For seafood connoisseurs, it doesn’t get much better than Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Plaice, sea bass, mackerel and pollock are all found close to its shores, but it’s the county’s crab that has earned the region its biggest badge of honour. This accolade is justifiable, as tender white meat is served with tantalising dressings in a diverse offering of eateries, from casual beach huts to award-winning restaurants. While staying in the heart of the Dorset countryside at Summer Lodge or The Acorn Inn, celebrate the beginning of the crab season by seeking out the best Dorset crab around.
The Hive Beach Café, Burton Bradstock
Overlooking the shores of Burton Bradstock on the Jurassic Coast, The Hive Beach Café offers far reaching views across Lyme Bay and Chesil Bank, making it the ideal setting for tucking into the fresh local seafood that’s been sourced from the very same shores. What’s more, after enjoying the meal prepared for you, you can pick up The Hive Beach Café Family Cookbook, which enables diners to whip up their own seafood feast at home.
Crab House Café, Weymouth
Set right by the ocean, the seafood at this beach-style hut couldn’t get much fresher, and the views couldn’t get much better. From a whole spicy Chinese crab to lemon sole filled with crab and cheese stuffing, the Crab House Café’s staple menu alone is enough to make your mouth water. The best part, though, is the chalkboard menu, which gets rewritten twice a day in-line with the latest catch: think smoked Pollock, pan fried sea bass and sand dab, all plucked straight from the sea.
Shell Bay Seafood Restaurant, Studland
Feast on crab and other seafood right on the beach at Shell Bay, a popular seasonal bistro set on the edge of the Isle of Purbeck. You’ll enjoy stunning views across Poole Harbour, and out to Brownsea Island, as you dine al fresco on hand-picked Portland crab, served with a fiery Bloody Mary dressing, and Studland Bay grey mullet, served with fennel and salsa verde.
The Riverside Restaurant, West Bay
This award-winning restaurant has garnered widespread acclaim, and it’s easy to see why; whole fish grilled on the bone, fillets cooked in olive oil and fresh langoustines all feature on the Riverside Restaurant’s menu, but it’s the crab dishes that really stand out. Dressed with homemade mayonnaise as a starter, tossed into a mixed salad as a main, or combined with other delicacies on a huge platter, Dorset crab is the undisputed star of the show.
The Lobster Pot, Portland
There’s nothing pretentious about this light, airy seaside café located next to Portland Bill lighthouse, where fresh Portland crab is served in a satisfyingly chunky sandwich or with a healthy salad. But it’s not just the crab that’s earned The Lobster Pot a reputation in the local area; try the other dishes on offer, too.
Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival
A gourmet celebration of all things seafood, the award-winning Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival – taking place on the 9th and 10th July 2016 – features a busy schedule of family entertainment alongside a hefty collection of street food vendors and tastings. You’ll find crab served in a variety of innovative ways, including stir fries, salads, patties, rolls, fried rice and chowder, with a tantalising selection of other seafood, too. Head over to Dorset Shellfish for their award-winning classic crab cakes, or stop at Handpicked Shellfish Company for chilli crab noodles that are so good they’ll make your eyes water.
When you’ve fully explored Dorset’s seafood scene, continue your culinary journey back at The Acorn Inn, where you’ll find seafood dishes like the Brixham crab and dill fish-cakes, and at Summer Lodge, where the Portland crab served with mango puree, natural yogurt espuma and black onion tuile truly showcases Dorset crab at its best.
Image credits: Cover photo of a vendor at Dorset Seafood Festival © Elie Dervonté. Riverside Restaurant 2_© The Riverside Restaurant, West Bay © The Riverside Restaurant. Dorset Seafood Festival street scene © Elie Dervonté. Canapés at Dorset Seafood Festival © Elie Dervonté. A cooking demonstration at Dorset Seafood Festival © Elie Dervonté.