Fresh seafood and a warm welcome in a laid-back beach restaurant
Last summer I managed to prise a couple of my Torquay friends from their locals and get them to venture across Shaldon Bridge and join me for a beer on Teignmouth's Back Beach. It was a rare sunny evening and the views up the Teign, in the shadow of the familiar outline of Haytor, are worth lingering over. I made a mental note to come back and eat at the Crab Shack that sits on the beach, where the hubbub of diners spilling out onto the sand and enthusing about the food was enticing.
Eating in a place like this reminds me just how important a restaurant's atmosphere is. Driftwood, seaside décor, carved fish and ditties written on the Shack's wooden beams play a part in making you feel in holiday mode. Most of this art (along with the jewellery on display) is for sale and made by local artists.
With our two-month-old daughter in tow, my wife and I chose a lunchtime to visit and Amanda Simmonds, the owner, and her friendly staff couldn't have been more accommodating. We were welcomed like friends and shown to our table. It was pleasantly busy. There is a lunchtime specials board, as well as the regular sandwiches and soups, and we both opted for something from the board. Olives wolfed, we were served a basket of bread with a particularly tasty basil oil.
You are more likely to hear the crack and snap of fish shells here than the sombre scraping of knives and forks. The service was efficient and it wasn't long before I was devouring my dish of scallops in a smoked bacon and parmesan cream. This dish was surprisingly light – the bacon didn't overwhelm the delicate taste of the juicy scallops and the mild flavours were perfect for a lunchtime meal. My wife's bucket of garlic-butter-roasted crab claws was a 'get stuck in' kind of meal; some of the crab was prepared but the dish was served with the essential nutcrackers. The crabmeat was sweet and so tasty there were no extras needed. Both dishes came with bread and we shared some chips too: thin, crispy and hot, they were served already salted and peppered. We heard a couple of diners mention how delicious they were – and we agreed!
Unusually, there is a dessert specials board to accompany the regular menu. My wife chose a guilt-free fruit salad with a sweet homemade strawberry coulis, while I chose the indulgent chocolate brownie from the specials board. The warm dessert was smothered in a rich, hot chocolate sauce, served with a cold scoop of brandy butter ice cream.
It would be hard to find fresher seafood than that on offer here. Amanda's husband and son are fishermen who own boats that are moored a few metres away from the restaurant. "We have a boat moored on the pontoon, ready to set sail this evening to fish for the Crab Shack and our other business, the Seafood House in town," says Amanda. "My husband and son are away for 10-12 days at a time and it can be quite tough going at sea."
This will be the third year Amanda has been running the restaurant and she says that it's the first time she has done anything like this. I strongly suggest she carries on.
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