Hooked on a fresh new venture
Surf Coast couple Alex and Sarah Rawson are old hands at navigating life’s adventures together.
Their shared passion for the high seas has seen the exuberant husband-and-wife duo sail the world together – visiting more than 60 countries.
With Alex as “captain/pirate” and Sarah as the cook, they specialised in taking adventure-seeking travellers on yachting expeditions to explore some of the most remote corners of the planet to fish, dive, surf and revel in nature’s beauty.
Casting their minds back to those days, they name Alaska, the Pacific Islands and French Polynesia as just a handful of the highlights from their years spent at sea.
“It was amazing – we miss it, don’t we,” Sarah says, looking across at Alex.
“The first job we landed together started in the Caribbean and took us up through Canada to Alaska and then down through Mexico to the Pacific Islands where we were based for the majority of our time.
“We just lived the ultimate fishing, diving, surfing life for about five years – just on the boat all the time.
“There was a lot of diving with whales, sharks and dolphins. Always fishing every day,” adds Alex. “We were away from civilisation for a long time.”
Now with two gorgeous children in tow – Lottie, 2, and three-month-old baby Jack – the couple has set a new course as owners of The Fishmonger Torquay, bringing high quality, fresh seafood to the coastal town they have called home since 2018.
They say the love and respect they share for ocean, paired with their dedication to ethically sourced food, has inspired the business venture.
Sitting in the sunny courtyard outside the shopfront they share with Mortadeli, tucked in a laneway running off the beach end of Gilbert Street that runs alongside Augustus Gelatery, Alex and Sarah recall they were surprised to discover there wasn’t already a fishmonger in town.
“We looked into it and we thought ‘there must be someone’ and there just wasn’t. It’s not the easiest thing to set up so it was in planning for quite a while,” Sarah says.
They started taking orders for deliveries late last year and moved into the shopfront in January.
Seafood arrives fresh every day from Tuesday through to Saturday, with Alex also making a 4am run every Tuesday to ensure customers have the freshest fish available.
“We follow the Good Fish Project and they have a traffic light system so if something is in the red we won’t stock it because it might be endangered or not ethically sourced,” Sarah, who is studying naturopathy, says.
The Fishmonger Torquay takes large orders – filling about 250 orders for Christmas alone – and the cut-off for Easter orders is April 10.
They also sell delicious homemade fish pies and fish cakes, and hope to conduct cooking workshops in the near future, with both Alex and Sarah being great cooks who are keen to share their knowledge with customers who might feel intimidated about working with seafood.
The shopfront also stocks a range of healthy, Australian made condiments, ready-made curry sauces to complement seafood dishes, a selection of cookbooks and much more.
A self-confessed “produce snob”, Alex’s passion for quality food shines through.
“I love a story of food and I love to know who I am buying it from, that it’s local and done well,” he says.
It was nurtured in him as a boy growing up in the fishing village of Brixham in the UK.
“My dad used to run scallop boats way back when and he was in the Merchant Navy for 15 years and that sort of thing,” he explains.
Alex followed suit, starting as a deck hand and dive guide, working his way up to captain.
“I started sailing when I was three,” he says.
“I left school quite young and went and worked on boats.I ended up doing three around the worlds ranging from working on a big schooner built in 1902 which was interesting.
“In 20 years I don’t think I spent more than three months in any country at one time.”
It was while he was in Cairns 10 years ago that Alex met Sarah, who grew up in Skipton and moved to the warmer climes of Queensland at age 18.
“We met in a nightclub,” Alex says with a laugh.
But it was on the water the pair cemented their bond and started on the journey that would lead Sarah to move to Europe before settling in Torquay to become “land lubbers” and start a family.
They love the town’s family vibe and the surf was definitely a big drawcard.
It is a lifestyle they have embraced wholeheartedly and they are grateful for the way the community is embracing them and their business venture in return.
“People love it. We are getting pretty regular faces now which is really good,” Alex says.
“We live and breathe the ocean, it’s what we care about, it’s everything.
“The general food system is pretty poor so we are trying to do everything in a way that is as good as possible to the planet.”
The Fishmonger Torquay is located at Shop8/4-6 Gilbert Street and opens Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, and Saturdays from 9am to 3pm. Discover more on their website or on Instagram @the_fishmonger_torquay.