Beach-side scenery or incredible food? These chic coastal cafes deliver both in spades
Words: Lucy Devine
Illustration: Sarah McMenemy
Back to basics
Simple, understated and an indisputable favourite among locals, Riley’s Fish Shack is located on King Edward’s Bay in Tynemouth. The menu consists entirely of seafood, caught daily by local fisherman and cooked over a charcoal grill, served with wood-fired flatbreads, garlic potatoes and seasonal salads. Decorated with fairy lights and oak benches, visit Riley’s (a 25-minute drive from Newcastle) for beautiful views and their signature mackerel wrap.
Designed by Olympic cauldron creator Thomas Heatherwick to imitate a giant piece of driftwood, the quirky East Beach Cafe in Littlehampton, West Sussex is located directly on the beach with simple decor and full-length windows, which boast stunning views of the water – a design that has won over 20 national and international awards. With an ocean-filled menu, we recommend the rather delicious salt and pepper squid or the traditional fish and chips.
Tucked away among the cliffs of the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall, The Hidden Hut is friendly and fuss-free. Three or four nights a month, it opens for an on-the-beach “feast night” serving up everything from lobster and chips to slow-roasted lamb, with BYO booze and tables decorated with flowers, bunting and the odd candelabra. Hot water bottles and blankets are on hand for the sea breeze, so snuggle up for a banquet under the stars.
Hop aboard a water taxi to the floating River Exe cafe in Exmouth. Set back from the beach, this is not your average beach-side haunt – but with spectacular views and a flawless selection of fresh locally caught fish, it’s a unique experience. Awarded gold in The Taste of the West Awards for three consecutive years, the food is faultless. Head there early on for smoked mackerel rillettes and Brixham brown crab. You’ll be back before you know it.
With freshly smoked mackerel and melt-in-the-mouth pancakes for you and ice-cream for your dog, Southsea Beach Cafe in Portsmouth knows how to keep everyone happy. Offering a variety of vegan and gluten-free dishes, as well as a range of doggie ice-creams, including strawberry and apple and honey and banana flavour, don’t leave without ordering the whole crab – or devour their ever-popular full English breakfast. Delicious.
Winner of this year’s AA Restaurant of the Year in Wales (the hospitality industry’s Oscars), Coast is situated on the south-west shoreline, metres away from the sandy beach of Coppet Hall. With chic wooden floors, large full-length windows and comfy booths looking out over Carmarthen Bay, head to Coast at lunch or dinner and ask to sit on their outside balcony. Soak up the view with a glass of wine and try their ever-popular shellfish bisque or crispy pigs’ ears.
Tucked away on the Isle of Purbeck, Shell Bay is a picturesque bistro on the beach, overlooking the beautiful Poole Harbour in Dorset. By day, the hidden gem is a simple and elegant cafe, which transforms into a dreamy paradise by night, renowned for delicious seafood and unbeatable sunsets. Try the lobster or crab – freshly caught by the local fisherman. Located just under three hours’ drive from either London or Brighton.
City chic meets beachside dining at Bournemouth’s Urban Reef – if you’re not a fan of seaside chintz, this is the place for you. With contemporary neutral decor, this cafe prides itself on serving locally sourced food from the owner’s farm. Offering everything from leisurely breakfasts to fancy cocktails, you could even skip the beach and hang out here all day. Locals recommend enjoying the Jenga-style chips while taking in the awe-inspiring view.
Illustration: Sarah McMenemy at theartworksinc.com