Boxing Day brekkie at a beach cafe, you say? Not what I’d envisaged when we decided to escape to Devon for the Christmas period, but certainly a tradition I’d be more than happy to repeat.
I’ve read about the Beachhouse at South Milton Sands before, mainly during my copious research into all the places to eat and drink in and around Salcombe. What I hadn’t realised is that we would stumble upon it coming from the opposite direction during a walk from our Christmas destination in Bantham.
In fact, it was so lovely that we returned the following day for a festive lunch. Now that’s a good sign, right? The Beachhouse is exactly that – a little shack that appears out of nowhere as you wander either along the coastpath from Thurlestone, or along the beach itself.
At first glance it might look like your average beach hut selling coffee and bacon baps, but don’t be fooled. A quick look at the busy blackboards attached to walls both outside and in gives you a bit of a hint.
Breakfasts including classics like a Full English and grilled local smoked mackerel give way to dishes that span the inevitable seafood treats of dressed crab, fish of the day and seafood chowder through to buttermilk fried chicken burger, mushroom bruschetta and more.
You can book a table for inside for lunch or dinner or just turn up and hope to grab one of the benches outside if the weather is being obliging which, lucky for us, it was both times we visited.
Our accidental first visit was a breakfast stop. Full English for Mr M, described in his words as ‘clean-tasting and not too much so I could actually enjoy each part’. A simple bacon bap for me. I could wax lyrical but come on, it was a bacon bap. Having said that, something about the friendly service, idyllic setting overlooking a busy Boxing Day beach and good quality food ensured that we would return.
Return we did, the very next day, dragging our pals along for the ride. This time it was for the full shebang. We started with fresh bread and olives that came complete with Dukkah (or Duqqa depending on your spelling). I’ve never had this before and am a convert.
It’s here that good service comes into play. Without the confident and eloquent explanation from our waitress of not only what Dukkah is, but how best to eat it, I think we may have missed out on its true glory. In short, it’s a mix of nuts and spices toasted and crushed.
Take your bread, dip in the olive oil, then dip into the Dukkah. A fragrant mix of flavours and spices, enhanced by the nuttiness of a good quality olive oil, and it’s the perfect pre-lunch treat. Washed down, of course, with a crisp glass of white (Sancerre in this case) served in a kid’s plastic bucket as a cooler.
I opted for the fish of the day – sea bream on a bed of puy lentils. Simple, effective and delicious. The fish was cooked perfectly, the lentils slightly peppery and still with plenty of bite in texture. The taste of summer, with just the right weather and setting to accompany it.
Mr M opted for the seafood chowder, which this picture absolutely does not do justice to. A feast of shellfish in a steaming bowl of slightly curried, creamy sauce, with the added bonus of a whole fillet of sea bream perched on top. And plenty of bread to mop up the sauce with. A delight, and he maintains his dish was by far and away the best of the day.
Our friends opted for the buttermilk fried chicken burger and flat fish goujons with fries and tartare sauce. Both were also epic. The burger speared dramatically with a large knife that was very much needed to cut the Thor-sized portion into something a mere human could tackle.
The chicken looked exactly as it should, golden brown, still moist, and hanging shamelessly out of the roll to lure you in. The goujons were a welcome change and served to restore faith in a word that has increasingly become loosely used to describe the ‘fish nuggets’ that appear on children’s menus everywhere and probably single-handedly put more kids off fish than anything else, including the Filet O’ Fish.
Battered lightly, fried quickly and for the right length of time. Fish and chips by the seaside, but with a bit of panache, helped along the way with a perfectly-balanced tartare sauce, simultaneously creamy and piquant.
As festive food finds go, the Beachhouse was certainly a bit of a surprise. Helped of course by the weather, which brought sunshine to December in Devon. But even without that, I imagine we’d have snuggled inside the hut and still enjoyed a slap-up meal.
I’m increasingly find myself drawn to places without the pomp and circumstance that comes with fine dining, yet who are turning out good quality, well cooked food that’s accessible to all of us and doesn’t discriminate based on your bank balance or your ‘social status’. It proves that good food isn’t for the select few, but for all of us.
Bravo Beachhouse. Thanks for the surprise Christmas present.
We paid in full at the Beachhouse both times. They didn’t know I was a blogger.