Behind the Scenes at our Sustainable Fish Suppliers: Southbank Fresh Fish

This week our Chef de Partie, Mike, did some work experience with Southbank Fresh Fish, who have been our supplier of fish for years. He only worked with them from 6am to noon but Southbank work around the clock.

The day’s shift starts the night before at about 10pm, when the team clear the voicemail of all bookings that were made out of office hours (1am-4pm). In anticipation for orders, fish are bought 24 hours in advance from Billingsgate Market from about 4am. From 6am the blocksmen start the descaling, gutting, filleting, boning, skinning and portioning of different species of fish. To illustrate the size of production, the allocated squid cleaner sorts through 200 kilos of squid a day. When ready, Southbank delivers the fish to clients (all within the M25) until about 2pm. It all kickstarts again in the evening.

Despite the choice of over 40 merchants at the market and 450 centrally listed suppliers to choose from Southbank keep it simple by consistently buying from the same three to four coastal suppliers every day.

Southbank have built up good relationships with these particular suppliers over the last few decades ensuring that every fish is industry standard, legal and traceable back through the supply chain to its origins. It is easy to see where the stock is from and how it was caught thanks to the certifications (such as GlobalGap certifications for King Prawns and Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP) for Black Tiger Prawns) and spec sheets that the merchants provide with each bag. Last year, we traced the journey of razor clams from the sea to the plate. Read the story. 

The food and beverage industry is very price-driven with restaurants and caterers wanting the best fish for the least money. Unfortunately it will take years to equalise the balance between price and sustainability but without a company like Southbank taking the initiative to educate their clients it will take even longer.

Southbank have kickstarted their Southbank Sustainability Initiative (SSI) to educate their clients, on free consultation basis, on what sustainability really means. Clients will be able to rely on SSI to demystify ethical fishing and sustainability without the false claims that some merchants communicate to make the sale. 

Most catering companies and restaurants don’t keep their eye on what shouldn’t be eaten but SSI will keep us updated. Only this week the Marine Conservation Society has downgraded mackerel from its Fish to Eat list. The stock which has been plentiful, is in great decline. The sad fact is that it's often easier to find endangered species than local, sustainable and traceable fish. We are immensely proud to work with a fish supplier like Southbank, who support the world's fish stocks and educate their clients on sustainable alternatives to endangered fish species.