Food Editor Paloma Lacy shares the best restaurants she’s visited on the South Coast of England…
Given that we’re experiencing something of an Indian summer, a trip to the coast for lunch is just the thing to keep our spirits up during these uncertain times. My travels this summer led to a quartet of delightful discoveries along the South Coast that I just had to share with you.
A brief stroll past the Worthing Pier will bring you to a slightly more alternative area of town, with vegan-friendly cafes, and independent boutiques. Here you’ll find CrabShack. It is exactly as it sounds – casual dining or feasting on fresh fish. Good, honest, simple food that is short lived on the palate but lives long in the memory.
We arrived at 12 noon a few weeks ago to find a queue of 10 people. Some, like us, had booked but others were left disappointed upon being told there were no available tables. Booking is essential and be warned the kitchen closes at 6pm.
Owner Sarah was welcoming and a chat with her, listening to her tale of swapping South London for Sussex life, put us in the mood for a hearty lunch. She sweetly led us to one of the few shaded outside tables – there is no return to inside dining as yet. By the time we’d wolfed down the starter – a pint of prawns with lemon mayonnaise – we’d already decided to visit again, deeming it worthy of a day visit, despite the three-hour round trip. We were unable to resist calamari, even before discovering it was topped with fresh chilli and fried slices of garlic, a wickedly delicious twist, adding sweetness, with every piece plunged into garlic mayonnaise.
Blistering sunshine, clear blue skies and enviable views transported us to another place – and we could have easily been persuaded we’d landed on foreign shores. All this, even before the main course was served.
Sarah asked us if we’d like to try the most popular dish – fish box – and we accepted. To give us a chance to try fresh sardines in addition, she suggested a small fish box, designed to serve one person. Diners down this way must have huge appetites – three of us were unable to finish it.
It’s a box full of surprises – smoked mackerel pate, crostini, prawn cocktail with crevettes, mini hot Sussex Smokie – Springs smoked salmon, shell-on Atlantic prawns and potted crab. All served with fresh lemon mayo, homemade tartare, skinny fries and multigrain bread. Sussex Smokie, for those unaware, is a combination of smoked haddock and buttered leeks in a delicious creamy cheese sauce with English mustard and lemon topped with crunchy breadcrumbs and lemon.
All in all, Crabshack was a truly memorable meal, but it’s not just food we’ll cherish but the whole experience.
Along the coast at Hastings, Boatyard calls Hastings Contemporary Gallery home, and continues to attract visitors to the Old Town. Located on the first floor of the gallery, with outstanding sea views, it’s the second restaurant from Ben and Kate O’Norum. Seasonality, sustainability and natural wine lay at the heart of the menu here and at the much-talked about Farmyard, down the road in St Leonards.
Boatyard specialises in small plates, served beachside in the most wonderfully simple alfresco dining setting. The ambience is unrivalled and just as we thought ‘it really doesn’t get better than this’, the food arrived and blew us away further still. We ordered pea hummus, anchovies, goat’s cheese with honey and walnuts, and cockle popcorn to share, which we did with great gusto. A fine array of super fresh dishes, bursting with flavour, it’s easy to see why Boatyard is the toast of Hastings. Open Monday lunchtimes and throughout the weekend, it recently introduced a Saturday evening service from 5.30pm until 10.30pm, no doubt to capitalise on the beautiful autumn sunsets.
No break in Hastings would have been complete without a return visit to Webbe’s – our first fine dining experience in Hastings 11 years ago before we became a trio has stayed with us. Little has changed here and standards are as high ever. Drop a napkin and another is delivered to your table before you have time to catch the eye of a member of waiting staff. Fish lies at the heart of the menu, trays of oysters, seafood platters, and tapas – which at five dishes for £17, represents great value for money in such impressive surroundings.
Shelter Hall Raw, Brighton
Down in Brighton, it’s not easy for a restaurant to make its mark, with so many to choose from. However, Shelter Hall Raw has brought together some of Brighton’s best-loved food and drink businesses under one roof, with a pop up presence, that will change on rotation. The current line-up includes Fatto a Mano, Lost Boys Chicken, Carlito Burito and GB Charcuterie. So with cracking food in the most enviable of seafront locations – this place has it all.
Written By: Paloma Lacy | Food Editor