So the spectre of the volcanic ash cloud returns, combined with BA cabin crew, ready to disrupt the plans of many to get away for Whitsun (ourselves included). Seems should have made plans that didn’t involve flying, but who knows, may get lucky.
If I was planning a treat of a trip that wasn’t going to be disrupted by strikes or Eyjafjallajokull, then I would choose to head to Dartmouth. Again, as it’s a trip I’ve done quite a few times, and there can be no more perfect meeting of food, wine and scenery anywhere. What’s not to love? Well, other than the crowds in summer, but if I could get round that I would be busy trying to fit in the following:
* Starting as many days as possible with breakfast at Cafe Alf Resco, with a strong cappucino and their cinnamon toast. No juggling of days now, as they have gone to being open every day, but that possibly just means more days to have trouble getting a seat. Still, if you’re happy to share, you can normally squeeze in. And you never know who might share with you (Kevin McCloud last time I went). Sadly, they have stopped opening in the evenings other than for private parties, but there are plenty of other choices.
* Buying scones from the Sloping Deck, ready to get covered in clotted cream and jam later.
* Buying pasties from Pasty Presto. I know the Sloping Deck do pasties but have always found these to be slightly more tasty.
* Eating fish. Now,usually this has involved buying fish from Moby Nicks and cooking it myself, which I would still be very keen to do. Great choice, very fresh and always good advice on what’s best that day. But of course now there’s the Seahorse. Choices, choices… I think the answer is to do both. Or buy fish, and have more fish at the Seahorse, or else whatever meat is on the grill that day.
* Deciding yet again not to eat at The New Angel. And after Giles Coren’s legendary review, am even less likely to do so. This is one of my favourite reviews ever, and I love the fact that the Seahorse used it on their website. The twist of the opening paragraphs still make me laugh out loud. Read it, then book the Seahorse.
*Being a bit more active and heading out to Slapton Sands for a bit of kite flying. Followed by lunch at the Rocket Cafe. If it’s raining, skip the kite flying. If you really want to wake up to the bracing air of the coast, then book one of the rooms at Seabreeze and you’ll get lungfuls of the stuff. Decor is delicious, as is the homemade soup. Or if you want to go a bit further on, then Blackpool Sands is thankfully nothing like its namesake, but is great for pebble collecting. Rubbish for sandcastles though. Lunch can be taken care of by The Venus Cafe, who have a great local and green food sourcing policy, which makes them very popular. You never know who might be in the queue behind you (Kevin McCloud last time I went. Yes, I was beginning to get a bit twitchy). Great wine choices too from Sharpham.
* Upping my veg intake by having lunch at Riverford. You may know that there is a slight sense of jealousy in this household as MGG has done this already, for me it just remains as a dream for my next visit. She waxed lyrical about pretty much everything, except the rhubarb. You can walk the farm, or do a tour, and stock up in the shop for everything you need for your next meal. If you’ve got any room. Very popular, so you’ll need to book. And of course being family style dining, you never know who might be sitting at the table with you. Yes, I’ll be watching out for him.
* Heading down Foss Street to buy something from Simon Drew. His sense of humour appeals to me and I have quite a lot of pieces on my tables and in the kitchen. I am still rather fond of Shepherd Spy and Cat a Meringue. Not to mention Cod Moving in Mysterious Ways.
* Squeezing into the DA for nachos and pizza. Because all that fish and veg needs a counter balance, and this is where I would choose to do it! Usually heaving, but worth it.
* Eating with MGG at Kendricks. This still remains one of our favourites, and if you’re travelling with kids of any age then this is a great choice, without being a “child friendly” downgrade of the eating out experience. For those of you wanting to be away from kids, don’t worry, they are corralled upstairs. Not exactly fine dining, but great eating, great atmosphere and always worth a return visit in our book.
There are many choices of places to stay, although we have always tended to book a house. After all, with all these great places to eat and shop, why would you want to be limited? We usually book through Coast & Country Cottages, who have a great choice of places in Dartmouth and the surrounding area, and I’ve also been grateful for them having a nearby office on a few occasions. Amongst others we have stayed at Lake Street Mews, which is extremely central with its own garage (although a very uncomfy bed at that time). But if I could stay in any house, then it would be 12 Horn Hill. Fabulous views, lovely inside and straight downhill to the Cherub. Perfect.
In fact, there are only two things wrong with Dartmouth that stop it being my perfect foodie break. One, it’s a five hour journey from here. And two, the (now ex) father-in-law lives across the river. In every silver lining…! Still, that shouldn’t stop the rest of you! Oh, and unless you have access to a boat, avoid Regatta Week.
Atmospheric photo of the Butterwalk, home to the Sloping Deck, by Neosnaps over on Flickr.