Peter Cumberlidge names his favourite South Coast restaurants and explains how to get to them by boat
The Jetty (Contemporary English)
Christchurch isn’t really a cruising port-of-call, with its shallow entrance and wide expanses of drying mud inside. But on a quiet day it’s easy to visit by RIB or dory from the Solent.
The harbour is delightful to explore in a shoal draught boat, and on the north shore at Mudeford you can land, when the tide is right, for lunch at The Jetty (pictured below).
The stylish modern dining room has soothing views over the harbour quay, where much of the seafood is landed. The cooking is sublime and the wine list a work of art.
Award-winning chef-patron Alex Aitken is one of the south of England’s most respected chefs and a keen MBY reader. He has a fast Sea Fox 256 sportsfishing boat, which sometimes brings home a catch.
- Tel: +44 (0)1202 400950 Web: www.thejetty.co.uk
- Signature dish: Jetty cassoulet with mixed fish and shellfish
- Proximity: Right on the quay
- Approx cost: £85 (three-course meal for two exc. wine)
Crab House Café (Fish and shellfish)
A short walk from Portland Marina, this convivial seafood ‘shack’ is in Ferryman’s Way, on the mainland side of the causeway overlooking Fleet lagoon.
You’ll find plenty of interesting fish, though we go for the whole crabs to crack and pick. English South Coast crabs are the finest in the world, provided they are cooked just enough and no more.
- Tel: +44 (0)1305 788867 Web: www.crabhousecafe.co.uk
- Signature dish: Local crab
- Proximity: 25 minute stroll from Portland Marina
- Approx cost: £70 (three-course meal for two exc. wine)
West Bay Harbour
Rachel’s Café (English seaside)
West Bay is an intriguing fishing harbour on the Dorset coast, 17 miles north-west of Portland Bill. If you are cruising west towards Tor Bay or Dartmouth, it can be pleasant to keep close inshore right around Lyme Bay, which has some fabulous coastal scenery you miss by cutting directly across from Portland.
Above half-tide, moderate sized boats can enter West Bay outer harbour and lie alongside a handy visitor pontoon on the port side.
If you arrive here around lunchtime, walk up to Rachel’s Café on the west side of the inner harbour for some generous seafood treats.
- Tel: +44 (0)7974 314277
- Signature dish: Plaice and chips
- Proximity: 5 minutes from visitors’ pontoon
- Approx cost: £16 (dinner for two exc. wine)
The Cary Arms (English)
Snug overnight in westerlies, Babbacombe is a delightful anchorage only five miles from Torquay Marina. The Cary Arms (pictured above) is located right on the shore, with a landing jetty, waterside terraces and handy visitor buoys.
The tranquil vibes of this boutique hotel chime perfectly with the cruising life and you dine well here in cosy comfort overlooking your boat. Good enjoyable cooking and not arty-farty.
In settled westerly weather you can lie overnight here, and in the morning – not too early – dinghy ashore for a civilised breakfast to start your day.
- Tel: + 44 (0)1803 327110 Web: www.caryarms.co.uk
- Signature dish: Roasted rump of spring lamb
- Proximity: Short dinghy ride from visitors’ buoy
- Approx cost: £60 (three-course meal for two exc. wine)
The Seahorse (Fish and shellfish)
Mitch Tonks (pictured above) is a well-known chef with an enthusiast’s understanding of seafood. His early book Fish is on our cruising bookshelf and The Seahorse restaurant is near where we live.
Simple, light cooking is the secret with fish. Restaurant reviews often warble on about simplicity, but you genuinely get it at The Seahorse. Not to be missed when you call at Dartmouth.
- Tel: +44 (0)1803 835147 Web: www.seahorserestaurant.co.uk
- Signature dish: Chargrilled monkfish
- Proximity: 15 minutes walk from Dart Marina
- Approx cost: £130 (three-course meal for two exc. wine)
Blackpool Sands Bay
Venus Beach Café (Beach bistro)
Three miles west of Dartmouth, the anchorage off the east end of Blackpool Sands is glorious on a summer evening. With the anchor well dug in, you can whizz ashore to Venus Beach Café (pictured above) and eat well in easy-going surroundings with your boat in full view.
This is one of our locals and you’ll find something on the menu for everyone. Their seafood chowder is the business and I often go for the fish ragout. This fabulous bay feels like a slice of the Riviera and you can safely lie here overnight with offshore winds.
- Tel: +44 (0)1803 771800 Web: www.lovingthebeach.co.uk
- Signature dish: Fish ragout
- Proximity: Short dinghy ride to beach
- Approx cost: £40 (three-course meal for two exc. wine)