Father-son duo at New Forest Fish and Shellfish proving quite a catch
A FATHER-SON duo combined one’s passion for fishing and cooking with the other’s nose for business to set up a thriving shop in the New Forest.
Bart Small was just 21 when he launched New Forest Fish and Shellfish just before the pandemic hit in March 2020, selling fresh fish sustainably caught by dad Scott Bewley, who runs his boat out from Mudeford most days.
“I started off delivering fish from my dad’s boat straight to people’s homes,” said Bart. “This was at a time when many vulnerable people were struggling to get food, and we were selling it very cheaply to help them out.
“In November I opened the shop at Danestream Farm in Bashley after renovating an old pottery, and the response has been and still is overwhelming.
“The community is fully behind us – we’ve had people queueing outside and the feedback from customers is that ours is the best fish they’ve ever tasted.”
His efforts were recognised in this year’s New Forest Brilliance in Business Awards, winning the best young person in business category.
Around 90% of the fish Bart sells is caught by Scott, including bass, turbot, brill, triggerfish, bream, red mullet, whiting, lobster and crab.
The remainder is landed from south coast waters or organically farmed in Scotland, and includes salmon, Cornish cod and Dover sole.
“Our fish is seasonal, and what we catch or can get hold of is dependent on the weather, the tides and the time of year,” said Bart. “What we want to do is encourage locals to try new fish and advise them on different ways to cook it.”
Amateur chef Scott livestreams cooking demonstrations to Facebook and produces videos on how to fillet a fish in an effort to steer customers away from the standard go-to species like cod and salmon.
“People are reluctant to buy different types of fish, particularly if it’s expensive, through fear of getting it wrong when they cook it,” said Bart. “But we have some great fish locally that is really reasonably priced and so easy to cook. We want to help change people’s relationship with fish by breaking down that barrier.”
Bart grew up watching his dad fish, and as soon as he left school aged 16 he was keen to join him out on the boat.
“After a couple of years, though, I decided it wasn’t for me; it’s a really hard life,” he said. “I then went on to work for local fishmongers, and skippered a boat for Dorset Fish and Shellfish – it was very small scale and seasonal. I fished using a rod and line, catching bass, plaice and mullet in the summer months.
“I set up the shop because there was not much like it in the New Forest, so I wasn’t treading on any toes.”
After enjoying huge success, Bart is expanding the shop this year to include a processing room and smokery, and taking on two new employees and a bank of staff.
This summer, he plans on launching a pop-up restaurant in the next-door field, and from next month the business will be serving takeaway food from a mobile catering trailer based at Danestream on a Tuesday evening.
“The offering will be different every week, ranging from fish and chips, prawn curry, fish tacos and po’ boy – which is an American fried seafood sandwich,” said Bart. “We’’ll also be taking the trailer to local seafood and food festivals, and covering weddings and other events. We’ve had a bit of experience covering functions, having recently operated an oyster bar at a private garden party.”
Bart also runs a stall at Hythe market on a Tuesday, with colleague Adam Torrington operating a fish counter at Parlourmentary in Southbourne on a Friday and Saturday. The company also sells its produce outside Fordingbridge Farm Shop on a Thursday and Setley Ridge Farm Shop on a Saturday.
New Forest Fish and Shellfish supplies the Forest Foodie, the Gun Inn at Keyhaven, Anissa’s Thai Kitchen in Lyndhurst, the Beach Hut Cafe at Friars Cliff, and New Park Manor hotel in Brockenhurst.
It also continues to run home deliveries every Friday.
For more information go to www.newforestfishandshellfish.com
To watch Scott’s cooking demos, follow the business on Facebook.