Al Fresco Dining in/around Dartmouth
A Food & Drink feature (August 2012)
Wow! What a difference this fine weather makes - blazing hot as I write and looks to be set for a few days (hopefully weeks) yet. At times like this we don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen and I’m sure neither do you so we’ve been out and about looking for fantastic local spots for some al fresco dining.
We’re great fans of the Picnic Boat as it pootles up and down the Dart - it’s always such a cheery sight (www.thepicnicboat.co.uk). New owners Kevin and Raine are well into their second summer season and really enjoying life on the river. It’s a full time job with Kevin himself making the bread for lunches and the scones for afternoon teas and getting up at 6am to do so. The West Country Picnic with local hams, smoked chicken and salmon is their current top seller - add to that a glass or two of fizz and it really does make for a memorable picnic on the river. You can book up for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or sundowners and the season starts in March right through till December. For locals and visitors, it’s a fantastically relaxing way to spend a couple of hours on the river – up to Dittisham lake for your picnic or out to the castles to see the mermaid.
If you’re off to the beach you don’t always want (or have time) to go shopping for a picnic first. Blackpool Sands is only a bus ride away or is a stunning walk along the coast path from Dartmouth. Once there, the Venus Café has delicious food by a beautiful beach; a real favourite with everyone so get there early. To build up an appetite, you can try your hand at Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP to those in the know) or take a kayak out to explore the coastline.
Further round the coast at Bantham, is one of our favourite beaches – beautiful white sand with clear water and views to Burgh Island. Nestled below the sand dunes in the car park is the Gastrobus, new this year and rustling up fine food all day every day over the summer. Run by Claire (who used to manage Rockfish – if you think you recognize her) with her chef boyfriend Tom, they are offering high quality food to take away from breakfast to kebabs and salads to sandwiches and ice cream. The bus opens for service at 9.30am and finishes in the evening with a steady stream of customers all day long. Best seller in the colder weather was their luxury hot chocolate but now the sun has appeared their ice cream sundaes are at the top of everyone’s list They’ll be running some evening barbeques over the next few weeks – details on their facebook page. Claire and Tom’s background in restaurants has given them a love of great food simply served and as Claire says “you couldn’t find a better spot to go to work”.
Yet further round the coast you’ll find South Milton beach, home of the Beach House (www.beachhousedevon.com). Run by Tamara, Matt and Ali who also run the White House in Chillington, it is managed along similarly relaxed and welcoming lines. The café is open every day in the summer from 9am for breakfasts, drinks, sandwiches and icecreams – everything you want in a beach cafe. At 5pm it is transformed into a seafood café where you can reserve a table inside for supper or sit outside to watch the sun going down over the water. Ali sources all of the seafood locally and everyone is welcome – kids, dogs, adults. The Beach House is now in its 3rd summer and is becoming a destination spot so make sure you book if you’re heading out for the evening. Fortunately it’s a distance away from us otherwise I’d be tempted to spend the day there – kayaks to hire in the summer, ideal rockpooling and just off the coast path.
You can probably see a theme in our lives here – great food and being on or by the water. The best combination is a picnic when out on the canoes – you just never know when a seal is going to pop his head out the river to share your sandwich. The summer, whatever the weather, is the perfect time to combine them both. Whatever you’re doing this summer, enjoy the great food and beautiful surroundings we are so lucky to have.
First Published August 2012 By The Dart