Taste of a Place – Amble, Northumberland
I am very lucky to have family who relocated to this small and friendly seaside town on the Northumberland heritage coast a few years ago…Although I miss them very much, it’s a perfect excuse to make the regular pilgrimage, not only to see them, but to dine heartily on the fantastic seafood bounty of this proud, seafaring town.
Amble, recently voted most charming seaside town has much to offer; with its pier, working harbour, mini beach, small independent shopping pods and super friendly folk. However, when it comes to seafood bounty, its in a league of its own! (cue use of excessive seaside puns)
When we arrive in Amble, invariably our first port of call is the Sea Shack (a rustic shack built using the old Sea Quest boat), located on the harbour, a great vantage point for seeing the boats being landed and to watch the sun go down with Warkworth Castle as the backdrop.
We visited twice in a day this visit, such is the draw of the Shack. First off, we sat in the afternoon sun and enjoyed ½ dozen Holy Island oysters with a lovely bottle of Spanish fizz ( Finca fabian Espumoso). I’m a recent convert to oysters and these were beauties; local, plump and fresh with all my favourite garnishes, lemon, Tabasco, shallot and red wine vinegar. Pure taste of the sea.
After an interlude in Amble’s latest watering hole, a cute micropub called The Cock and Bull (highly recommended for local ales, gins and cheeses), we returned to the Shack for a hearty meal of beer battered fish and excellent, chunky twice cooked chips – just what the doctor ordered.
It must be stated that the Shack also serves a wide range of seafood specials as well as their (far from) standard fish and chips, changing according to the day’s catch. On one occasion I ate a particularly fine whole plaice with lemon and capers.
I’ve also had great mussels and a chowder. You can also order local crab or lobster on handsome sharing platters.
The next evening after a walk along the estuary to Warkworth Castle, we returned to Amble where we had taken the precaution of booking a table at the ever- popular Sea and Soil.
It was Saturday night and we were celebrating a birthday, so no room for risk taking. Buoyed by an aperitif (pint) at The Boathouse, we crossed the village square to the restaurant. Here we were greeted by the cheerful hum of contented diners, assuring us that we were in for a treat. And, indeed we were….
Chef owner Johnny never fails to delight with his ever-changing specials board and I think we dined almost exclusively from that. So many fantastic dishes, way too many to mention, but I must make special mention of the smoked haddock tart with beetroot and poached egg, the crab bellini with avocado ice cream, a fab gorgonzola souffle with figs and parma ham, these were just some of the starters. Mains included a beautiful piece of pollock with gnocchi, cod served with grilled peaches and giant couscous, lamb loin with a kiev and an amazing ribeye for the birthday boy!
Some at the end of the table had room for dessert and the most beautiful sea buckthorn and yoghurt pannacotta arrived. A most unusual and refreshing end to the meal.
As always, the dishes were all beautifully presented on really lovely crockery. The homemade beetroot bread was a nice touch. The service is charming and low key and it’s excellent value for money.
We rounded the night off by going to see the “turn” at the local Coquet club – turns out this guitarist/vocalist had toured with Thin Lizzy and was recovering from a heart attack 3 days previously (but this is a story for a different blog…) Anyway, suffice it to say, the Lizzy loving member of our group was very happy!
One other food related place on this action-packed weekend worth mentioning was a visit to the Northumberland Seafood Centre on the Harbour, part of the village regeneration project.
The centre seeks to inform visitors, not only about the history of the fishing industry of the area, but to advocate the use of lesser known species and thus, avoid over fishing of certain stocks. We called into the fishmonger and couldn’t resist the super fresh mackerel for our barbecue that evening. Grilled and served simply with roasted tomatoes and new potatoes, it was truly lovely.
On reading this back, and knowing there are other great venues in the village, I think it’s fair to say that Amble really is a mecca for (sea)foodies – just don’t tell anyone, we’ll never be able to get a table (or a space at the bar)!