Hampshire's finest fishy fare at Verveine in Milford on Sea

Susie Carter heads to the seaside to sample some of Hampshire's finest fishy fare at Verveine in Milford on Sea

Verveine Fishmarket Restaurant is a new addition to the seaside village of Milford on Sea, though there has been a fishmonger onsite for the last 50 years. Having a restaurant that is also a fish shop makes perfect sense: it means the restaurant always has delicious fresh fish and it gives the shop a better chance of survival in an age when our fishmongers are fast disappearing.The interior is comfortably modern with some quirky touches. Somebody here has a real eye for design (look out for the fabulous wallpaper in the ladies loo!) and even on a really drizzly day, the big sky-light made the restaurant feel bright and cheerful.Looking at our fellow diners, it is clear everyone feels well looked after – because they are. With around 30 covers, you are likely to be served by one of the proud owners, and they really know their stuff, confidently advising on wine matches and choice of fish.

Cool canap�sWe passed the tiny open kitchen as we walked in and noticed David the chef frying thin slivers of potato, which soon arrived at our table, sandwiched together with Arbroath smoky cream. Joining them on the canap� board were tiny smoked haddock arancini and a flavoursome bowl of salmon dip for spreading on caraway crostini. An assortment of homemade breads arrive, which we’re told are also available in the shop – lucky locals. The pesto bread is ridiculously tasty, but you can’t beat the sunflower seed roll baked inside a miniature flowerpot for cuteness!

Smokey starterThe smoked eel starter is served with a healthy portion of theatre. As the glass dome is lifted, a puff of smoke is released into the air, mingling with the delicious aroma of horseradish remoulade. Thin slices of pickled young vegetables have a great vibrancy of flavour. The eel is really delicately smoked and – hallelujah! – hasn’t been near the dreaded vac-pack, leaving texture and flavour gloriously intact. My sashimi is a beautiful arrangement of clean, fresh tuna, buttery smooth salmon and squid so tender and sweet it virtually melts in the mouth. The baby capers that accompany it are perhaps a tiny bit strong, but the wasabi mayonnaise and caviar are bang on.After our starters, we’re treated to an extra course: pan-fried turbot with gnocchi, shrimps and cauliflower puree, baby broad beans and an incredible puree of sultanas and capers. The turbot is sweet and succulent and the gnocchi are a revelation – as light as any we’ve had in Italy.

Masterstroke mainsMy bouillabaisse main is another masterpiece, the coral-coloured foam light enough to allow the flavour of each fish and mollusc to shine. Across the table, the ‘Land and Sea’ monkfish goes down very well. The classic bordelaise sauce doesn’t overpower the monkfish, but the breaded and deep-fried disk of slow-cooked chicken wing seems a little superfluous.

Delicious dessertDessert is of the variety that leaves you sitting there giggling with childish happiness when it arrives. Far from the customary one-bite portion you’d expect with this level of execution, at Verveine you get a whole plateful of loveliness. The sorbets in particular are exquisite, tasting more of strawberries and raspberries than strawberries and raspberries themselves. I ask if David is a pastry chef at heart and it turns out to be the position he first took up when working in the Michelin-starred restaurants of the French Riviera. Looking back at the artistic presentation of the rest of the meal, it makes perfect sense.It also explains the utterly exquisite plate of petite fours which arrives to stretch our appetites to the absolute limit – I could write a whole essay on the warm chewy madeleines alone. It’s these little extra touches that really sets the experience apart from lesser venues and we come away bursting with ideas for future dinner parties.As Verveine is owned and run by the same people that cook and serve the food, it’s a world away from corporate-owned restaurants where the ‘concept’ comes first and the food is an afterthought. A great restaurant is a partnership between a talented chef and those who are equally gifted with the ability to make people feel welcome and indulged. David, John and Stacey have cracked it.

Book your tableVerveine Fishmarket Restaurant98 High Street, Milford-on-SeaSO41 0QE01590 642176www.verveine.co.uk

3 more perfect chef/ proprietor partnershipsThe Black Rat88 Chesil Street, Winchester, SO23 0HX01962 844465www.theblackrat.co.uk

The Wellington ArmsBaughurst Road, Baughurst, RG26 5LP0118 982 0110www.thewellingtonarms.com

The Bakers ArmsHigh Street, Droxford, SO32 3PA01489 877533www.thebakersarmsdroxford.co.uk

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