Monday, October 25, 2010
Where to stay and eat in Dartmouth
I’ve spent the last few days at the Dartmouth Food Festival - mainly giving talks so I didn't have much of a chance to scout around and make new discoveries but enough time to confirm my existing impression that it's a brilliant place to spend a weekend. And a great place to eat and drink.
It helped, of course that the weather was gorgeous - sunny and crisp - and that we were put up by one of the festival sponsors Coast & Country Cottages in a luxury pad that overlooked the Dart Marina (thanks, guys!). In our few idle moments we could kid ourselves we were members of the yachting set, sitting in our picture window (above) watching the ferry chug gently across the Dart. It was heaven.
We also ate a couple of great meals at local chef Mitch Tonks’ two restaurants The Seahorse and Rockfish both of which I strongly recommend. Rockfish is the newer - an upmarket but family-friendly chippy that occupies what looks like a converted beach hut on the front and just has the most brilliant fish and chips I’ve ever tasted. Super-fresh plaice (don't be put off by the picture below: the crumbs didn't look that orange), perfectly cooked chips and super-sloppy mushy peas to dunk them into. Although you could go overboard with flash seafood like lobster there are some really inexpensive options like breaded whiting for just £3 and the portions of chips were easily enough for two. We got away with a bill of £35 with wine.
The Seahorse is pricier and more upmarket with a serious wine list but it’s not remotely stuffy. Fish again is the main draw but if you’ve already OD’d on that there are other options like a rib of Devon beef to share and the wonderfully decadent wild mushroom and truffle linguini we had as a starter. They also have fixed price deals at lunchtime which are quite a bit cheaper. (£15 for 2 courses or £20 for 3.)
We also ended up one evening in the bar of a local boutique hotel called Browns (above) which has a tapas night every Friday which you can read about on my food and wine matching website here. It was a particularly friendly place and I imagine a good place to stay if you want to be more central. (The Marina is about 10 minutes walk away - though on the flat rather than up one of the precipitous hills that surround Dartmouth.)
Talking of hills I should also mention a good B & B we’ve been to a couple of times before called Mounthaven Guest House right up above the town which is very comfortable. We’ve never managed to book one of the front rooms that have an amazing view over the estuary but the owners, Rose and Shaun thoughtfully give you the best table for breakfast overlooking the same view if you've had the back room.
We’re lucky that Dartmouth is only a couple of hours from Bristol which makes it ideal for a short get-away-from-it break but now we know it so well I think we’d make the effort if we lived further afield. Although it’s a popular tourist destination it’s not overcrowded, particularly at this time of year, and it’s part of a wonderfully unspoilt bit of countryside and coastline.
(Another company that does rentals in the area is Blue Chip Holidays which sponsored the festival wine and cheese tastings I was giving along with local wine merchant Red & White.)