Where to find the best British seafood
From an informal bistro on the Gower Peninsula to a ramshackle cafe at Wyke Regis. Chris Carter reports
The Gower Peninsula in Wales has a long history of good food “thanks to fertile farmland, mild winters and miles of coast”, says Liz Boulter in The Guardian. Now, this “fist of land west of Swansea” has seen a “mini explosion of new foodie ventures combining traditional produce with prime 21st-century flavours” that are seasonal, organic and have a low carbon footprint.
One such is Môr (mor-mumbles.co.uk), a high-end yet informal bistro with a menu shaped by local fishermen and farmers, supplying local lobsters, as well as scallops from Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. A fishmonger alerts the owners when he’s “going bassing” off a beach on the Gower.
Across Carmarthen Bay, Pembrokeshire is not to be outdone, says Kerry Walker in The Daily Telegraph. Here, “a stiff wind rakes the Atlantic at Freshwater West, where dunes make a joyous leap down to a vast scoop of butterscotch sand”. The wild surf blows away the cobwebs and makes you glad to be alive on a summer’s day. “And never more so than when you are about to get your chops around a Café Môr lobster roll slathered in Welsh seaweed butter – each bite delivering a delirious burst of the sea.” The self-professed “world’s first solar-powered seaweed kitchen” (beachfood.co.uk), on the beach, is “just one example of how Pembrokeshire is embracing its culinary roots with new-found gusto”.
The Norfolk Blue
“The Romans loved Dorset… They turned out with wine and olive oil, built grand villas and swanned around in their togas,” says Stanley Stewart in Condé Nast Traveller. “I feel they would have been proud of the way, two millennia on, it is rediscovering a passion for good food and good living.” Robin Wylde (robinwylde.com), a restaurant that opened in an old Lyme Regis pottery workshop last year, is a case in point. The emphasis is on ingredients fished, foraged or farmed locally, served with West Country wines and ciders. Further round the coast is the “ramshackle” Crab House Café (crabhousecafe.co.uk) at Wyke Regis, “where the oysters come straight from the sea to your table”.
Over in Norfolk, the village of Brancaster is synonymous with shellfish, particularly the mussels that thrive in the salt marshes along the coast, says Richard James Taylor in National Geographic Traveller. Families have been farming the mussels here for generations, “working with time and tide to nurture a prized variety known as the Norfolk Blue”. The White Horse in Brancaster Staithe (whitehorsebrancaster.co.uk) uses them in its take on the classic moules marinière.
Cley next the Sea used to be one of the most important ports on the North Sea coast. Nowadays, however, it is best known for its 18th-century windmill and “much-loved kippers, smoked gently over oak… at the Cley Smokehouse”. Cromer, “a classic English seaside resort renowned for its dressed crab and grand pier”, is also worth a visit.
The best oysters
“With expanses of beautiful water meeting with lush greenery of the nearby hills and Munros,” Scotland’s lochside restaurants are some of the best places to enjoy the freshest seafood, says Sean Murphy for the Daily Record. The Loch Fyne Oyster Bar (lochfyne.com) in Cairndow, Argyll and Bute, is the place to go for “the best oysters around, and that’s before you take in the surrounding scenery”. “Stunning” Loch Fyne, with its long sea loch combining salt and freshwater, creates “uniquely flavoured oysters that will live long in the memory”.
Further north, The Seafood Shack (seafoodshack.co.uk), in Ullapool, “is an unassuming catering trailer with bench seating and views over Loch Broom”, say Andy Lynes, Emily Sargent and Harriet Addison in The Times. It is “one of the best places to sample Scottish seafood”. The menu changes daily with the catch, but if you’re lucky, it will feature fried hand-dived scallops with herb butter. The Harbour Café (theharbourcafe.co.uk), in the Scottish seaside village of Elie, is another great seafood spot. There are “amazing views over the rugged coastline” to enjoy while tucking into langoustines served with aioli and buttered new potatoes.