You may have to run the gauntlet of David Tennant hunters, but I have another top lunch spot for you.
I may be preaching to the converted here as it’s not exactly a hidden secret, but it was new to me – recently we went for a lovely lunch at The Watch House, in West Bay. It was a bright but not particularly warm day, which didn’t matter in the least as with their brilliant removable marquee-style covered area, it is a perfect spot in any weather as it has ‘real’ outdoors (on a terrace and raised deck), ‘real’ indoors, and the optional side and roof mean the marquee area can be made to suit the vagaries of the British climate.
The setting is slap bang on the beach, but it is a little odd in that it is behind the shingle bank, so the view is of golden shingle rather than sea, but again, this is probably a good thing in terms of the British weather!
I had been a few weeks ago with friends for coffee and cake, and was impressed by the setting and the food I saw passing by, so decided to go there to celebrate a recent anniversary, and was not disappointed. The menu is full of fresh, local fish and seafood, and they have a wood fired pizza oven which didn’t seem to get two minutes rest the whole time we were there. I went for Crab Thermidor, which was as rich and satisfying as you could hope for, and served with a huge wedge of toasted sourdough for mopping up and scraping the shell clean, which of course I did!
We didn’t go for the pizzas on this occasion, but I will definitely go back to try one, as they looked and smelled fantastic. They offer the usual tomato/mozzarella, Parma ham/mushroom type combinations, but also have some signature dishes of their own, including a smoked mackerel pizza and a match made in heaven that is the seafood pizza, including juicy prawns and even octopus on a hand-stretched, wood-fired base.
One of the reasons I chose the Watch House is because I love the Hive Beach Cafe at Burton Bradstock, but my husband refuses to go there as we have too often turned up and not found anywhere to sit (obviously our fault for picking a sunny summer lunchtime on the spur of the moment, but you know how it is!). The Watch House is owned and run by the same team, and the same clean design, attention to detail and focus on fresh, local ingredients is evident throughout, but I couldn’t help feeling The Watch House has a bit more of a laid-back atmosphere, a bit more space and just a different feel to it.
The Watch House is also open for breakfasts, and with an in-house bakery, the range of cakes, bread, biscuits and bakes is superb. I’m sure I even saw hand-made dog biscuits on offer!
It is a perfect spot for a laid-back brunch, and being on the beach there is no need to keep fidgety children tied to the table, as they can amuse themselves within view while you concentrate on the important things in life.
West Bay itself has had a real shot in the arm over the last few years, with heavy investment in new apartments and holiday accommodation, the revamp of the piers, and the sudden uplift in visitor numbers thanks to what is now widely known as ‘the Broadchurch Effect’. It has a superb, free, fully accessible children’s playground, which somehow suits all ages at the same time, and the harbour and marina areas are always buzzing, and offer a whole range of kiosks offering fish & chips, seafood, ice-creams etc. In fact, after our meal we wandered along the seafront eating a superb ice-cream from Baboo Gelato – made just down the road in Bridport and sold from a beach-front kiosk.
Also worth a visit if you are in West Bay are all the galleries, craft shops and antique shops. The Customs House is a real mish-mash of antiques, crafts, vintage and food stalls, and is great if you’re into searching for treasures, There are also several pubs, tackle shops, a great wet fish shop, souvenir shops and the normal kind of general stores you’d expect in a place surrounded by caravan parks and holiday accommodation.
If you feel the need to walk off your Watch House lunch, you are right on the coastal path, with access to stunning views from either direction, just please, whether on the cliffs or on the beach, KEEP AWAY FROM THE CLIFF EDGE. This is so often repeated, but so often ignored, and is a very real threat. Last year there were several rescues, several nasty near misses, and it’s not long ago that a lady was buried and killed by a huge rockfall just between West Bay and Burton Bradstock, so please take any warning signs or cordons seriously.
All in all, I can thoroughly recommend both The Watch House and West Bay, and I’d encourage anyone to give both a try, as you are guaranteed a great lunch, an interesting mooch, and maybe, just maybe, a glimpse of David Tennant!