Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside – especially when I end up having lunch somewhere nice that I didn’t even know existed.
I must apologise for not keeping as up to date as I should on Amble’s thriving food scene, but SeaSalt, a bistro and coffee shop at the end of Queen Street, actually opened at the end of June.
We had travelled to the harbour town on a sunny Thursday afternoon with the aim of tracking down some fresh fish for our tea.
There was a plan of sorts to eat at The Old Boat House – another relatively new and exciting addition to the town’s eatery collection – but when walking from the harbour area into the centre of town, I happened upon SeaSalt and my mind was made up.
The trees and tables outside the restaurant, painted in a delightful pastel colour, made for an instantly welcoming entrance, which continued inside.
The decor is perhaps best described as shabby chic, with artworks on the walls, specials chalked up on slates and wooden tables.
We were invited to sit where we wanted and chose a table for two in the window, but having said that, the restaurant was nearly full – impressive for a weekday lunchtime.
SeaSalt is the brainchild of Julie Lunn, daughter of Red Row blacksmith Stephen, some of whose work adorns the walls, and her partner Jonathan Bird, who previously worked at Slaley Hall, training under Albert Roux.
And the menu, which is available at lunchtime and in the evenings, certainly suggests a chef who knows what’s what in terms of quality.
In terms of quantity, it offers five starters, six main courses as well as five burger and six grill options.
There is also the option to have sandwiches and salads and an extensive brunch menu is served until 2pm. Children are catered for with a separate menu too.
If that isn’t enough, there are also specials on offer.
When we were there, these included many inticing offerings with starters such as queen scallops with pancetta and parmesan (£10), pan-roast ham hock with fried egg and spiced brown sauce (£8) and mussels steamed in Cullercoats ale (£8).
The special main courses had a fishy feel with white lobster, garlic mayo and chips (£18), silver hake with beetroot gnocchi and fennel (£16) and sea bream with roquet tagliatelle (£16) among others.
Having initially planned a light lunch, we steered away from the larger mains, but I couldn’t resist ordering a starter to share.
I went for the carpaccio of beef with roquet, parmesan and apple cider vinegar (£7) and certainly didn’t regret it.
Carpaccio is one of my favourites and have eaten it everywhere from the North East to Milan, but this was up there with the best.
The beef was delicious and the accompaniments, including capers to add a tangy kick, created a lovely plateful – it was described as ‘a mouthful of delight’ on the other side of the table.
It was a relatively generous portion too so I was glad to have ordered one between two; I could quite happily eat a plateful on my own as a light lunch.
Following that, we both opted for salads. I had the wild herb with sea-salt cod, crisp mozzarella balls and tomato pesto, while across the way, it was the Waldorf with hot smoked salmon (both £9).
The salads looked fresh and delicious when they arrived, in large, bright bowls, and both with a hearty portion of the respective fish.
My cod was perfectly cooked, the mozarella balls crisp and the pesto was vibrant and delicious.
Meanwhile, the hot smoked salmon was particuarly tasty.
To wash it all down, we decided to have a couple of beers from a selection that is small but diverse, with a couple that I had never had nor heard of before.
For the first time in my life – despite drinking plenty of beer of all colours – I had a Morena, an Italian lager which was crisp and refreshing and a welcome change from Peroni, now so ubiquitous in this country.
Also on offer are real ales from Cullercoats Brewery down the coast as well as a number of wine options.
The service was prompt, friendly, attentive and very professional – the whole experience was very good indeed and there are certainly plans to return for brunch or an evening meal.
GOOD VARIETY AMONG A GREAT SELECTION
The menu at SeaSalt is wide and offers a good variety of dishes, even better when you include the specials and the option of a brunch menu. I was also impressed that everything on the menu is available at lunchtime – no ‘sandwiches only’ here.
The prices are not cheap, but from my experience, the food is very good value as it is homemade from fresh ingredients and tastes great.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Potted pulled pork with pease pudding and sticky chilli jam......£6
Amble crabcakes with seaweed mustard......£7
Bubble and squeak (v) with hollandaise sauce......£5
Toulouse sausage with sweet potato and garlic mash......£13
Grilled sardines with polenta chips and tomato garlic ragout......£12
Summer vegetable fricassee (v) with sweet potato beignets......£12
Poached lobster on brioche roll with classic BLT......£8
Bakewell tart with honeycomb clotted cream or honeycomb and caramel cheesecake......£5
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......9
Value for money......8
Use of local food (local where possible, but not highlighted on menu)......8
Children catered for......9
Access for disabled......6
(one step into restaurant)
Toilet for disabled......No
(one toilet with step up to door)
Verdict: Amble should be proud of this latest addition.
Contact: 01665 713569 or visit facebook.com/SeaSaltAmble