Britain’s best seafood shacks
Simple seafood places seem to be popping up all over the country, in shacks, sheds, vans, containers, you name it. They may be a bit rough and ready, but they serve up the freshest of fresh ingredients, and often boast terrific views too. Here’s ten of the best.
1. The Hidden Hut
Porthcurnick Beach, Truro, Cornwall
Bring your own crockery, cutlery and a bottle or two, and head down to the Hidden Hut for a “feast night” this summer. The shed-turned-kitchen sets up a makeshift banquet table on Porthcurnick Beach and puts on a spread inspired by local produce, such as the recent “sole night”: whole-roasted sole with fennel, lemon and soft herbs, cooked slowly in sea salt over Tregothnan charcoal.
During the day, the Hidden Hut has an ever-changing menu, and is also known for its Soup Sundays and ad hoc lunch events, which are usually triggered by the cooks getting their hands on a bumper catch and announcing a paella. It’s tucked away on the South West Coast Path and is only accessible only by foot – but that just adds to the fun.
Open 10.00-17.00 (March to October)
2. Dungeness Snack Shack
The Dungeness Snack Shack’s fishermen’s rolls are filled with whatever is landed on the beach a stone’s throw away by the day boats owned by proprietor Kelly Smith’s family. It could be sole, brill or huss – but it’s always fresh and if you want to take some home, you can just pop into the fish shop next door. Alternatives include lobster rolls, wraps and a superb cod chowder, according to season. Kelly’s Snack Shack is on the edge of Romney Marsh and in the shadow of the nuclear power station, on an expanse of shingle that’s the only classified “desert” in Britain. Have a stroll, go up the lighthouse, take a peek at Derek Jarman’s house, take a ride on the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway, and then get stuck in. What a top trip.
Open 11.00-16.00 (Thursday to Sunday)
3. The Crab Shack
Hell Bay, Isle of Bryher, Isles of Scilly
The Crab Shack isn’t the sort of place you stumble across: it’s on Bryher, one of the smallest of the inhabited Scilly islands. But despite its remote location, it’s quickly becoming a dining destination so booking in advance is a must.
Just three dishes are on offer, but when they’re this perfect – think Bryher crab, local mussels and scallops, all served in Portuguese cataplanas – that’s plenty. “Dinner boats” run from Tresco on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and from St Mary’s on Wednesday evenings ferrying lucky diners to and fro.
Open Monday to Thursday
4. The Lobster Shack
The Lobster Shack just shows you what can be created in a roadside wagon: proper restaurant quality food, such as grilled North Berwick lobster, Shetland rope-grown mussels cooked in white wine, garlic and cream, and grilled fillet of seabass. It pops up on Quality Street, near North Berwick’s harbour, giving its chefs easy access to super-fresh seafood from boats landing nearby.
Open 12.00-18.00 (June-September)
5. River Exe Café
River Exe, Exmouth
You’ve heard of singing for your dinner? Well, what about swimming for your dinner? That’s what it looks like in this floating-pontoon restaurant based in the wide waters round Devon’s Exe Estuary. Luckily, the Puffin Water Taxi at Exmouth Marina is on hand until 11pm, giving diners plenty of time to enjoy the famous Exmouth mussels or fresh fish that are quite literally dropped on the doorstep by fishermen on their way back to the harbour.
6. The Company Shed
Mersea Island, Essex
No trip to Mersea is complete without a visit to the wonderful, critically acclaimed Company Shed: a no-frills seafood shack serving up Richard Haward’s superb oysters (both rocks and, when in season, some of the finest natives you’ll find anywhere) and much more besides. It’s BYO so don’t come empty-handed: a bottle of Ruby Rose from the Mersea Island Vineyard nearby makes the perfect match. Get there early or be prepared to wait, especially on summer weekends, when it can be mobbed.
Open 09.00-17.00 (Tuesday to Saturday), 10.00-17.00 (Sunday)
7. The Boat House Café
Gigha, Argyll and Bute
The squat grey boathouse, with its low, sloping roof may appear pretty shack-like, but looks can be deceiving. Just three years old, this family-run restaurant has already earned a place in the Michelin Guide. Though there are light dishes available in the day, it comes into its own for dinner, when it cooks up the day’s catch as well as the island’s deservedly famous farmed halibut. Phone ahead to avoid disappointment.
Open 11.30-21.00 (Easter to September)
8. Oban Seafood Hut
Argyll and Bute
You’d be pushed to find a more earthily atmospheric spot to enjoy fresh seafood than on Calmac Pier, looking out over the islands off Scotland’s west coast. The now famous simple green Oban Seafood Hut has been serving up seafood fresh and cheap since it first opened its hatches in 2003. Try the seafood platter (from £12.50), or its simple but delicious cooked dishes such as the langoustine in garlic butter or local mussels with white wine, shallots and garlic. The only drawback are the pesky gulls, so either stay on your guard or eat quickly – which shouldn’t be a problem when the food tastes this good.
9. Cookie’s Crab Shack
Cookie’s Crab Shop overlooks the salt marshes on Norfolk’s north coast. A local institution serving up wonderfully fresh local seafood salads, platters and sandwiches, it’s simple, rustic, sometimes a little chaotic, and even, on occasion, downright blunt. So go prepared, but do go: it’s a total treat. Phone in advance to reserve a crab or lobster. Once they’ve sold out, that’s it for the day.
10. Riley’s Tackle Box
King Edward’s Bay, Tynemouth
Riley’s Tackle Box started life as a “meals on wheels”-style shack: a bicycle grill for cooking seafood over hot coals. But when husband and wife team, Lucy and Adam Riley, built up a cult following they launched a crowd-funding campaign, successfully raising the £20,000 needed to open a permanent shack built out of a shipping container. It’s now taking taking shape in King Edward’s Bay, and will open mid-August. The couple buy fish from boats landing in Blyth, and will be cooking their signature seafood over charcoal: chilli squid on a stick, monkfish wraps, mackerel, half-lobsters and more. We can’t wait.
Do you know a great seafood shack that we’ve missed out? Drop us a line and tells us at firstname.lastname@example.org.