After soaking up the sun, surf and sand, there can be few more enjoyable pastimes than settling down for a bite to eat with a sea view.
If you’re not a fan of sand in your sandwiches and being dive bombed by seagulls after a free snack of their own, however, the North East coast thankfully boasts plenty of quirky, romantic, atmospheric, unpretentious but above all tasty places where you can escape the less appealing side of nature and chill out over a cold wine or beer and freshly cooked food while drinking in the seascape.
Here we pick a selection of coastal cafes, seaside shacks and beachside bistros taking in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham, where you can enjoy a satisfying brunch, lunch, supper or snack overlooking the ocean.
The Barn at Beal, Beal Farm, Beal, TD15 2PB, 01289 540044, www.barnatbeal.com
The Barn at Beal just off the A1 in north Northumberland enjoys spectacular views of Holy Island and the surrounding coast with its castles, long sandy beaches and wildlife rich mudflats.
Luckily, the food is as varied and wholesome as the views.
There’s a coffee shop, restaurant and the new Bothy Bar, the latter two of which open late on a weekend, so you can watch the lengthening shadows over the Holy Island of Lindisfarne as the sun sets in the west.
The owners pride themselves on serving the best local produce and you can order everything from a light snack such as homemade soup of the day or a prawn and crayfish salad with a sweet chilli dressing, to more filling smoked haddock and salmon fishcakes, or roast Topside of Northumbrian beef with all the trimmings and a beautifully presented seafood platter from the Sunday dinner menu.
Children are well catered for with a Little Farm Hands platter of ham, cheese, raisins and grapes, or breaded scampi or homemade sausages and chips.
Well-behaved dogs are welcome, there’s a campsite and plenty of room for youngsters to run around safely while the adults get on with the serious business of enjoying their food.
The Ship Inn, Low Newton by the Sea, NE66 3EL, 01665 576262, www.shipinnnewton.co.uk
This whitewashed pub stands at the head of Low Newton’s peaceful and large open ended village green bordered by attractive cream-washed former fishermen’s cottages, and facing what is one of Northumberland’s most attractive and tranquil beaches, stretching all the way to Embleton Bay and the iconic ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle.
As you might expect, fresh local seafood – mostly grilled or pan-fried – served with seasonal vegetables or fresh tasting salsas, is a mainstay of the unfussy menu.
This is not a ‘cheffy’ pub, but the mother and daughter team who run it, Christine and Hannah Forsyth, pride themselves on serving simple food, well cooked.
This time of year you can expect to find the first of the season wild sea trout, served with new potatoes, lobster (needs to be ordered in advance) from the bay and local crab.
As cars are banned from the village (you have to park at the top of the hill) it’s a great place for children to let off steam. And if they’re not great fans of seafood, then the Ship Inn’s children’s picnic of pitta bread, ham, cheese, tomatoes and peppers, should hit the spot.
Make sure you try one of the home brewed beers featuring such wonderful names as Sandcastles at Dawn, Ship Hop Ale, Dolly Daydream and The Forsyth Lager!
Booking is advised for evening meals (served 7pm-8pm Wednesday-Saturday).
The Jolly Fisherman, 9 Haven Hill, Craster, NE66 3TR, 01665 576461, www.thejollyfishermancraster.co.uk
Combining stunning sea and harbour views with home cooked food and real ales, this historic pub with its stone flagged floors and low beamed ceilings offers everything from fresh catches of the day (the pub is well known for its crab soup served with sourdough bread) to rib eye steak and confit duck.
There’s the Jolly Fishboard with crab pot, fillet of salmon, kipper pate, prawns and herring roll mop; smoked haddock and salmon fishcakes, and a bucket of mussels.
The man heading up the kitchen team is well-known local chef John Blackmore, whose former restaurant in Alnwick was voted the best in the county, and who while working for Newcastle United, saw it become the first football club to be listed in the Good Food Guide.
Muddy boots and dogs are welcome at The Jolly Fisherman, and if you don’t fancy food there are plenty of real ales to choose from, such as Mordue’s Workie Ticket, which you can enjoy drinking in what must be one of the most spectacular beer gardens in Northumberland with its sweeping views over the North Sea and towards the romantic ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle.#
Craster makes an appearance in our Geordie bucket list of must-do experiences in the North East.
TYNE AND WEAR
Riley’s Fish Shack on the Beach, King Edward’s Bay, Tynemouth
The last couple of summers’ has seen Adam Riley of the quirky Riley’s Fish Shack, setting up his informal al fresco barbecue at Tynemouth’s King Edward’s Bay.
While serving a limited menu of locally sourced chargrilled lobster, barbecued mackerel, squid on a stick and flamed monkfish, it proved a popular draw
for people making the most of one of the area’s most underrated beaches with families, friends and couples camping out on the sand until dusk.
Things are moving to a new level this year, however, with the new and improved Riley’s Fish Shack, a semi-portable fish bar and grill housed in shipping containers which will be taking up residence on the King Edward’s promenade in time to catch the summer season.
Housing a wood fired oven so Adam and his team can cook their own flatbreads as well as inside seating to cater for the unpredictable weather, it will be open Wednesday-Sunday over the summer season between midday and 10pm, and promises to be a great way to spend a lazy afternoon or evening.
Food from the grill will include mackerel, salmon, trout, monkfish and sea bass fish wraps in stone baked flatbread; wood fired lobster with garlic and chilli; baked squid; flat iron steaks or surf and turf, and pizza and empanadas.
Local keg beers from Wylam and Almasty as well as wine and soft drinks will be available to make dining on the beach even more of an occasion.
A firm opening date has not been set at the time of writing, so keep an eye on the Riley’s Fish Shack Facebook page for further details.
Colmans, 176-186 Ocean Road, South Shields, NE33 2JQ, 0191 456 1202, www.colmansfishandchips.com
Tucking into fish and chips has to be the ultimate seaside experience – and they don’t come any better than the multi-award winning Colmans on Ocean Road.
It’s situated on the mile long stretch of road between South Shields town centre and the seafront, and doesn’t actually have a beach view, although it’s only a few minutes’ walk away from the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park with its 40-odd rides and other attractions, and the vast stretch of golden sands.
All white-tiled walls and chalk boards showing the catches of the day, fried fish includes hake, haddock, plaice, lemon sole, gurnard and pollock. There’s calamari, hand prepared scampi and a gargantuan seafood platter featuring a selection of Colmans’ hot and cold fish served with salads and chips.
That’s not to mention an impressive selection of fish cakes, seafood salads, grilled seafood (the whole king prawns served in their shells are delicious), mushy peas and a children’s menu.
Latimers Seafood, Shell Hill, Whitburn Bents Road, Sunderland, SR6 7NT, 0191 529 2200, www.latimers.com
The National Fishmonger of the Year 2015, Latimers also boasts a seaside café overlooking the beach at Whitburn with an outdoor decking area for sunny days.
As you would expect, there’s no shortage of top notch seafood on the menu from crab sandwiches to ‘naked’ fish and chips, seafood platters, fruits de mer, lobster, king prawns and Lindisfarne oysters.
The seafood shells are good value at between £2.95 and £3.95 a portion. These are scallop shells filled with tasters of, among others, anchovies with olives, mussels in brine or vinegar, octopus, sardines in basil, whelks, cockles, crayfish and prawns – great for sharing.
Open Tuesday-Saturday (Mondays as well in the school holidays) between 8.30am-5.30pm and Sunday 9am-5pm, Latimers doesn’t take bookings with tables being filled on a first come, first served basis.
But you can always go for a leisurely walk along the beach while you wait.
Tonia’s Café, Seaham Hall Car Park, North Road, Seaham, SR7 7AG, 0191 5131515. www.toniascafe.co.uk
Nestled on the cliff top at Seaham with stunning views over the beautiful Durham seaboard, Tonia’s is situated on the coastal path and is popular with locals, walkers and tourists alike.
Unique to Seaham because of its beautiful setting and panoramic views, Tonia’s serves everything from breakfast using produce from a local butcher, to sandwiches, jacket potatoes and paninis alongside a selection of mouth-watering cakes (a good excuse to go for a walk afterwards!), ice cream sundaes and the traditional seaside 99’s and oyster shells.
Open 364 days of the year, Tonia’s is the latest incarnation of a well-known Seaham café and mobile ice cream business run by her grandparents, Frank and Frances Pacitto.
Her own father, Ralph, built a kiosk next to Seaham Hall Beach in 1960 that would later become Tonia’s Café.
There’s an outdoor seating area so you can enjoy the salty sea air with your refreshments.
The Lookout, The Waterside, Seaham Harbour Marina, Seaham, SR7 7EE, 0191 581 4087, www.thelookout-seaham.co.uk
With a modern take on a nautical theme with a light, bright and contemporary décor, The Lookout offers fantastic views of the newly developed Seaham Harbour Marina and coast from its outdoor balcony area.
Serving a wide range of hot and cold snacks including scones and cakes, breakfast rolls, freshly prepared paninis and baguettes, hot carvery sandwiches, jacket potatoes and daily specials, it’s a great place to stop and refuel after working up an appetite exploring the Durham Coastal Path, which stretches for 11 miles from Seaham to Crimdon in the south.
Dogs are welcome in the outside seating area with bowls of water handily provided, and if you happen to drop by on the first Sunday of the month you will catch the café’s popular live Sea Shanty Sunday afternoon music sessions.
The Lookout has also recently started opening late until 8pm on a Saturday, so there’s even more time to enjoy a wine or beer on the decking while taking in one of County Durham’s most interesting coastal views.