Former horse-breaker and restaurateur Robin Moxon is one of London’s leading fishmongers, with shops in Clapham South, Dulwich and South Kensington…and a range of award-winning fishcakes.
A Londoner for 17 years, he trains chefs for Jamie Oliver, enjoys nothing more than a spot of fishing on the Thames and loves the buzz and anonymity of London life.
Where do you live?
‘Near Wandsworth Common in SW London – I love the tranquility of London’s commons. Also, living here means it doesn’t take long to get to my shops or to Billingsgate to buy fish at 4.45am. Do you see a different side of London at that unearthly hour? You realise London’s not that big as you can get across the city really quickly, although the traffic does start to build up. I come across some wild driving, and lots of what Viz calls ‘Hackney tickertape’ – blue police tape!’
Why is London a good place to run a fish empire?
‘My customers are enthusiastic and will go out of their way to find really good fish. We get lots of actors and media types in Dulwich, TV chefs in Clapham and French residents in South Ken. Each week we sell tonnes of fish, and 40 different species…Londoners are adventurous enough to try different things.’
Isn’t it difficult to source really good fresh fish here?
‘We take as much care with the cheaper fish as we do with the premium ones. I only buy fish in really good condition – bass, for example, is a really strong seller in London but if it’s no good on a particular day I won’t buy it. Most of our fish comes from Looe and Newlyn in Cornwall – brought to Billingsgate overnight – and I buy salmon direct from Loch Duart in Scotland.’
What made you decide to open a fishmongers?
‘I used to work with racehorses but then I hurt my back quite badly and stumbled across the fish trade 17 years ago, when I was 24… I always had an interest in animals and food then found I really enjoyed customer service, so all three strands came together.
‘It’s a very social job – you have quick conversations with customers yet may have nothing in common outside the shop. I’d had my own restaurant [Moxon’s in Clapham] which won the ‘Time Out best local restaurant in London’ award, but as a fairly obsessive character I found running a restaurant tough business-wise.’
How does London inspire you?
‘I love the anonymity and the fact that people are cosmopolitan and accept each other for what they are. We have so much choice in every area, even if we don’t make full use of it. Each part of London has a different feel…I’ve always had dogs and find it amazing that you can get lost on Wimbledon Common. Maida Vale is very calm, then you go to Brixton which buzzes – I love those contrasts. Dulwich is very cool and underrated.’
What do you do when you have some time off?
‘I enjoy simple things like having friends round for lunch. We go horse-racing at Kempton and to the dogs at Wimbledon. I also have a share in a boat with my neighbours and occasionally we’ll go fishing off the south coast or to the Thames for pike. It’s good to be somewhere tranquil doing something absorbing.’
Where do you like to eat out?
‘Mirch Masala in Tooting for brilliant curry and the Royal China restaurants – my wife’s Chinese and they do the best dim sum in London.’
Do people need help when buying fish?
‘All my staff are pretty knowledgeable and keen cooks, so aim to offer helpful advice. Some customers start with elaborate recipes then discover a few simple techniques…you can’t beat fish pan-fried with butter and oil. We’re about to launch our own book.’
Do you have any contact with celebrity chefs?
‘I supply Gordon Ramsay for his books and we take in Jamie Oliver’s chefs from Fifteen for two weeks. They’re a mixed bag, but they learn good knife skills and working practice – they also see customers face-to-face which they probably don’t do in a restaurant. They come to the market and take fish home to cook.’
What are your best sellers?
‘Sea bass, mackerel, sardines, sand soles, megrims, brill, turbot and red mullet are all good. Whole fish such as sea bream suit modern cooking methods and Mediterranean flavours. We have a kitchen in South Kensington where we make crab tarts, mayonnaise and tartare sauce plus fishcakes and fish pies – our salmon, cornichon and dill fishcakes have just won Gold in the Great Taste Awards. We’re about to start a delivery service too.’
Visit: www.moxonsfreshfish.com for more details.