Lucy Kehoe

Britain’s best beachside restaurants

Britain's best beachside restaurants
Shell Bay, Studland, Dorset
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On a balmy summer’s day, few things can beat a lazy lunchtime spent beside the sea. Just ask the G7 leaders, who enjoyed a leisurely barbecue on the beach during their Cornish escapades. Stand-out seafood, unspoilt views across the waves and that care-free atmosphere particular to British seaside escapes await those clued up on the best beach eateries. From Cornish cliffsides to Scottish shores, here’s a pick of the best cafes, shacks and restaurants along the 30,000-odd kilometres of British coastline.

The Hut, Colwell Bay, Isle of Wight

If the past is a foreign country, then a summer trip to the nostalgia-soaked Isle of Wight might pass as a far-flung holiday adventure this year. After a meander through its idyllic Englishness – all country roads, tea rooms and seaside Victorian architecture – take a seat between the candy-coloured beach cabins of Colwell Bay at The Hut. Delivering beach-club vibes without the Med flight, the decking of this coastal spot buzzes with the Island’s yacht crowd come summer. Sunshine-filled mezcal negroni in hand, prepare for a dizzying array of jazzed-up coastal delights: caper butter-drizzled lemon sole, dazzlingly bright fish tacos and buttery octopus served beside needle-thin fries. Keep an eye out on the menu for locally grown Isle of Wight tomatoes – something special – and save space for dessert. The citrus tiramisu, pairing grapefruit with madeira, is magnificent.

Three courses from £30.50pp.

Beach House, Oxwich Bay, the Gower

Wales has a habit of offering up breath-taking beaches. Barafundle, Tenby’s golden splays, the Victorian frills of Llandudno – and then there’s Oxwich Bay, a soft sand stretch of the Gower Peninsula that demands you rethink your presumptions all over again. Where gentle green hills glides into a long golden crescent, hospitality duo Neil Kedward and Zoe Agar have found a home for their third venture – Beach House.

The pragmatically named restaurant straddles the land and the sea, with sand brushing against its front door. Acclaimed chef ­Hywel Griffith heads up the kitchen – the Welshman has printed native pride all over the menu, with local ingredients selected from both sides of the building. Creamy Glamorgan butter slathers laverbread loaf, speckled with seaweed, while Oxwich Bay lobster, Swansea sea bass and charred mackerel fillets come garnished with locally foraged sea purslane, wild garlic and rock samphire.

Two courses from £36.

The Hidden Hut, Portscatho, Cornwall

Of all the huts and shacks on this list, the one wedged between rolling hills above Porthcurnick beach stays truest to its namesake. But it was this low-key beach kitchen, painted sensible National Trust sage, that played pitmaster to the G7 VIPs when they gathered in nearby Carbis Bay earlier this year. Chargrilling lobster for Macrons and Merkels aside, Simon Stallard and his also provide a casual lunch menu to walkers trooping past on the nearby footpath, with crab sandwiches, Cornish pasties and seafood chowders all up for grabs.

For something more on par with the Biden’s barbecue, bag a ticket to one of the summer feasts. It’s no silver service – you have to bring your own cutlery and an anorak, too if a storm’s blowing – but when the weather’s right, you’ll be sitting under ochre sunsets at beachside banqueting tables piled high with king-sized platters of chargrilled calamari, gargantuan seafood paellas garnished with crustacean claws and tender hunks of lamb slow-cooked theatrically over fire.

Feast nights from £14pp,

Riley’s Fish Shack, North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear

Tyne and Wear’s rugged coastline, complete with brisk North Sea winds, might not be the first place that comes to mind for a seaside summer jaunt, but this striking section of Britain’s edge has golden sands and jaw-dropping vistas that more than rival landscapes down south. There’s a catalogue of haunting ruins dotting the coast – including the newly restored neo-gothic Auckland Castle ­– while coastal villages including Alnwick and Whitley Bay provide day-trip adventures. In Tynemouth, one of Britain’s best seaside restaurants sits hidden beneath the cliffs of King Edward’s Bay. The rustic barbeque joint of Riley’s Fish Hut sits half buried in the sands. Under a sail-like awning, chef Adam Riley and his partner Lucy chargrill North Sea monkfish and lobster over fire, the flames licking at fat mackerel and skewered squid. It’s devoured from beachside deckchairs (which currently require a booking), washed down with local beers.

Dishes from £19.

Hive Beach Café, Burton Bradstock, Dorset

Looking for a seaside breakfast? Hive Beach Café is the place to come. Perched on the shingle of Lyme Bay’s beaches, this Burton Bradstock eatery looks out over the shimmering waters and the fishing boats which provide the menu. For breakfast, that means hand-picked Portland crab bubble & squeak or kippers from Chesil Smokeries. The café has been in business for over 30 years, perfecting it’s nonchalant, beach bar atmosphere and casual seaside lunch spot that could as easily be a seafood shack on the Algarve.

When noon comes around, it’s time for seafood platters (coral claws of spider crabs included), crispy skinned bream and an excellent fish and chips. If you’re walking the South West Coast Path, pop in for a creamy crab sandwich– it’s a perfect pitstop.

Crab sandwich, £12.

Shell Bay, Studland, Dorset

You’ll need to venture across the waters of Miami-in-miniature Sandbanks to find this quietly brilliant seafood restaurant. Jump on the five-minute ferry across to the Isle of Purbeck (which is actually a peninsula) and on a warm day the slice of sandy paradise can almost feel tropical. The slumbering Shell Bay restaurant sits above a white-sand beach, and enjoys glittering sunset views across to Brownsea Island. The menu, thanks to a change of team a few years ago, is first class: start with a crab rarebit, before diving into buttery lemon sole tucked under a blanket of monk’s beard, dill and brown shrimp. On the a wood-fire grill, you’ll spot grilled Dorset blue lobsters, too.

Two courses from £23.50.

Rocksalt, Folkestone, Kent

Mark Sargeant’s Folkestone stop combines on-point dining with panoramic views. After earning his stripes under Gordon Ramsey, Sargeant has spread his wings at this waterside joint. Best of British produce is the drill, and if you’re keen for a seaside joint that focuses beyond the seafood, you’ll enjoy the menu. The daily catch is expertly handled – Folkestone huss shares the plate with cockle popcorn – and paired with a celebration of England’s garden county. Mussels are doused in Kentish Gala cider, while dazzlingly striped mackerel lounges over marinated beetroot. Meanwhile, at the terrace bar cocktails arrive with a handful of excellent snacks – think a pot of Folkestone whelks or whipped cod’s roe with seaweed crackers.

Two courses from £22.