Unfortunately, it seems as though No 55 has closed since writing this review.
Salcombe has become a bit of a special place for me and Mr M. It’s got everything we want in a place for a break – scenery, good restaurants and pubs, beaches, walks, plenty of water to play in. It might not have the big names and Michelin stars that dominate our other love, Padstow, and its surrounding areas but has an understated classiness that makes it just that little bit more relaxing. A quintessential English seaside break with good food and drink thrown in.
If you’ve read this blog before you’ll know that we’ve had great meals at The South Sands Hotel and the Crab Shed, both of which we’ve returned to. But we’d never managed to try No 55, a deceptive little place right in the heart of the town. It’s not open in the daytime, just evenings, and since we tend to camp just outside Salcombe, it’s not often we’ve been able to check it out after sunset. Despite its size – a tiny downstairs with a mezzanine floor up above – it seems to be one of the few dog-friendly restaurants in the middle of Salcombe, another winner for us.
We actually hadn’t planned to go on the night we visited, but various events resulted in us wandering in for a last-minute table on what proved to be a fairly busy weekday evening. The staff weren’t thrown at all by our impromptu appearance – nor the fact our pooch seemed to take up half of the restaurant – and soon we were all snuggled into a corner, obligatory glass of wine in hand, feeling as at home as if we were regulars.
It’s a bijou space, with just a few tables downstairs and I’m not sure how many more up on the mezzanine. The bar area is compact and stocked enough for most people. On the night we visited there seemed to be just two staff working and I’m fairly sure they’re from superhero stock since they didn’t seem to miss a beat.
To start I ordered Barbecued Style Pork Ribs with Asian Slaw. I was advised that the night we went it would actually be beef ribs which I was more than happy with, though I have to confess to having had far better elsewhere. They were nice enough, and pretty tender, though I was expecting a bit more richness from the dish, either through a sauce or rub maybe. There was no Asian slaw, just some leaves, and I was left feeling like my dish was, well, a bit lacking.
Jamie went for breaded brie along with the tried and tested accompaniment of cranberry sauce. As far as this classic starter goes it was done well. Crispy golden breadcrumbs, gooey melty cheese inside and the sweetness and tart of the jam the perfect contrast to the savoury main part of the dish.
If the starters weren’t particularly memorable, the mains were a complete contrast. Hearty, well-executed food packed with flavour and somehow perfectly in keeping in style with the backdrop of such a relaxed restaurant.
Mr M’s Thai-style mussels were tasty and fragrant with lemongrass, a touch of spice and bucketloads of coconut. Served with hunks of bread, it was a dish that paid tribute to our location yet added a dimension that removed it from the standard seafood platters or dishes that (understandably) appear elsewhere on the menu and in most other restaurants in the area.
However, it was my coconut fish curry that won. It had all the positives of the mussels like spice, fragrance and great seafood, yet pushed them into second place with a depth of flavour that made you stop, pay attention and take another mouthful to confirm that yes, it was as good as you thought.
The steaming bowl combined a generous chunk of white fish with mussels and prawns, all in a rich sauce balancing generous spice with sweet coconut. Where I found Jamie’s mussels slightly too coconutty, this was just right and boasted plenty of fragrance from lemongrass and a liberal scattering of fresh coriander. Comfort food with a bit of panache and perfect for a slightly cool evening on the coast.
After slurping and lip-smacking our way through our main courses, we decided against desserts, opting instead for espresso martinis down the road, but left over-the-moon that we’ve found yet another place we’d happily go back to in Salcombe. In a holiday spot that you could be forgiven for thinking might be a bit up its own bum (think boating, think Jack Wills, think champagne and seafood), No 55 is yet more proof that it’s possible for a place to stay grounded despite its reputation.
From the outside it looks like a warm welcoming place to cosy up for a decent feed and inside it’s no different. The people behind it have pitched it just right and seem to have (in our experience anyway) some decent staff who know how to balance polite with relaxed, accommodating their guests in a customer-first way that can so easily be forgotten, especially in a tourist trap.
Is it the absolutely best food I’ve ever had? Possibly not, though that fish curry was to die for, but as an overall experience and somewhere I’d happily return to for an evening where I can relax, drink wine and dine in lovely surroundings, No 55 is right up there.
We paid in full for our meal at No 55. They didn’t know I was a blogger.
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