IT was a shop selling hand-made boots and shoes that drew us to Teignmouth – and it will be a pair of boots and the lure of the freshest, most delicious seafood that will take us back to this South Devon port.
It used to be a popular resort but has been left slightly behind, which is frankly an advantage. In super-trendy Salcombe, Budleigh Salterton and Dartmouth, property prices are through the roof and you can’t move for foodies and yachties who are there to be seen as much as to eat or sail. Teignmouth, on the other hand, still feels like a place where people live and work, there are fishing boats in the harbour, locals in the cafes and very few chain stores in the pretty town centre.
We went, en route to Dartmoor and Plymouth (to see The James Plays – see our review of this epic production on the Reviews pages) – and since we were going to be there at lunchtime, we trawled around the internet and found the Teignmouth Crab Shack. It looked appealing and informal, unpretentious but beguiling.
And that’s what it is. You meander down through tiny alleys and you come first to the Crab Shack Deli and then just round the corner you spot the little building, with tables outside. It was a glorious late spring day and lucky diners were already gathered on the benches, dipping into platters of crab!
The welcome was as warm as the sunshine. The specials board offered the day’s catches and we settled for cod and chips and scallops, after first sharing a pint of prawns with a basket of freshly made bread.
There is “fresh” and there is “wow, this is so fresh!” – and there are no other words for this food. The cod was perhaps the freshest I have ever tasted. The scallops carried the taste of the sea onto the plate and into our mouths.
The cod was in the lightest, crunchiest batter, with slender chips, a sweet and fresh pea puree and excellent tartare sauce – so often harsh, this sauce was gently sharp, the perfect complement to the delicate flakes of white fish.
The salad that came with the scallops was a work of art – fresh strawberries, asparagus and zingy leaves, with a golden rapeseed oil dressing. We washed it all down with an excellent Salcombe Brewery amber ale called Seahorse and a glass of pinot grigio.
Starting late for lunch, the clock caught up with us and we had to dash to catch the shoemakers before they closed, but we managed to grab takeaway ice-cream (lime and elderflower, and salted caramel) served with proper little wooden spoons.
In the current Devon edition of Crumbs magazine, Mitch Tonks, the doyen of West Country seafood chefs, picks out Teignmouth’s Crab Shack – “you can’t beat the fantastic fresh seafood caught by Rob and Amanda,” he says, and we absolutely agree.
The shop with the amazing hand-made boots is Brodequin Shoemakers. It is in the middle of the pedestrianised maze of alleys and lanes between the harbour and beaches and the busy A379 that goes from Exeter to Dawlish and on towards Newton Abbott and Totnes.
All the shoes, boots, sandals, bags and leather accessories are made by hand by Laura or Gill, using the finest quality leathers. If you can find exactly what you want, in your size, with your ideal colour combination, you can walk out of the shop carrying your purchase. But if you have a slightly unusual fitting, or you want a particular colour or colours, you get your feet properly measured, you discuss your special requirements, and then in a month or so you can go back and get them.
And then you have another excuse to book a table at the Crab Shack … which is exactly what we will be doing!
Find out more at www.handcraftedshoes.co.uk and www.crabshackonthebeach.co.uk