5 Mins With: James Belton, chef-owner, Seawise

It’s without doubt Camden Market’s best-kept foodie secret – a proper fish restaurant serving up the best of Billingsgate

James Belton. Photo: PR
James Belton sitting in the pared-back dining room at Seawise: “We had people ringing up asking to book tables for the evening, which is when we became a proper restaurant.” Photo: PR
What’s it like owning a seafood joint in Camden market?
Well, every day is different. Before the refurb we did consider moving out on to the high street or elsewhere in the area, but the market is always buzzing and alive with people. It’s constantly evolving and developing, and bringing new people, so we’d have been foolish to leave for anywhere else.

You must be overrun with tourists after some proper British fish and chips?
We actually have regulars from all over the world, and we can in part thank Tripadvisor for that, because tourists search for that sort of thing and see we’re in the top 300 (out of 19,000 in London). Each year we have people who also come to London to do their Christmas shopping – and pop in for a fish and chips with us before they go. It’s great having loyal customers all the way in Australia, say, but we would love to attract more locals. A lot of people I’ve spoken to in the area say they simply don’t know we’re here.

Shellfish platter at Seawise. Photo: PR
Shellfish platter at Seawise. Photo: PR

So where did it all start?
My dad owned a stall here selling cockles and whelks, but he quickly realised it wasn’t working so we moved into selling seafood meals in the day. Soon after we had people ringing up asking to book tables for the evening, which is when things just began to snowball and we became a proper restaurant, gradually opening more nights a week. Originally we didn’t concentrate on fish and chips at all, but soon realised it would be stupid to ignore the huge market for tourists, so we try and provide a relaxed service in the day, and a more upmarket, yet casual, seafood restaurant in the evening.

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What do we recommend?

Grilled sharing platter. Photo: SE
Grilled sharing platter. Photo: SE

The grilled sharing platter (£24.50) is perfect for two friendly fish lovers. Not fried, it’s healthy too:, with big green lip mussels, juicy prawn skewers, king prawns, buttery scallops, salad and moreish chips. And if you’re not on a January budget why not chuck in a lobster tail for £12? Sides include steamed samphire (£3) and rosemary and parmesan chips (£3). Cheaper options are scampi and chips for £6.50, or fish and chips at £7.50 (or a tenner in the evening). And oyster obsessives can bag half a dozen (natural or grilled) for £12. Stephen Emms

What keeps you going?
Putting a smile on people’s faces. There’s nothing better than sitting someone down and then serving them a delicious meal. Our first priority is making sure people have a good time: that’s why we try and make it a nice environment because seafood is meant to be enjoyed at the seaside, so we do our best to replicate that. We have customers from Cornwall and Southend who say that it’s better than the meals they get back home. We take pride in what we do: we source our fish daily from Billingsgate and we don’t try and make the vibe too uptight.


What should I eat when I come down?
The seafood platter is our most popular item. Customers seem to love it. Also we occasionally do a fruits of the sea dish on our specials which always goes down a treat. In the daytime, people come for the famous fish and chips so if you’re about in the afternoon do give them a go.

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Find Seawise at 726 Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road NW1. Open daily and in the evenings from Wednesday to Saturday until 10pm. More info here. Tweet them any questions @SeawiseCamden

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