The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - The Telegraph Magazine
‘A happy, crowd-pleasing mix of surf and turf ’ THE MENU
Harbour Beach Club, Salcombe LOCATION
South Sands TQ8 8LJ harbourhotels.co.uk/ harbour-beach-club 01548-233456
DINNER FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR
£106.50 excluding drinks and service
Classic oysters; shallot vinaigrette, lemon, Tabasco
• Grilled tiger prawns; samphire, garlic butter, ciabatta
• Seared scallops; crispy salsify, brown shrimp, cauliflower purée
• Shellfish linguine; mussels, squid, crayfish, fresh chilli, cherry tomatoes, cream
• Mussels; local cider, chorizo, leeks and cream
• Seasonal greens
Fancying a weekend in Monaco, a dalliance at the roulette wheel, tea with Prince Albert and a gawp at the work of some of the world’s most expensive plastic surgeons, I opted for Salcombe instead. It’s closer to home and I recalled some fun times there as a teen.
Since those days the town has grown in reputation, popular with people who like to dabble in boats and prefer a Devon holiday to the Med. The shoreline now drips with houses whose cost makes one shudder.
Indeed, the average house price has reached £1.2 million, which makes it the country’s most expensive seaside town. All the more reason to nip down there to see what all the fuss is about. The morning of my visit saw the estuary flat and calm. Across the water were golden sands and beneath blue skies the streets of the town were peppered with cheerful, smiling folk.
We picked a dinner spot out of the centre, at a new place, the Harbour Beach Club, on South Sands. This is a hotel with a spa, bar and restaurant, designed rather like a grand alpine chalet, with high, steep-sloping roofs and acres of decking. It replaces a rather dingy old wreck of a place that languished on the right-hand part of the bay and overlooked a car park. At the back was an old static-caravan site. The caravans are there still and one feels for the owner who has lost his view, but money and swanky design won the day. I gather the families who have long, low-cost lets of the caravans can now use the spa.
Having played on the sand for a while we headed to the restaurant, whose look is as bright, cheery and smart as the staff ’s demeanours, and headed for a table with a view of the beach.
The establishment is part of that new breed of place drilled to understand the needs of children and the frayed nerves of their parents: the moment we sat down, along came crayons and paper, then breads, olives and soft butter, and a kids’ menu decorated with seals, crabs and dolphins. The calming nature of this cannot be underestimated. I’d dish out gongs – knighthoods, peerages and Companions of Honour – for this alone.
The menu is a happy, crowd-pleasing mix of surf and turf so from the shellfish, seafood, burgers, other main courses and starters you can build a classic pub dinner or posher restaurant meal. Eschewing lamb shank, rib-eye and ham-hock terrine, I chose some oysters, tiger prawns and seafood linguine. The prawns were a heavenly cliché: fat, juicy, covered in garlic and parsley, nestling on samphire and served with a wedge of lemon and charred bread. The linguine was equally accomplished – an attractive, generous pile of well-cooked seafood with the freshness of cherry tomatoes and green herbs, all evidence of decent, sensible cookery.
Emily had similar success with a dish of scallops with a classic smartrestaurant combo of cauliflower purée, a scattering of little brown shrimps, crisp salsify and samphire. This was followed by mussels cooked in local cider, in a leek and cream sauce. All tasty and fine. All a very a good thing.
There might be a temptation in a newly built place in Salcombe to be a destination restaurant, to tilt at Michelin, to think the residents of and visitors to Britain’s costliest harbour town might ache for cloches and froths, smears and veloutés. This one doesn’t. Thank God. Common sense prevails and it’s happy holidays all round.
This place understands the needs of children and the frayed nerves of their parents