The monkman cometh

Much to the suprise of the gentleman over at Ilkley-More, yes, Chris Monkman's new wet fish establishment/bistro is indeed called Monkfish. Monkman's reputation, both as ebullient (sometimes oleaginous) host and creator of above-average eateries such as T'Fleece in Dingham gave us all high hopes for the new establishment. First, the conversion of the old lighting shop on Cunliffe Road seems to have included recovered lights, and a rather odd green colour on the wall. The downstairs (always bad for the head) has become the kitchen and the wet fish shop also contains a bar area where six or so people ate on the Sunday we were there. Ilkley has needed a proper supplier of fish for a long time, though Arcade fruits have done a valiant job (and I feel a little sorry for them if this impacts on their business), and Monkfish is definitely at the high end of the market. Having both a shop and a bistro does, however, mean that the front door is open most of the time. I was sitting in a permanent draft. Which was slightly unpleasant. There's about 24-28 covers in the bistro area, which is fairly-very crowded (intimate might be the word their marketing will use), with a bar at the back end. Menus are on the blackboards. Its Sunday and is booked out which shows a) Ilkley is waiting for somewhere nice to eat on Sundays, b) its small and c) Monkman is known to everyone. Indeed, his blown kisses and hellos to everyone walking in begin to grate after a while, but that's my misanthropy speaking. We have initial confusion. There's no moules on the menus, but one couple is eating them. Hmm. Apparently they ordered in advance (we weren't offered the option when booking, but maybe we shold have demanded). There's also no bread on the menu, but bread is brought out to two tables. And, no, it doesn't come with the soup. Hmm, probably made in the now-deceased brick oven as well. Damn. That's the second way in which we (me and t'angel) feel like second class citizens in this eaterie (not a usual feeling for us, I have to say). So, nice range of dishes---four-five starters, the same of mains, plus three or four salads. And, yes, all fish. I order the Fsh Soup, angel the haddock (IIRC). Hers is delicate and light, rather lovely. Mine, well, Provencal Fish Soup it ain't. The fish pieces one would expect to see have been reduced to a very thin mince. Rustic it's not. And it's lukewarm, barely even that. One-all I guess, but most deli's do a better version of the provencal. For mains, I plump for the reasonably priced (£10) fsh and chps, angel for the herring salad. My fish (haddock) is cooked in light batter, not greasy, the peas are interestingly mushed. But the chips have obviously been cooked too quickly at too high a temperature. They're uncooked in the middle, and brown-black on the outside. Obviously trying for the rustic feel, and not succeeding once more. And there are roughly ten of the things. Very measly portion. With angel's dish we come to the real problem. She's made clear that she's allergic to dairy. The (very helpful and efficient) waitress has helped her choose the right dish and no hollandaise appeared on the starter. Half-way through the main she finds one, then two, then another slice of cheese. Hmm. Calling the waitress over, the dish is taken away. On her return, we're told that though there was no cheese in the dish 'officially', the chef hadn't cleaned out the mixing bowl properly. Hmm times two. Waitress deals properly with the event 'I can't apologise's no consolation, but I wanted to explain why it happened.' And, of course, we're not charged. Service overall from the two waitresses working was very good, at least by Ilkley standards. They seem to have gone a cut above the usual sixth formers and to have people who have more than a modicum of training. It was noticeable, however, that having approached our table three times during the first two courses, Mr Monkman himself was noticeable by his absence once the incident had occurred. Too busy greeting his obviously wide circle of acquaintances (yeah, I know, bitterness, but I run a venue, and make sure my bistro manager or myself is out there as soon as we know of a customer problem.) (£25 over all, would have been £32, though only water for drink) So, positive--excellent to have in Ilkley, great starter, helpful and friendly staff, good value. Negative--sloppy service from the kitchen (and potentially dangerous too), lukewarm soup, bad chips, drafts from the door. So, teething problems presumably, but ones needing to be dealt with, and one that simply isn't acceptable. With Monkman concentrating on this, it'll also be interesting to see how The Fleece does. More coverage if we return.
18 responses
When I went, my chips were splendid and plentiful. Bit worried about the ingredients issue - my boy projectile vomits at the lightest whiff of egg.....
I'm pleased to see the word 'oleaginous'. A much underused word in my opinion. Also the review was interesting, I must go soon. Hopefully I will receive more than ten chips!
I don't know Mr Monkman. I think the blown kisses would really irritate me but as I'm vegetarian not really likely to frequent this establishment.

Hope you have a better time if you go again.

I know you just opted for the water, but did you get any sense of whether the wine list was of note? If not of note... good value? If not of good value... a cheap date?
You say that you run a venue, where and what is it?
It's a tattoo parlour in Manchester!

(sorry Bertie....)


Health & Safety appears wanting.
Will give it 6 months to settle in.
Perhaps may try it.

As to wet fish, will continue at
Arcade Fruits. I prefer a known
outlet for my food.

Wine list was good ClickRich, yes. Always have a perusal--short, but seemingly good value, at least one very strong red which is always a good sign (can't remmeber what off the top of me head--me age getting to me!).
Wosser--private message to you if I knew your e-mail!...and, yes, it is a tattoo parlour, at least this Saturday it is.
Came to this site looking for the tel no, I need to book again for this great dining experience.

Chris Monkman has been refreshingly genuine in his personal welcome in all the 20+ years as the best restaurateur in the valley.

Sounds interesting for a restaurant but I am not sure it will work as a wet fish shop.

I would wait until harrogates Ramus Seafoods opens a shop in Ilkley. Inside info tells me thats what they are planning!!!

God, it'll be fish wars in Ilkley
Fish wars - reminds me of Unhygienix and his (fish) wife in Asterix!
I dont think it will be much of a contest do you? There is a big differance being a restauranteur to being a retailer especiualy of somthing so perishable as fish. I would back the experts anyday!
We had a great evening at Monkfish last night, Thursday 24th August, what a great idea and splendid food and atmosphere, Chris was welcoming and that is unusual in some establishments, the owner is sometimes not about

The staff were attentive and provided excellent service, we will be going back many times I am sure.

Finally and quite important the food was excellent

we managed to nip the last table on opening night and were so impressed that we recommended to everyone and are going back this Sunday with the folks for another celebratory meal.

The portions were plentiful and the food was delicious.

Even though it was the first night and everyone (staff) seemed a bit nervous the service was excellent.

10/10 - Worth a visit or 2!

Unless you have a dairy intolerance of course
That's what's put me off!
Following the above reports, we tried Monkfish.
Food good, service and atmosphere too "simple" for the prices - but I suppose that is subjective. Expensive though. No finger bowls for us messy shellfish eaters.