If you’re planning a UK coastal break later this year, fear not about missing the seafood and fresh fish of the Mediterranean as you can find a huge variety of wonderful culinary delights right here on our very own shores.
“England’s seafood coast offers some of the best produce in the world. Passionate chefs are transforming fresh and local ingredients into fantastic dishes all around our coastline,” says Samantha Richardson, director at the National Coastal Tourism Academy.
“Many of our food producers use traditional and sustainable methods, while fish markets, boat trips and cooking experiences are on offer all over the coast. This is the perfect year for a foodie break and discovering the excellent cuisine and seafood this country offers.”
Nowhere is seafood better served than on the English Riviera in Devon, home to the world-famous Brixham Fish Market where more than £40 million worth of 40 species of seafood is landed annually including lobster, crab, scallops, hake, brill, sea bass and much more.
Local chef and seafood ambassador Mitch Tonks believes there’s no better catch: “I’ve eaten seafood all over the world and the quality and diversity of the fish caught off our coast is the finest anywhere.
“We have a long-standing fishing community in Brixham, who work hard to pioneer responsible fishing. We also have some world-class seafood restaurants and chefs and surely the most glorious views to enjoy while eating your seafood. If you’re heading to the coast this year, don’t miss the chance to discover the outstanding produce available right on your doorstep.”
Check out top seafood dining hotspots on booking tool and coastal guide englandscoast.com, which lists seafront restaurants, and foodie experiences all around our coastline.
Oysters have been grown in the creeks off Mersea Island in Essex since Roman times when they were a food staple and a vital resource. It’s said that the Romans loved oysters so much that they used to tow them in nets behind their boats all the way back to Rome. There are two varieties of oyster; the Colchester rock oyster, available all year round and living naturally on the seabed and the Colchester Native Oyster, harvested from September to May in the shallow creeks off Mersea Island.
Get onto the water with Lady Grace Boat Trips and enjoy a two hour picnic trip, gently cruising along Salcot Creek, where you’ll hear distant curlew calling and find egrets wading along the shoreline and oystercatchers flying overhead. Pre-order your picnic platter from the West Mersea Oyster Bar and tuck into native oysters and a variety of locally-sourced seafood.
In Yorkshire, herring are transformed into kippers in smokeries that have changed very little in hundreds of years. In Whitby, Fortune’s Kippers smokehouse and shop is famous for its tasty kippers which land on the breakfast plate for a low calorie, high protein start to the day. The aroma of oak wood smoke fills the air as you reach the smokehouse, located on the picturesque east-side of Whitby and nestled beneath the ancient cliffs.
For over 150 years this authentic smokehouse has been run by the Fortune family and kippers are made in the same way. Fish are gutted by hand then smoked over a series of fires made from a mixture of oak, beech and softwood, the fragrant oak and beech smoke gently permeates the fish to add flavour and to colour them naturally. It usually takes about three fires and 18 hours to complete the smoking process in order to achieve the delectable oaky smoked flavour and the distinctive golden-brown colour of a Fortune’s kipper.
Cromer Crab from Norfolk is in demand around the world, famous for its delicate flavour. Head to the northern coast of Norfolk to find the flavoursome, meaty and tender Cromer crab found in the nutrient-rich waters. These delicious brown crabs have been caught in the region for centuries and crabbing is still done in a traditional and sustainable way today, using pots to catch live crabs, checking them for size and throwing any back that don’t meet legal requirements, thereby none go to waste.
The annual Crab and Lobster Festival, which celebrates the seaside destinations of Cromer and Sheringham, will next take place in May 2022. Eat at Wells Crab House and enjoy a changing monthly menu, including garlic buttered lobster and cockles with cider vinegar, washed down with Callooh Coastal Gin with Seaweed.
In Dorset, the natural environment is perfect for food foraging, a skill that’s helped many of us get outside and connect with nature during the pandemic, to open our eyes and to seek out the food that is growing around us.
Kayaking and wild food organisation Fore/Adventure offer courses including seashore foraging and bush craft skills to turn the foraged finds into a feast. Their half-day Coastal Foraging Course, based on the beach in Studland includes a seashore foraging walk where you can investigate and learn about sea vegetables, sea weeds, crabs and cockles. You’ll learn how to identify and prepare wild foods, and how to make the most of nature’s very own larder, whether in the sea or on the shore.
In Devon, it’s all about variety – more than 40 different species are auctioned at Plymouth and Brixham Fish Markets alone, while Teignmouth is the only place in the country where you can try sand eels, brought ashore by one lone fisherman in his boat. Brixham Fish Market’s auction – the largest in the UK – attracts buyers from all around the UK and Europe due to Brixham’s unmatched reputation for landing high-quality fresh fish and shellfish. The fish ends up on plates in some of the finest restaurants in the UK, including Mitch Tonks’ Rockfish seafood restaurant, which sits in the market and overlooks the boats as they land their catch. Alfresco diners can sit on the terrace and look directly down to the fishing fleet, and from 5pm you can see the boats come in with their haul of fish of all shapes and sizes coming ashore.
Photography courtesy of England’s Coast.