully fledged restaurant in 2006, with spacious harbourside premises and a generous courtyard for al fresco dining.

Best selling fish cookery books and further TV series such as Surf’n’Turf with Paul Flynn have ensured a steady stream of seafood lovers which reach a crescendo in the summer season and sees the year round staff of 22 nearly double to cope with the non-stop daily service. The newly refurbished Fishy Fishy opened in February - with an enlarged ground floor area that has doubled the dining space.

With a reputation for deliciously fresh uncomplicated seafood, Martin's motto is “no skin, no bone, no fear” and the menu features everything that is fresh and local from land and sea. His cheffing skills were honed at the late lamented Rockwell Catering College where training included everything from pot scrubbing to harvesting the fresh fruit and vegetables grown by the resident agricultural students.

“We had to cater three meals a day for 800-1,000 students and staff. It was hard work but a good grounding. With the rise of celebrity chefs now the job can seem glamorous, but the young need to see that you have to have discipline and start at the bottom to stay the course as a career.”

Work experience around Ireland, in Germany and the US, expanded Martin's knowledge and appreciation of the ways local produce was used. “In San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf was a revelation. People would pick up boiled crabs or chowder from the stalls and walk around eating seafood like we'd eat 99s. It was just casual, simply prepared food.”

Martin is adamant that when you have best ingredients, dishes shouldn't be over complicated. “People want to taste fish for what it is - it's all about quality. Brilliant fish doesn't need much more than butter sauce and a green salad.”

Wok Fried ClamsSeafood doesn't get more local than the selection that appears daily on Fishy Fishy menus and Martin considers himself lucky that small boats still land their catches in Kinsale harbour.

Other supplies come from Castletownbere, Union Hall or Oysterhaven, minutes rather than hours away, and Martin knows personally who caught each fish that comes into his kitchen. Fresh vegetables and salad leaves are very local too, coming from Horizon Farm three miles from Kinsale.

Pressures of time and volume mean that most fish is now delivered boned and filleted, ready to be portioned in-house, but lobsters and crab are hand picked in the Fishy Fishy kitchens. “It's laborious, but worth it for the taste,” Martin says. "Nothing is wasted - shells go into stock bases for chowder and bisque and off-cuts into fish cakes and seafood pies.”

Seasonality is key and Martin feels that the ever changing menu keeps the job interesting. Prawns and turbot come into their own in June and high summer means lobster and crab. There may be fresh crab cakes with chilli and coriander or crab risotto with wild rocket, Parmesan shavings and lemon oil while traditionalists can treat themselves to classic lobster thermidor with creamy mustard sauce.

While summer visitors are more adventurous, Martin observes that comfort food is the order of the day in winter, with high uptake of the famous Fishy Fishy pie of whitefish, salmon and shellfish in creamy sauce topped with herb breadcrumbs and served with dollops of buttery house mash.

Local surf and turf features in a dish pairing Rosscarbery black pudding with pan-fried scallops and creamed parsnips with lemon and thyme dressing while the seafood chowder with a subtle seasoning of tarragon and coriander is a year round best seller, by the cup or hearty bowlful.

Martin Shanahan Over the years, Martin has seen huge growth in the consumption of seafood, both in dining out and home cooking. With recent involvement in BIM’s Young Fishmonger awards, he’s also observed that new generation fish shops are opening with knowledgeable, customer friendly staff offering cooking advice and fresh seafood with ready-to-cook convenience, prepared sauces, stocks and accompaniments. “People want seafood and the demand will continue, thanks to the good restaurants, good fish and chip shops and fishmongers I see cropping up all over the country.”

There are currently no comments

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment
Not a member? Register for your free membership now!
Or leave a comment by logging in with: