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An Interview with Duncan Ray

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Brighton Best Restaurants Awards were set up in 2016 to celebrate and recognise Brighton's wealth of restaurants and eateries, and share them with the rest of the country.

Winning one award at Brighton’s Best Restaurants might seem lucky, but two? Two suggests it’s something special. The Little Fish Market in Hove not only won Best Restaurant at the awards in February but it’s head chef and owner Duncan Ray came away with a Best Chef award too. “It’s quite amazing really to be honest with you” he tells me. And having the awards voted for by a panel made up of his peers, critics, and local business owners, makes winning all the sweeter. “It means a lot to win both.”

For those unaware, The Little Fish Market offers a tasting menu, that changes regularly. “It’s a dining experience, a fish restaurant, and we do try and create something unique. It’s four courses of fish and one desert. It’s not fish and chips and fruit de la mer.” But it wasn’t always this way. When Ray first took over the old fishmonger’s he began with an a la carte menu.

Image Credit: The Little Fish Market

“It was really approachable, people understood what it was going to be about. I did my version of fish and chips, risotto, foods that are really understandable to everyone.” How did he get to where he is now? Persistence, and biding his time. “Over time it’s morphed more into the sort of restaurant I wanted to open in the first place. If I’d opened what I have now I don’t think we’d have had any business.”

The February awards were the third time that organisers Andy Lynes, Euan MacDonald and Patrick McGuigan sought to recognise Brighton’s best eateries, which they felt were going unrecognised on the wider food stage. And, being awards for restaurants, it’s about so much more than the food. “It has to be more than that. It has to be the thing that you have when you’re in those four walls, whether it be waiting staff or music or the ambience of the restaurant. All of these things make a difference and they all matter.” And what are the restaurants that perfectly marry experience and for him? “Bincho Yakitori and The Chilli Pickle. I love what those guys do, you regularly find me in there on my days off.”

Image Credit: XDB Photography

But there’s nothing like home cooking, my final question to Ray suggests. You’re stranded on a desert island; you’ve got one dish you can eat until you’re rescued. What would it be? “Oh my word. That’s so hard... My mum’s fish pie.”

It seems fish rule the food world for Duncan, and anyone who stops by The Little Fish Market will no doubt feel the same.

The Little Fish Market is located at 10 Upper Market St, Hove BN3 1AS.