When you return to somewhere you’ve enjoyed a great holiday, it’s tempting to retrace those steps and try to recreate the trip you had last time, along with all the great memories. That can work brilliantly, and we’ve definitely done it a fair few times in the past. In fact, returning anywhere for those reasons can work well, whether it’s on holiday or closer to home.
But what can be even sweeter is returning to a destination and finding new places to try – especially when they’re great.
Mr M and I visited Salcombe a fair few years back as part of a travel piece for my day job. It’s everything we love in a seaside destination (well, estuary-side) – lovely scenery, good pubs, nice restaurants packed with fresh seafood, beautiful beaches and a good coastal path to burn off some calories. We’ve been meaning to go back ever since but, as you have seen, got a bit swept up with Cornwall and all its glory.
We finally made it back recently on a camping trip with friends and while we were tempted to return to some of the old haunts we tried on our last trip, Jamie had been reading up about somewhere that has opened up since we last visited so we decided to give it a go. As soon as we saw The Crab Shed we were fairly confident it would hit the spot. Right on the fish quay in Salcombe it looks modern yet simple and fresh – pretty much a reflection of the excellent food it serves.
The views are across the fish quay, making the outdoor terrace perfect for a warm summer’s day. The menu is fairly simple and, as you’d expect, dominated by crab sourced from The Crab Shed’s own Crab Factory. It’s augmented by a specials blackboard boasting more shellfish as well as a variety of day boat fish plus extra veg, sides and potato dishes so more than enough choice for a delicious lunch.
We were served by an incredibly attentive lady who it turned out was the owner and for whom no request was too difficult – from advice on the right wine to please the whole table to a big bowl of water for the dogs who were welcomed with open arms. Given where we were, I felt unable to opt for anything except crab so opted for a hot crab gratin with a herb crust.
It was certainly impressive to look at, piled into a crab shell with the crunchy herby crust on top. The style of the dish seemed to emphasise the richness of the crab meat and while it was nice, I have to confess it didn’t quite float my boat in the same way as a more conventional dressed crab.
Lucky for me, our pal had ordered a crab sandwich packed with dressed crabmeat. Having fallen in love with her simpler crabmeat and soft, soft bread I was overjoyed to hear that she actually loved my gratin (just goes to show how sometimes it’s all about personal taste) so we decided on a half-half swap. Hurrah!
Our other pal had opted for a traditional dressed crab and was over the moon with his. Obviously, I guess you could argue you can’t go too wrong with crabmeat but I’m sure freshness has a great deal to do with it, plus presentation and the confidence to stick with such simple dishes that mean there’s absolutely no place to hide with your ingredients. Fortunately these guys don’t seem to need any such elusiveness when it comes to what they’re serving up.
With enough crab on the table to feed a small army, Jamie opted for the moules mariniere. A boring choice, was my first reaction, because you can get moules mariniere pretty much anywhere these days. However, we were all agreed that these were in a league of their own. The mussels themselves were fat and luscious, yet still firm with none of that watery lack of substance you sometimes get from large, less quality, crustaceans. The white wine and garlic sauce was pungent, piquant and punchy, without being diluted into a bowl of slightly garlicky warm cream that can so often happen.
Enthused by our main courses and in love with the surroundings, we decided to stay for pud (when don’t we). The only vague concession to health and moderation was to share two between four. The first was a most incredible lemon posset. A perfectly balanced rich and creamy kilner jar full of tangy lemony goodness that very nearly inspired a bit of a tug of war over the table.
The second was a cheesecake that was a touch too gelatinous for my liking and paled slightly in comparison to the perfect posset, but was a pretty end to a fairly flawless meal.
The Crab Shed is everything it claims to be – vibrant both when it comes to its food as well as its atmosphere. Great service, something you know I think is absolutely vital to a dining experience, is there in abundance, with the right balance of formality and fun to ensure a lovely lunch. It goes without saying that the setting is great and that, coupled with the oh-so-apparent locally-sourced provenance of the food as you watch fishing boats moving in and out of the estuary, lends an authenticity to The Crab Shed that you’d struggle to find in some places. In short, it ticks all the boxes.
Needless to say, the Crab Shed plus other places during our break (yes, I’ll tell you about them in good time) has cemented Salcombe as somewhere we’re likely to return to again and again. We already loved it but a few new finds including this fab place make it a great little food-filled haven for a weekend, week or maybe longer break away. Yet again I find myself blown away by some of the wonderful places we have right here in the UK. Bring on the foody staycation I say!
We paid for our meal at The Crab Shed. They didn’t know I was a blogger (until the very end when someone spilled the beans).