As intimate restaurants go, you couldn’t get more cosy than the Seafood Shack at Alnmouth.
With just two tables inside and a couple outside, you have to be quick, or lucky, to grab a seat.
The name at the top of the menu, though, gives a clue to the ethos of this tiny eaterie – Northumberland Street Food.
It is, of course, more takeaway than dine in, tuning into the recent fad of eat while you’re on the move.
Although the Shack does have half-a-dozen seats, the best way to enjoy its delights is to stroll down the street and park yourself on a bench overlooking the estuary and munch away. That all depends on the weather, you understand!
The Shack is an offshoot of the neighbouring Beaches restaurant, which is equally intimate. We have enjoyed a lovely evening there and would recommend a visit.
It is the very definition of homely, from the front-room-like dining area to the cooking and welcome.
The Shack is a different kettle of fish – wall-to-wall plain, white tiles give it more of a feel of a fishmonger’s.
At the top of the Shack menu, diners are told: ‘Our tiny kitchen offers ‘wild food’ straight from our local fisherman, simply cooked and served, no fuss, just great tastes.’
There is certainly an air of freshness to the dishes – from nearby sea to plate with barely a carbon footprint in sight.
I say plate, but cardboard box (compostable, naturally) would be more accurate – and the ‘cutlery’ is wooden.
Quaint and quirky it is – and, judging by the queue on Sunday, very popular.
It was the venue’s first day of the season, as it shuts during winter months due to the high price of lobsters and lack of people to eat them.
It also coincided with the village’s first food festival, an event that will surely be repeated on an annual basis, given the crowds it attracted.
Since there was a springtime nip in the air, we decided to soak up the atmosphere inside and bagged one of the tables.
We had already taken a peek at the menu in the window and ordered at the counter – four raw Lindisfarne oysters (£1 each) and two other dishes.
Mrs L finds it difficult to resist a lobster, so she went for the half-lobster , smothered in mornay sauce, grilled until golden and served with fries (£9.95).
I liked the sound of the brown bun filled to the gunwales with Boulmer Bay crabmeat hand-picked by Donald (£4.95). There is a lesson to be learned here –every menu should have that kind of personal touch.
You can just picture Donald selecting and preparing the crab landed at the small village just a couple of miles up the Northumberland coast. We also requested a side order of sweet potato fries (£2.50) from the smiley, chatty staff.
Within no time, the oysters had been shucked and were brought to our table. A squeeze of lemon and down the hatch they went, with two or three chews en route. Exquisite!
Oysters may be an acquired taste, I guess we have both acquired it. They were as fresh as a daisy and would appeal to the most discerning of aficionados.
Like the other dishes, the oysters came in a cardboard box more suited to the takeaway market. At least there’s no washing up to do.
We were just revelling in the taste of the sea when our ‘main’ courses arrived.
Mrs L’s lobster, while not the largest in the world was one of the tastiest – recently landed and cooked simply.
The cheesy mornay sauce was smooth and complemented the crustacean to a tee. The bed of fries provided the filling that our walk along the coast to Alnmouth demanded.
I can recommend the sweet potato fries and the crab bun was also just what the doctor ordered. There was a good quantity of crab meat, white and brown, in the bun, although ‘filled to the gunwales’ is quite an ambitious description.
It was a much-needed pit-stop and one that will surely be repeated, particularly in the summer months, when the lure of oysters on the beach will be overpowering.
MORE THAN JUST A SNACK AT THE SHACK
Where else will you get a half-lobster and chips for under a tenner? The prices at the Beaches’ Fish Shack are pretty reasonable.
The menu in the window states the Shack is open on Sundays from noon until 5ish, or presumably until the food runs out.
If you like seafood served in an unpretentious way, then you can’t go wrong.
Don’t expect haute cuisine, but do expect good, honest food served with a smile.
Lindisfarne oysters, served raw-shucked with lemon......£1 each
Half-lobster smothered in mornay sauce with fries......£9.95
Brown bun filled to the gunwales with local crabmeat......£4.95
Brown bun filled with lobster, prawns and mayo......£4.95
Southern-fried cornmeal with loaded nachos, hot sauce and sour cream......£4.95
Craster-smoked haddock ‘mac n cheese’......£4.95
Side of fries, or sweet potato fries......£2.50
Quality of food......8
Vegetarian choice......one dish
Access for the disabled......7
Toilet for the disabled......No toilets
Verdict: Small but perfectly formed! The food is straight from the sea to the box – simple, fresh and full of flavour. Easy on the wallet too.
Contact: 01665 830006 or http://www.beachesrestaurant.co.uk