Mitch 'overwhelmed' as food festival unites legendary restaurants

Chef pouring wine

Mitch Tonks - Credit: Submitted

Two legendary seafood restaurants, twinned in spirit, celebrated being able to come together again at this year’s Dartmouth Food Festival with a takeover of Mitch Tonks’ Seahorse restaurant and a Venetian street fish fry.

It was one of this year’s festival’s many highlights and the visit, crowded in uncertainty because of the pandemic, was a triumph

Al Gatto Nero, the restaurant located on the island of Burano in Venice is run by chef Ruggero, his wife and his son and has a reputation for impeccable seafood. All of them as well as Massi, the local lagoon fisherman who catches their fish, made the trip and hosted a packed Seahorse restaurant for three services during Saturday followed by a traditional fish fry in the streets on Sunday.

The coming together was named ‘La Gansega 2021’, which in the Burano dialect means a celebration to mark the end, or culminating point of something. Fitting for the current times.

Mitch’s guest hosts at the Seahorse also included festival favourite Mark Hix, who has taken over the Seahorse on the Friday night for the last eight years, and Henry Harris who created a flawless Sunday lunch to end the festival. Guests in the restaurant included Rick and Sass Stein, Matt and Lisa Tebbutt, Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick and Times critic Giles Coren.

The Rockfish restaurant turned itself into a tiny copy of London’s Chinatown this year and hosted a Singapore chilli crab lunch.

Mitch said: “It was quite emotional seeing the guys from Al Gatto Nero over here again and I was very sad to see them go. They bring a wonderful energy and our connection between families and restaurants is as strong as ever. I was overwhelmed with the amount of guests who joined us. The atmosphere was the best it has ever been.

Twinning sign

The ''twins' meet at last - Credit: Submitted

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"The organisers of the festival should be very proud of their efforts, Sheila, Mike and Julie and all of the volunteers, Gina, Anna, Denise, too many to mention, worked incredibly hard once again to showcase our fabulous town.”

Massimiliano, of Al Gatto Nero said, “How The Seahorse and al Gatto Nero came to sew a net so strong and vast it would span a continent is the story we are here to tell. Our friendship started years ago. We look forward to the return visit to Venice.”