10 best waterfront eateries
Come on in, the food’s lovely! Muddy gives the lowdown on where to find a liquid lunch by the water.
Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink? You’re clearly not going to the right places! Come with me while I introduce you to some of my favourite watering holes.
THE SHIP INN, TEIGNMOUTH
I’ve spent many a warm summer night (how about it, June?) with a gin sundowner at this local’s pub on Teignmouth’s back beach. The Ship Inn’s secret is the location – you can drift away from the pub and perch on the wall or quay, watching the little ferry to-and-fro between Shaldon, and the gig-racers practising for the summer regattas. When all that sea air makes you ravenous, you can tuck into a menu of home-cooked bowl of mussels or fish of the day with samphire fresh from Brixham.
HONKY TONK WINE LIBRARY, PLYMOUTH
Head to Honky Tonk’s liquid library, for a choice of 24 wines by the glass as curated by knowledgable owners Fitz and Zoe. He’s an ex-wine importer and chef; she is welcoming front of house. Food is deli-style sharing: platters of local cheese, fish and cured meats and served, like the wine (plus local beer and Plymouth Gin) to your table so you won’t need to move from your comfy velvet chair, unless it’s to sit outside by the yachts in the marina. If it’s warm, enjoy the sunshine and views of Sutton Harbour, or if it’s cold, Zoe will bring you a rug with an extra bottle – of the hot-water kind.
THE CARY ARMS, BABBACOMBE
On sunny days you honestly have to pinch yourself – is this the Med or Torbay? – so beautiful are The Cary Arms’ bay views (and the fizz). For a special occasion, treat yourself to their new three-course lobster lunch and Pol Roger champagne in the Terrace bar (there’s an outdoor barbecue on Saturdays till September). Or feast on classic pub grub, all sourced within a 30-mile radius of this gorgeous Babbacombe Bay location. It’s a spa hotel, so if the views don’t bring you back, the hydrotherapy pool and sauna surely will.
THE WHITE HORSE, EXMOOR
A hop across the border to the Somerset side of Exmoor, The Exmoor White Horse nestles in the valley at Exford, hugging the River Exe where you can sit and watch the water gurgling over the stones, or indoors by the fire if it’s Exmoor-kinda-weather. Rest here after a hike on the moors, with the horses clip-clopping by from the stable next door while tucking into hearty pub classics. The Sunday lunches are brilliant value too and four-legged friends are welcome.
A bit of a treat this one. The iconic art-deco Burgh Island Hotel at Bigbury-on-Sea is under new ownership and you no longer have to fork out for a two-night stay – you can go just for dinner or afternoon tea without being a resident. Dress up in black tie for fine-dining in the Ballroom (I’ve seen women really go for it in 1920’s flapper dresses and long gloves) or keep it on the low-down and have dinner in the Captain’s Cabin. It feels and looks like the prow of the ship and that’s because it is. Once the captain’s cabin of HMS Ganges, a warship built in 1821. If you’re there on a date night, ask to take a ride on the sea tractor at night, it’s v. romantic.
Mitch Tonks’s shiny new Rockfish restaurant on Exeter’s increasingly fashionable Quayside is sandwiched between the canal and river, so if it wasn’t for the runners and cyclists gliding by, you’d feel like you’re sitting right on the water. The fish is fresh, flavourful and it’s not just posh fish and chips – the waiter’s reel off the flavours of the various catches of the day, like salty sea dogs. And there are bottomless chips, just saying.
THE ROYAL GEORGE, APPLEDORE
This years’ well-deserved Muddy Award 2019 winner for Best Destination Pub, the newly revamped Royal George is perched above the estuary with airy windows looking out over to Instow on two levels. There’s a hand-drawn chalkboard on on the wall by the entrance showing their low food miles and high food quality, plus cider from Sandford Orchards, local gins and wine. Owner Garth has plans to open two new eateries in Appledore, and if this one’s anything to go by, better set the sat-nav now.
THE FERRY BOAT INN, DITTISHAM
Aka The FBI, this drinking hole has fond memories for Mr Muddy back when he could down 8 pints and still make it back to his tent. These days its less drinking and more day-dreaming, sitting on the wall by the water, dodging the swans and watching the river boats pootle by. It’s small so best to book and don’t be put off by that fuschia-pink exterior. It’s all part of its character – the inside is full of quirky bits and bobs. Park at the top of the hill or catch the ferry over from Agatha Christie’s Greenway. Oh, and if you want to sound like a local, drop the second ‘i’ – it’s pronounced Ditcham.
LOBSTER POD BISTRO, HOPE COVE
There’s always a scramble for these novel new dining pods at Hope Cove, with views over Bigbury Bay, so book in advance. We managed to grab one back when camping at nearby Karrageen which is a lovely 20-minute romp across the fields away. Even though it was tipping down outside we had a hoot, 4 adults and 4 kids all squeezed in and steaming up the place. It’s really quirky – with drinks on speed dial via an internal phone to the bar – and though the food at The Lobster Pod Bistro is maybe not as spectacular as the setting, it’s perfectly good: a choice of soups, pizza and seafood. Just want you want by the sea, I’d say.
ORESTONE MANOR, MAIDENCOMBE
Orestone Manor is a trip back in time to a gentile colonial era, with regal elephants on the cushions and cocktails in the Brunel Bar, a place to bring the parents for afternoon tea or a special Sunday lunch on the terrace. The owners of this Georgian manor are husband and wife chefs, so the food never disappoints, and to walk it all off, stroll around the palm-filled gardens or down to the near-private beach at the bottom of the hill at Maidencombe. It’s quite steep on the way back up but the Lyme Bay views and red sands and cliffs are worth it.