In Cornish kitchens, all five senses come to life. You hear the sizzling frying pans and bubbling sauces as you smell the delicate, fresh seafood and everything it comes with: buttery sauces flavoured with garlic, seasonal vegetables with crisp herbs, the sharp citrus scent of a squeezed lemon. You see steam rise up from these beautifully colourful plates, while you feel your knife and fork sink into the soft and flaky flesh of white fish, or your eager hands rewarded with the tender meat inside a shell.
But best of all is the taste. From chilli-garlic sardines on toast to fresh hake Keralan curry, the selection of flavours and variety of fish and shellfish you can treat your taste buds to is endless.
Cooking seafood is not just possible but also fun and extremely rewarding – but sometimes you want to skip this stage and go straight to the eating part (understandably)! Chefs and restaurants help you do just that, making our fishermen’s catch more than just ready to eat. Whether it’s your local chippy or fine dining, Cornish chefs make seafood irresistible – tailoring their dishes and menus according to the season and to accommodate for all preferences.
Mackerel Sky Seafood Bar in Newlyn was opened by Nina and Jamie MacLean, who came to Cornwall and loved it so much that they stayed. Both Jamie and Nina, originally from Hertfordshire and London respectively, had already known and loved the area from childhood.
In 2014 they seized the opportunity to make the space into a fish restaurant on the edge of a bustling fishing port. This is a prime spot for seafood; if you’re in London you’re probably still buying fish from Newlyn, so Mackerel Sky are as close as it gets. Several Mackerel Sky employees are from fishing families themselves!
The quality is very high; the crab, the hake, and a myriad of other fish and shellfish on their menu comes in fresh: ‘It’s straight off the boat, literally,’ says Mackerel Sky. Customers can walk to the harbour in a matter of minutes and see the boats coming in that supply the very fish they’re eating.
Among their signatures is their mouth-watering sole katsu and the famous Mackerel Sky crab nachos, which has been there since day one. It’s no wonder they are so busy – and they’re just that: busy. Hosting up to 200 customers a day during summer, they often have to re-order fish from their suppliers half-way through the day in order to meet spectacular demand.
Being just a stone’s throw from the ocean and the fish market, this restaurant has loyal and personal links to their local suppliers, including Colin from Mousehole Fish, The Real Cornish Crab Company and Matthew Stevens. The suppliers will bring in whatever that’s best and fresh, and then the restaurant uses it in their set menu dishes or for their specials board.
The specials change based on what comes in from the market, and, while menus are set for each season, the fish type in each dish may change for the same reason. For example, their ‘beer-battered local white fish’ may on one day be filled with the tender and rich flesh of hake, and on another with soft and meaty ling or sweet lemon sole. Mackerel Sky plays an important role in helping their customers try an ever-varied selection of delicious local fish.
The structure of Mackerel Sky itself mirrors its location; the cooking area is as close to the tables as the restaurant is to the harbour. This makes the chefs impressive multitaskers, as customers are understandably fascinated by what they’re doing and love to have a chat.
Newlyn is an authentic fishing community rather than just a facade for tourists. ‘You won’t find a bucket-and-spade shop here,’ says Mackerel Sky. Fishing is integral not just to their livelihoods but to the identity of the area.
‘A “meal” is seafood down here,’ the chefs tell us. Whether it’s the number of excellent restaurants, traditional fish & chippies, or fishmongers, sustainable and delicious fish has made a very good name for itself here – and people want to try it.
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