Su Carroll shares her local knowledge of eating out in Plymouth.
Plymouth is busily preparing for the Mayflower 2020 celebrations which will mark the 400th anniversary of the sailing of The Mayflower which took the Pilgrim Fathers to America to escape religious persecution.
In Tudor times, long before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail, fishing was by far the biggest industry in Plymouth. It’s still important today landing 6,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish a year (worth around £19 million) at Plymouth Fisheries on Sutton Harbour, although now around three-quarters of the catch of the day arrives by road. Visitors are welcome and you can buy fresh fish direct from the merchants at the Fisheries.
With such a close connection to the sea, Plymouth Restaurants love to put fish centre stage on the menu and if you’re looking for good places to eat, there are plenty of them and all within easy reach of the city centre.
For fish fans visiting Plymouth, there are lots of options. A great place to start is at the Mayflower Steps, where the Pilgrim Fathers were last on English soil. The distinctive Boathouse Café is next to the steps under the arches on the quay in what were fishermen’s net stores.
They’re dog-friendly, kid-friendly (with a Little Nippers menu which even includes mussels) and have great food options throughout the day. The fish is sustainably caught on their own boat – The Southern Star – and landed on the quay in front of you. Forget food miles, these are food feet.
The Boathouse runs its own catch and cook trips. Head out on one of their boats, catch your fish and when you come back the chefs will cook it for you.
Things can only get “batter” with three more great places to eat fish in Plymouth, all close to The Boathouse. Platters on the Barbican may look quirky, but it has been serving up fantastic fish for over 30 years. Harbourside Fish and Chips, a few doors down, wins awards for their sustainable menu and often feature in the National Fish and Chip Awards, winning in 2016 for healthy eating options.
Rockfish has a cool and contemporary vibe and sits between Plymouth Fisheries and the National Marine Aquarium on Sutton Harbour. It’s a Mitch Tonks restaurant and great for kids (there’s a really reasonably priced highchair menu too) with unlimited chips and everything is gluten free.
Heading away from the Barbican and Sutton Harbour, the next big food destination is the Royal William Yard – a Grade I listed former Royal Navy victualling yard now home to some nice places to eat in Plymouth. Yes, there are chains – Wagamama, Las Iguanas, The Seco Lounge, Prezzo, Wildwood and Bistrot Pierre – but they are in unique surroundings giving them an independent feel.
On the first Sunday of the month, you can visit the Good Food Market on a grassy site at the heart of The Yard. Fantastic local produce is on offer throughout the year and there are extra dates before Christmas.
It’s also home to two of the best cafes in Plymouth – The Column Bakehouse, which has artisan bread to take away, and The Hutong just outside the Yard entrance which only opened in spring 2017 and has already turned coffee into an art form.
Finally, fine dining. Some of the best places to eat in Plymouth are centrally located. Ben Palmer collected two AA rosettes within weeks of opening The Greedy Goose in a Tudor building in the heart of town. Three years on the stars are still there and the food is excellent (the set menu lunch is great value).
Dave Jenkins is the man behind not one but two good restaurants in Plymouth, both in former pubs that had become rundown. He has revived the premises to create Rock Salt in Stonehouse Street and Salumi in Millbay Road where his travels have inspired him to cook great local produce with a cosmopolitan vibe.