December is a bumper month for fish in South Devon. The Marine Conservation Society lists 37 species of wild caught fish to choose from this month and they include John Dory, Scallops, red gurnard, turbot, brill, brown crab, lobster, mackerel and pollack. A stay at Hillfield Village is the perfect opportunity to enjoy fantastically fresh fish and seafood and it makes sense to get as close to the source as possible. These three seafood and fish cafés all perch on the water’s edge (so it’s literally a case of off the boat and onto the plate) and they are run by families working in the South Devon fishing industry.
The Perkes family have been fishing out of Brixham for generations. In July this year Sean and Sarah Perkes took over the café at the art deco seawater lido at Shoalstone. From the terrace of this small friendly café you can watch the trawlers and day boats head in and out of Brixham. What’s cooking depends upon the day’s catch from the Perkes’ family day boat. Favourite dishes include scampi made with monkfish tail served with chips, salad and homemade tartare sauce and grilled day boat half shell scallops with ginger and garlic dressing.
Britannia at the Beach, Beesands
Beesands is one of the few remaining working fishing villages along the South Hams Coast and the Hutchings family still fish from there. For many years they sold lobster and crab from tanks in a hut on the beach. When the business moved to a purpose built unit on the edge of the village, Anita Hutchings opened a café at the shack on the beach.
This intimate fish and shellfish café is terrifically popular with locals (it’s BYO wine) who strongly recommend the local mussels steamed in a white wine, red onion, garlic cream sauce and the homemade fish pie (not for the faint hearted) which is made to order with fresh fish from the counter.
The Crab Shed, Salcombe
Many believe brown crab caught in the sea around a southerly arc from Brixham’s Berry Head to the Salcombe estuary to be the best and biggest in the world. Why they grow to such a size, no one seems to know. Rob and Anna Johnstone of Salcombe Crab Traders have been processing crab caught locally for 20 years. In 2014 they opened their elegant wood clad restaurant, The Crab Shed, which is supplied directly from the Johnstone’s crab factory and day boats that operate out of Salcombe. The winter lunchtime special and a glass of wine is a steal for £10 or there’s half a lobster with salad bread and dips (£22) if you want to push the boat out.