Lynton and Lynmouth sits on the North Devon coast. It has a rugged windswept beauty that most little towns in that part of the world posses. Tucked under the gigantic cliffs that is created as Exmoor collides with the Bristol Channel, it is only accessible via a network of windy roads which during the summer months are full of buses, cars and camper-vans all heading for the one tiny car park.
It is loved by tourists. They come and shuffle very slowly around the collection of gift shops and drink tea in the myriad of cafes and restaurants that inevitably spring up near scenic parts of the world. We were one of those groups of tourists, walking slowly and wandering aimlessly whilst eating ice cream and reading fridge magnets.
On the outside, Fish On The Harbour does not jump out at you as being special. It sits behind black hand written boards, a white pebble dash exterior with a the obligatory blue signage outside. There is a large outdoor dining area and an indoor dining area where the magic happens. We ummed and arred about whether we wanted to eat-in and examined the menu closely before we decided on anything. The menu itself was a nice blend of restaurant and traditional cafe things, it wasn’t overly pricey for the location and given the reams of commendations in the windows, you would expect to pay more for the Cod n Chips which at £6.45 was very good value.
Let us talk interiors. Fish On The Harbour won’t win any awards for interior decorating. Yellow walls, and hard varnished furniture straight out of an episode of Home and Away, and of course lots of obligatory references to fish and the constant reminder that you are in a place that is a) near the sea and b) serves fish.
Neither will the Fish On The Harbour win awards for customer service. The Till Boy who took the order looked enthralled to be there and he failed to tell me that they charged for packets of sauce. He was equally nonplussed when he informed us that Mushy Peas were £1.20 extra and we proceeded to have quite a loud conversation across the restaurant about how expensive they were. Not one of my most dignified moments. Diners are so rude sometimes.
Also, the waiter/KP who took our plates did not wait for my wife to finish her food. The number one rule for any waiting service is to wait until the entire party have finished, instead my wife found herself blocked from her food by an unwanted arm. Nil points I am afraid.
I opted for a Large Haddock and Chips with a pot of tea. £7.95 was the upper limit of what I would normally pay for a dish of this type, and in no time at all, cooked to order, arrived a piece of fish with a good thickness and an expertly cooked batter. The Wetherspoon sized portion of chips albeit tasty were not freshly cooked and by the time I was half way through the meal they had become cold. When listed as ‘Large Haddock and Chips’ thats JUST the fish.
If I had known that the fish I was about to eat was the best piece of battered fish I am likely to have for under a tenner ever, I might have savored it a bit more. The flesh looked like soft white pillows and cut like butter, the batter was golden and crispy as cooking textbooks say it should be. All misgivings were mostly forgiven. The table were all in agreement, this fish was good fish.
Fish On The Harbour is deserving of its awards, although from our brief visit it feels like its trying hard to be much more than just a chippy. Charging for 20p for sauces is understandable for take-aways, but not for a restaurant. Sauces on the table please. Please smile more, and less hand written signs. But most importantly don’t stop producing such awesomely delicious battered fish.