Heading up the pretty Jurassic coastline to Sidmouth, you’ll be in for a real treat when you drop anchor at Dukes, which is just set back from the Esplanade with its stretching sea views.
It’s undergone a major refurbishment. Bright and shipshape, the new decor creates a relaxed dining experience for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with plenty of outside seating. With the focus on fresh, seasonal and locally sourced food, along with ales and wines from the region, this award-winning restaurant is always popular with customers visiting for a drink or a meal.
We visited on a Thursday evening, which is Seafood Night (Tuesday is Fish and Chips, and Wednesday is Steak Night). The menu has a wide choice with lots of fishy dishes, as well as plenty of meat from the grill – including burgers and non-meat options. There is also a '35-mile mains menu', along with pizzas and a good children’s selection.
My fishcake starter was nicely teamed with pickled cabbage, crisp salad, and a sweet and sour sauce. My dining partner, Andrew, had the house salad, as he was won over by the combination of beetroot, sweet potato and giant couscous. This was topped with a baked mackerel fillet and parmesan shavings. It was full of flavour, colour and texture.
I chose mussels from the seafood menu, which arrived in a large enamel pot, full to the top with the steaming fish straight from the River Exe, accompanied by a creamy garlic and white wine sauce. The mussels were super-sweet, the sauce, delicious. Andrew enjoyed his large piece of oven-baked hake with a fondant potato, asparagus, and a saffron and cream sauce.
I decided to squeeze in dessert and my crème brûlée was just as anticipated: golden and crunchy on top, encased in smooth, silky custard. Andrew tucked into his Eton mess, which he described as the perfect sweet finish to his meal. Oh, how we do like to be beside the seaside!