The Importance of Sustainability at Catch at The Old Fish Market

The Staff Canteen

In the tranquil waters of Weymouth, Catch AT The Old Fish Market stands as a testament to the power of local sourcing, sustainability, and community-driven dining. With each plate, Executive Chef Mike Naidoo and his team invite diners to savour not just the flavours of the sea, but the spirit of a region united in its love for quality food. 

In the characteristic town of Weymouth, Catch at The Old Fish Market is a sustainable fish restaurant which focuses on producing plates designed around the local abundance of produce, especially the species that inhabits the clean Dorset waters.

Central to Catch's sustainable ethos is its partnership with local fishermen and suppliers. Working hand in hand with Weyfish, the historic fishmongers situated below the restaurant, Mike Naidoo, Executive Chef, explains how he works with the ‘fish supplier’. “I say supplier loosely,” he laughs. “They are an extension of the restaurant and we are an extension of them.”

The local fishermen do all the legal part of landing fish and then they meet with Mike to discuss the next steps. “Have we got in enough numbers to sustain the restaurant service? That is the key element in this, because we can't halfway through dinner service switch to another fish."

According to Mike, it is so important to keep a working relationship with the fishmongers, considering how unpredictable is to secure the freshest catches for his kitchen. “Here in Weymouth, there are about 30 boats in the harbour, all sort of short boats, small boats that have small runs of fish nets or pots,” Mike explains. “I don't have any control about what is really going on. If it comes in, it is going on the menu. It's very reactive, and organic.

"If there's a lot of red mullet in the water, red mullet is going on the menu. It will disappear, something else will go on,” he adds.

Fresh scallops are even harder to get, Mike explains. “The scallop divers will just text me in the morning saying, ‘We're going, how many do you want?’ I have to quickly think, react, work out what I'm doing with them on the menu and hope that they catch what I need.”

Despite the challenges posed by fluctuating weather conditions and the unpredictability of small-scale fishing, Mike remains undeterred. With resilience and adaptability, he navigates the ebb and flow of the local seafood market, ensuring that Catch remains a bastion of freshness and quality.

“I'd say the food culture at Catch is simple and clean,” he explains. “I'd like to say flavourful and punchy, but that's for other people to decide.”

Beyond its culinary offerings, Catch serves as a hub of community engagement, fostering relationships not only with suppliers but also with diners and staff alike. "Sustainability to us at Catch is making sure that everyone's got a good work-life balance," emphasises Mike. "First and foremost, making sure that we're sustainable to our staff and to ourselves before we get into anything else, and secondly making sure we are sustainable towards the environment, trying to impact it as little as possible.”

Mike Naidoo and his team try to use as much local produce as possible. Dorset has Grade A waters, the cleanest in the UK, which provide 60% of all sea bass, the famous Portland crab and lobster. There is also an abundance of species from grey mullet, red mullet, plaice, Dover sole and turbot, “literally the world is your oyster,” Mike jokes. “On Chesil Beach there's an oyster hatchery, so literally everything that we could possibly want is here.”

The fish is in the sea, obviously just metres away from the restaurant, but even the garnishes and dish sides are environmentally friendly at Catch. “We make sure we use local dairies and local farms,” Mike continues. “And we also grow our own vegetables.”

Mike Naidoo’s journey to Catch was one of both personal and professional evolution. Having honed his craft in the bustling culinary landscape of London, he sought a more balanced life, a decision that led him to the tranquil shores of Weymouth. "I wanted to have a little bit of a more balanced life, which I can say I have now," he reflects.

However, the transition from city to seaside wasn't without its challenges. "The pace that I tried to do things, I had to learn how to work with people in a slightly more cohesive way rather than the grind of London. But no, I'm happy I made the choice," he shares.

Drawing from his experiences at esteemed Michelin-starred restaurants, like Little Social and Pollen Street by Jason Atherton, Mike brings a wealth of expertise to Catch where he combines his Michelin star background with a love of clean flavours and fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Mike Naidoo and Sean Cooper

Since Giles Coren, food columnist at The Times, reviewed Catch as ‘the best restaurant in the world’, it started gaining more and more exposure in the media, which “has helped the business to move to another level,” Mike acknowledges.

Mike Naidoo has also appeared on TV at the Great British Menu programme on BBC Two, as one of the four chefs representing the South West Heat. “I am still adjusting to the exposure. It’s so new and I am not the most comfortable in those situations, but I am putting myself out there.”

As accolades and media attention shine a spotlight on Catch, Naidoo remains steadfast in his commitment to excellence. " Success to me and the business are two different things,” he reflects. “Success to the business would be to have a full restaurant every single night, which obviously I want to.

“But success for me would be having everyone that has worked here, leave here glad that they've been part of the team and go on to do better things, because for me, the best part of being a chef is helping educate others.”


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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 26th April 2024

The Importance of Sustainability at Catch at The Old Fish Market