How Billingsgate Seafood Market and North Sea Fish Market provide Calgarians with fresh and sustainable seafood year-round
For a city with no oceans in sight, Calgarians sure have an appetite for seafood. In both the North and South of the city, two seafood markets are making big splashes with their dedication to quality products and exceptional service.
Billingsgate Seafood Restaurant & Market
Luke, Bryan and Melanie Fallwell of Billingsgate Seafood Restaurant & Market. Photo by Ingrid Kuenzel
For over 100 years, Billingsgate Seafood Restaurant and Market has been a go-to place for fresh fish and seafood in Calgary. Started in 1907 by Bert Malthouse, who came to Canada to work on the railroad, Billingsgate originated as a horse and cart operation where fish were sold on blocks of ice. Fast-forward to 2014 and after relocating to the Stadium Shopping Centre northwest Calgary in 2006, Billingsgate is experiencing a resurgence of new and old customers, or what they affectionately call “first-timers and lifers.”
“Billingsgate was a household name with my parent’s and grandparent’s generations,” says Luke Fallwell, great, great grandson of Malthouse and Billingsgate’s vice president and chief operations officer, “Everyone knew Billingsgate and everyone knew where it was.”
“When I came into this, our customer base was still this faithful following but with this being a fifth-generation family company and knowing how supportive the Calgary community is, we knew there was room for us in a newer demographic.”
Reaching out to first-timers, Fallwell led Billingsgate’s rebranding and development of a social media presence to connect with younger generations of Calgarians. He also contacted other local businesses such as Village Brewery to bring their products into the restaurant. Most recently they participated in YYC Burger Week, taking second place in the $10 category for their Samurai Ahi Tuna burger.
While more Calgarians have been discovering, or rediscovering, Billingsgate, they have also kept their focus on what they do best – fresh fish and seafood. They are now Ocean Wise certified too, a designation that was really important to the company, says Fallwell.
“In today’s world, people are more conscious than ever about what they’re eating so we want to take as much uncertainty out of the customer’s mind as possible,” he says.
Fresh fish and seafood are brought in daily from around the world including pickerel from Lake Winnipeg, wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico and halibut from Alaska.
While Billingsgate has undergone many updates in recent years, some things have stayed the same. Billingsgate’s flagship dish, Great Grandpa Bertie’s secret recipe for fish & chips, and Great Grandma Marg’s clam chowder and lobster bisque are still served in the restaurant.
“We’ve been doing it since 1907,” says Fallwell. “There’s a reason we’re still in business.”
While you’re at the Stampede this year, head to The Range in the Big Four Building to taste Billingsgate’s classic fish & chips. This will be Billingsgate’s 50th year at the Stampede!
North Sea Fish Market – Willow Park
Dan Nelson, Su Jin Kwon and Hyok Jong Kwon of North Sea Fish Market – Willow Park. Photo by Ingrid Kuenzel
When Su Jin Kwon bought North Sea Fish Market, Willow Park Village, in January 2012, she was already a familiar face behind the market’s counters. First hired to work at North Sea Fish Market by former owner Brian Plunkett after graduating from SAIT’s culinary program in 2002, Kwon had become known for her friendly demeanor and expertise in fileting fish. After a stint at another fish market, becoming an owner herself was simply the next natural step.
“I had been working in fish markets for over eight years and I was always interested in having my own store,” she says. “I knew how to cut fish and I had worked at the front of stores too.”
This well-rounded approach, founded by her upbringing in a big family in South Korea, has led Kwon to success. Out of demand for another location, Kwon, along with her brother Hyok Jong Kwon, opened a booth at the Symons Valley Ranch Farmers’ Market this spring.
“People were really excited to have good quality fish at the market,” she says. “Every week we keep hearing positive reviews and customers come back wanting to buy more. It makes me really happy and helps me see our growth possibilities.”
At the Willow Park Village location, Kwon and her fiancé Dan Nelson see many regular customers who Kwon says love their caring and welcoming service along with their products. “Everyone knows me and I know them, it’s like a family,” says Kwon.
When searching for fish to feed her “family”, Kwon says she first looks to what local and Ocean Wise-friendly fish are available, paying close attention to the time of year. “It’s very important to have seasonal products,” she says. “You don’t want to be looking for fresh, wild fish in the wintertime because it’s not available. When you have the chance to buy fresh and wild, you should!”
In addition to high-quality fresh fish and seafood, North Sea makes a variety of prepared foods, including skewers ready for the barbecue. Watch facebook.com/NorthSeaWillowpark for the day’s freshest fish and delicious eats.
Billingsgate is located at 1941 Uxbridge Drive NW, Calgary, 403-269-3474, billingsgatemkt.com
North Sea Fish Market Willow Park, is located at 300-10816 Macleod Trail SE, Calgary, 403-225-3460, sufishmarket.com
Photos by Ingrid Kuenzel