I’ve noticed quite a lot of self promotion around the Worthing area from this restaurant in recent weeks. On Saturday Yolanda and I were out enjoying a windy and overcast summers evening and so decided to give it a go. According to their website (http://www.protorestaurantgroup.com/) The Fish Factory is a part of the local Proto Restaurant group which seems to have quite a foothold in the local area, hence all the advertising I’ve been seeing. They seem pretty proud of what they do promising a “refined culinary experience, where everything is cooked from scratch…With all the allure of a top-notch London restaurant, The Fish Factory hasn’t lost its unpretentious and relaxing, homely atmosphere”. They also support local fishermen which is really fantastic to see in a local restaurant. So with an open mind we entered for a pre-cocktail meal.
First impressions were of a lively and family friendly restaurant that looked clean and tidy. It felt a little more like a large chain restaurant than a local one which is possibly what they are aiming for, it was pleasant rather than special. The menu is pretty extensive which always sets my alarm bells ringing a little and they claim that everything is cooked fresh to order. Indeed you can select how you want your fish cooked, battered, grilled, steamed etc. and most dishes come with chips or mash. There are also additional chefs specials and small boat fisherman options. All these options and different sections of the menu only add to the chain feel of the place; resembling a Wetherspoons menu rather than a local restaurant. I was also slightly annoyed by the silly little ties that the staff were wearing.
Yolanda chose the seafood chowder to start and I went for the king scallops. The food came fairly quickly despite them being very busy, and the initial appearance was disappointing. My scallops were very small not quite living up to the “king” billing and Yolanda’s chowder looked pretty boring and was tepid at best. There was little improvement when it came to the eating. The scallops were good, the caper sauce was fairly decent and the scallops were not over cooked. The chowder however went from bad to worse. The only thing that I can liken it to would be a can of Heinz cream of tomato soup. There was none of the comforting warmth you expect from the word chowder and no noticeable fish taste to it. It was probably one of the worse things I have eaten in a proper restaurant in some time. Not a fantastic start.
After the starters had gone I was feeling pretty nervous about the mains. We had both chosen from their “Artisan Dishes” which are apparently the chefs specials. I went for the Bouillabaisse and Yolanda had pinned her hopes on their red snapper skewers as a healthier option. When the food came things picked up a little, the skewers looked good with a nice sticky coating and my stew was generously stocked. The red snapper tasted nice with a decent sticky chilli coating although Yolanda did not feel that the greek salad went well with the fish. The first thing I noticed about my main was the sheer amount of fish that was placed in front of me. I had a whole piece of huss, whole sardine, clams, mussels, prawns, squid and baby octopus. I was very hungry and so felt much happier with this in front of me. All of the fish was cooked well and tasted as you would expect, although I think the sardine was a fish too far. The stew that accompanied the fish was pretty much lacking with the pervading flavour being that of tinned chopped tomatoes. It was not particularly rich or posses a depth of flavour that made you want to soak up all the sauce. Average at best.
For a restaurant that is clearly confident enough to want to attract a lot of attention this was a massive let down. I would give it a miss if I were you and based on this showing I would not bother with any of the other restaurants in the group. At best this might be somewhere to take young children for some fish and chips but if you are looking for somewhere to enjoy a nice meal then go elsewhere. The bill came to just shy of £50 which is not a lot but still a significant amount of money given the quality of the food on offer. Oh yes and before I forget avoid drinking their coffee as it was awful even if you do get free refills. Had we chosen different dishes it may have been better, but that seafood chowder was unforgivable, 2 out of 10.