There are plenty of excellent places to get your seafood fix in London, but nothing quite compares to polishing off delicious fish dishes a stone’s throw from the water's edge. From beer battered fish and chips in Norfolk to catch-of-the day flatbreads served up from a dinky Dungeness shack, the UK coastline is your culinary oyster.
Do you enjoy zombie films? And lobster rolls? Ever wished you could combine the two? Presenting Dungeness, the UK’s premier post-apocalyptic landscape – and an unlikely seafood hotspot. Set in a spookily atmospheric patchwork of shingle and scrub is the Dungeness Snack Shack, serving fish straight from the boat. Get the day’s catch on a Mexican-style flatbread, then stroll up to the Dungeness National Nature Reserve. It’s less than 100 miles from London, but you might as well be on the moon.
Dungeness Snack Shack, Dungeness Road, Dungeness, Romney Marsh, Kent, TN29 9NB
This corner of north Norfolk is a veritable Notting Hill sur mer. The smart chippy wouldn’t look out of place in W11, but the food might raise a few eyebrows. The fish is extravagantly beer-battered, and the rest of the menu proves you really can deep fry anything if you put your mind to it. Once the plates have been cleared away, Alan Partridge fans can re-enact his owl sanctuary date at Titchwell Marsh RSPB reserve.
Eric’s Fish and Chips, Drove Orchards, Thornham Road, Thornham, Norfolk, PE36 6LS
West Mersea, Essex
It looks like a Scout hut, but this no-frills joint on an estuary island near Colchester is a place of pescatarian pilgrimage. The pricing’s keen and the portions are vast – the seafood platter feels like eating the entire cast of ‘The Little Mermaid’. It’s BYOB (bring your own bread) and you can get takeaway oysters for less than a pound a pop. Walk it off on the marshes, or take a boat trip around the bay. But make sure you arrive before midday on the weekends – half of Hackney might have had the same idea.
The Company Shed, 129 Coast Road, West Mersea, Colchester, Essex, CO5 8PA
Turner Contemporary is the main event in hip Margate. For lunch, though, head to another gallery: Hantverk & Found in the Old Town, an oyster containing a tiny pearl of a restaurant. Chef Kate de Syllas writes her menu to make the most of the day’s catch: expect the likes of haddock fish fingers, clams in spicy Korean broth and miso marinated mackerel fillets. Word to the wise: do Dreamland before lunch. Nobody wants to be on the Dodgems after eating a whole crab.
Hantverk & Found, 18 King Street, Margate, Kent CT9 1DA
Orford ticks all the day tripper boxes. Quay? Check. Lighthouse? Check. Butcher, baker and quite possibly candlestick-maker? Check, check, check. The Oysterage is straight out of Enid Blyton, with chalked-up specials and bracingly unergonomic seating. Kick things off with half a dozen Butley oysters, then loosen your belt for the fish pie. When you’re done, swing by the Pump Street Bakery and pick up some of their award-winning chocolate bars for the journey home.
Butley Orford Oysterage, Market Hill, Orford, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 2LH
Rye, East Sussex
A little slice of California near Camber Sands, duneside boutique hotel The Gallivant’s restaurant sources virtually all of its ingredients from within a 10-mile radius. It majors on dishes like fish and shellfish bisque, Dungeness spider crab salad and Rock-a-Nore roasted cod. If you’ve come by car, Great Dixter’s dreamy gardens and the Chapel Down winery are easy to get to in the afternoon. Or you could just lie on the beach, think about London property prices, and sob.
New Lydd Road, Camber, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7RB
Its Twitter bio reads ‘pub by the sea’, but don’t be fooled: this is the stuff Michelin stars are made of. The Sportsman’s kitchen backs onto the Thames Estuary, and the menu is a Who’s Who of North Sea A-listers: Whitstable Native oysters, slip-sole, ray, gurnard, turbot. Even the butter (home-churned, natch) is seasoned with Seasalter sea salt – try saying that three times after a couple of pints. It’s all less than two hours’ drive from London, and a quick hop from ye olde delights of Canterbury.
The Sportsman, Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 4BP
© Philip Harris
Whitstable has always been a bohemian beauty, but it was this converted warehouse that really put it on the map. Oysters, as you’d expect, are big here, as are cosseting classics:, lemon sole, Thornback Ray wing with butter and capers, whole roast seabream...Prices tend towards the horse-frightening, but you’re partly paying for the stupendous views over pretty pebbled Whistable beach. Afterwards, hit the shops – Ruskin for menswear, and Rock Bottom Records – or cycle to Canterbury along the Crab and Winkle Way (stop laughing).
Royal Native Oyster Stores, Horsebridge Road, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 1BU