Our expert guide to the best seafood restaurants in the UK. Here you will find everything from locally sourced fish, lobsters and oysters, to crab flatbreads and crab pasties produced by shoreline huts, sheds and shacks.
Fresh from the sea
Port Isaac, Cornwall
Fisherman Calum Greenhalgh catches the shellfish, which he carries 100 metres from his boat, Mary D, to the café where his wife Tracey cooks it for lunch. At the top of the hill overlooking the harbour at Port Isaac, the aptly named Fresh From The Sea opened in 2010 and now attracts customers from as far afield as Australia and Canada. “We first opened thinking Tracey and I could run the place between us but now most days in the summer there are four members of staff on and an extra two people just to hand-pick the crab.”
Served on locally baked bread, perhaps accompanied by a glass of Padstow Brewery beer or Cornish Camel Valley wine, the crab sandwich (which local Michelin-starred chef Nathan Outlaw claims to be the best he has ever tasted) and the lobster salad are safe bets. Other options include Porthilly oysters, homemade smoked mackerel pâté and toast, or a simple Davidstow cheddar cheese and chutney sandwich.freshfromthesea.co.uk
Dungeness Snack Shack
Dungeness, Romney Marsh, Kent
Right on the shingle beach at Dungeness, the Snack Shack is next to the Fish Hut, where the daily catch is sold. The view from the shack is across the beach and of the boats that supply both businesses daily.
The Shack opened in spring 2013 under Kelly Smith who was just returning to her job with Kent Police following maternity leave. Using her savings, she bought a catering trailer and set up at the weekends selling hot fish rolls.
Four years on and the menu at the Snack Shack has expanded, but it’s still driven by whatever the boats bring in – crab flatbreads and lobster rolls at this time of year. When they don’t have native lobsters, the £3.50 fisherman rolls (two fillets of that day’s catch cooked on the grill and served hot in a bun) and lemon sole flatbreads with chilli and lime, with beers from Romney Marsh Brewery, are always popular. dungenesssnackshack.net
Run by oyster farmer Nigel Bloxham, who also owns the Crab House Café at nearby Wyke Regis, Billy Winters comprises three converted shipping containers on the beach overlooking the white cliffs of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. With chefs Tom Kerridge and Mark Hix among its many fans, Billy Winters is open all day throughout the year (except January), come rain or shine.
There are breakfasts of Dorset-made chorizo hash, and lunches of wood-fired sourdough pizzas, crisp mackerel baps and the best-selling vegetarian beetroot burger with chilli, tomato and ginger ketchup. Foraged ingredients from the local beaches also make an appearance – the Salty Fingers margarita cocktail contains sea blite (an evergreen shrub) from the shore outside.
All the meat and fish is from Dorset and if the kitchen has to look further for ingredients then it’s from within the West Country, including rope-grown mussels from Fowey in Cornwall. Ferry Bridge Boatyard, Portland Road, Weymouth.
The Lobster Shack is situated on the quayside at North Berwick, overlooking the boats in the harbour. Open between April and October, virtually everything on the menu is sourced locally, whether it’s lobsters and crabs caught by fisherman Jack Dale in the Firth of Forth, fish from Musselburgh, smoked salmon from the Belhaven Smokehouse or fruit and vegetables from nearby farms.
Although grilled lobster is the main draw of this waterfront shack (the clue’s in the title), the fish and chips are the stuff of local legend, as is the crab and prawn cocktail, the mussels marinière and the seafood scotch egg. A chilled glass of locally made Mutley’s lemonade or a bottle of Intergalactic – dry-hop lager from Belhaven Brewery in nearby Dunbar – goes down rather nicely, too. lobstershack.co.uk
The Crab Shed
Ventnor, Isle of Wight
Amanda Wheeler and her husband Jim started out selling crab pasties in 2002 as a way of diversifying from the family fishing business. Jim and his brother Mark are from a long line of local shellfishermen that dates back to the 15th century. Open seasonally from April to October, the Crab Shed occupies a spot in Steephill Cove, one mile south of Ventnor.
It overlooks the beach with bench-style seating, where you can enjoy those honed pasties, fresh mackerel ciabattas and crab burgers from a short menu featuring seafood caught by the owners themselves. steephillcove-isleofwight.co.uk
The Hidden hut
Porthcurnick Beach, Cornwall
On a National Trust-owned coastal path perched above the dunes of Porthcurnick beach, The Hidden Hut can be reached only by foot. The seating is outside, but that doesn’t stop thousands of people flocking here each summer.
There’s a small menu chalked up daily – sometimes twice a day during busy periods – and on a typical lunchtime, there’s usually a soup and a curry on the outdoor stove, local fish or meat cooked over wood on the charcoal grill and served with salad and flatbread; and freshly baked pasties and sausage rolls. Look out for St Mawes smoked haddock chowder, pasties (naturally), and regular feast nights, which can draw hundreds, some of whom camp overnight nearby.
“We are very lucky to have such great produce on our doorstep and it’s not just the seafood either – the beef and lamb are reared in the fields behind us and the heritage vegetables are grown in an allotment just up the road,” says chef co-owner Simon Stallard. “Thinking about it, if it’s not actually from the sea, most of the produce has a sea view!” hiddenhut.co.uk
The Company Shed
West Mersea, Essex
Separated from the River Blackwater by a boat yard, the Company Shed was opened 30 years ago by Heather Haward, who started by selling shrimp, crab and oysters through the window. It progressed to having counters inside selling fish and shellfish to take away, then one table so people could eat there.
Now run by Heather’s daughter Caroline, there are more tables and a proper menu, but it remains a no-frills place with dishes such as mussels steamed with onion, garlic and cider, and fried spicy crabcakes with sweet chilli dip. If you’re hungry after your meal, you can, of course, still grab fresh local fish, oysters, lobsters and whelks to take home. thecompanyshed.co
Bryher, Isles of Scilly
Just 10 yards from the beach, the majority of visitors to The Crab Shack arrive by boat from the neighbouring islands of Tresco and St Mary’s. Since 2014, this seasonal venue (it opens Tuesday to Thursday evenings between May and September) has showcased fresh Isles of Scilly shellfish and has just three dishes on the menu – Bryher crab (medium, large or ‘monster’ size), mussels and scallops – served informally in Portuguese cataplanas. hellbay.co.uk
Isle of Gigha
The Boathouse restaurant on the Isle of Gigha is set in one of the most stunning locations off the West coast of Scotland. Slap-bang on the beach, it was taken over at the end of 2016 by former customer James Clark and his family, who relocated to the island from Glasgow.
The family’s links to the area was their nearby caravan that had made The Boathouse their weekend sanctuary. The menu showcases the abundant local seafood including halibut, lobster and oysters; local fishermen land the seafood in the morning and it’s on the menu by the same evening. boathouseongigha.com