Chez Boulan, Lège-Cap-Ferret, France
The menu, like the decor at this family-run oyster cabin, is stripped back: six grades of oysters, red shrimps with mayonnaise, whelks and country paté, accompanied by baskets of bread, and the choice of either rosé or white wine. That’s it. But the views from the garden and the little wooden jetty are cinematic, stretching over the Bay of Arcachon to the monumental Dune du Pilat shimmering on the horizon. Chez Boulan is in a run of shacks down this narrow peninsula, where oyster farmers have been plying their trade for generations, but have in recent years added tables and chairs to their rustic sheds, spruced up their gardens, and thrown open their doors to the fashionable Bordelais who have holiday homes here, and the daytrippers coming over the bay on the ferry. Lunch (around €20 a head) has a funny habit of slipping into sundowners at this place.
• 2 Rue des Palmiers, chezboulanferret.fr
Crabshack, Worthing, West Sussex
Quieter than Brighton but with its own lovely pier and sweeping sea views, Worthing is undergoing something of a revival. Crabshack, which opened in 2015, is a few steps back from the pebbly seafront – on a sunny day, nab a place on one of the benches on the terrace. The daily changing menu is small and everything is carefully sourced, so it’s hard to go wrong – but the fish platter is a star; it’s huge, with a bit of everything, from fritto misto to old school prawn cocktail and dressed crab (£40 for two). Cocktails and wine (including several from the nearby Ridgeview Estate) are equally top-notch and there’s an ice-cream shack on the deck serving award-winning Marshfield Farm fare, too.
• 2 Marine Parade, crabshackworthing.co.uk
Shell Bay restaurant and bistro, Studland, Dorset
It only takes five minutes, but the ferry from Sandbanks to the Isle of Purbeck is a magical ride, teleporting you from urban southern England to the bucolic West Country. As the bow door opens, there on the left is golden Shell beach, and to the right Shell Bay restaurant. It looks like a modest shack from the outside, but step inside and you are floating above a tiny beach looking across shimmering Poole harbour, Brownsea Island and the Purbeck Hills. The tree-shaded outdoor bar is perfect for a cold beer and a snack after a day on the National Trust beach, which is popular but so undeveloped you can’t even buy an ice-cream. The restaurant is a more sophisticated affair (mains from £14.95) – though sandy feet are still welcome – serving beautifully presented fresh local oysters, crab and fish on the waterside terrace or in the breezy, all-white interior.
• Ferry Road, Studland, shellbay.net
Lottas Bak&Form, Rönnäng, Sweden
The island of Tjörn in West Sweden has an incredible coast of rocks, islets, beaches and coves. And in one little cove stands a rather unprepossessing wooden building with a small balcony next to a shingle and boulder beach. Step inside and the aroma of fresh bread greets you: this is a bakery and cafe. Grab a wooden platter and load up. There’s fish, eggs, jams and honey on the side, and local apple juice in a wine box. Almost everything is local, organic and homemade. Then sit in the window or out on the deck. Eat. Later, go for a swim or kayak. Alternatively, just let breakfast roll on into lunch.
• Bleketvägen 40B, Bleket, lottasbakoform.blogspot.com
Bronze Seafood & Lounge Bar, Aveiro, Portugal
With the Atlantic crashing just metres from the terrace, this place, on Costa Nova beach outside of Aveiro, is perfect for long lazy lunches or romantic evenings with a sunset view. A low wood-and-glass building, Bronze serves fresh local fish and seafood at reasonable prices for the setting. The ceviche (€8) is melt-in-the-mouth soft, the clams in olive oil, garlic, coriander and lemon (€14) burst with flavour, and mains of tuna steak with sweet potato puree (€12) and tender octopus (€15) are among favourites. It’s worth keeping space for the chocolate cake with strawberries and basil (€4).
• Rua da Nossa Senhora da Encarnação 10, bronze.pt
Fiskehus, Hirtshals, Jutland, Denmark
A great swathe of sand sweeps up Jutland’s west coast finally reaching the isolated fishing port of Hirtshals. Take the steps from the beach over the sea wall and close by, just inside the port, is the Fiskehus. In summer there are lots of tables and a service hatch where customers order an array of seafood, mostly based around smørrebrød, the open sandwich. Dishes include skaldyrsplatte, which is lobster, crab claws, prawns and mussels served with homemade dressing, slices of baguette and butter. Also worth trying is local favourite stjerneskud, “shooting star”, a sandwich created to mark the visit of Yuri Gagarin to Copenhagen in 1962, a year after he became the first man in space.
• Southwest quay 7, hirtshalsfiskehus.dk
La Caletta, Sardinia
Dining with your feet almost in the sand and the gentle shush of waves as background music makes for a romantic evening at La Caletta, on the Sardinian island of Sant’Antioco. But even without this setting, the menu of fish straight from the emerald-green waters off the little town of Calasetta, in the north of the island, would be memorable. Try an antipasto of mussels in vivid-flavoured tomato sauce (€10); “sea carbonara” (€14) with tuna and smoked swordfish instead of bacon; octopus with potato puree; or tuna tartare with mint, lime and hazelnuts (€20). There are lots of vegan options, and the wood-fired pizzas (from €5) are excellent. If you have room for dessert, go for a traditional seadas, a deep-fried turnover filled with fresh soured pecorino and swimming in honey and lemon.
• Via Sottotorre 23, Calasetta, on Facebook
Kalamakia Taverna, Peloponnese, Greece
In Greece, fish is normally grilled with a bit of olive oil and lemon – if it’s fresh not much can go wrong. So a good taverna comes down to setting and emotion. Skoutari is a lovely little beach at the top of the east coast of the Mani peninsula. The three seasonal tavernas here are all good, but Kalamakia wins for its warm service (they’ll even cook a fish you’ve caught) and reliable basic dishes (small grilled fish in dishes like gavros are a good taste of the sea without breaking the bank). Eating this by the sand is as good as it gets.
• Kalamakia Beach, Skoutari, on Facebook
Harry’s Shack, Portstewart, County Derry
“This little shack didn’t know if it would ever survive winters …” tweeted Harry’s Shack this week in a thank-you message to customers for visiting year round. The owners’ uncertainty came from the fact that Harry’s is tucked among dunes on the wind- and wave-battered north coast of Northern Ireland. But it’s also on one of the UK’s best blue flag beaches – National Trust-owned Portstewart Strand. A walk along this glorious two-mile stretch of sand powered by a Shack breakfast bap (brioche, crispy bacon, egg) or followed by lunch or dinner of high-grade fish and chips or a bowl of Mulroy bay mussels is brilliant whatever the weather.
• 116 Strand Rd, Portstewart, on Facebook
Puerto Arnela, Camariñas, Galicia, Spain
The freshest platter of seafood I have ever tasted was at a small restaurant sitting on the edge of the world in Galicia. There were velvet crabs, langoustines, shrimps, cockles, razor clams and goose barnacles – enough to feed the four of us, and all for only €45. That’s because the restaurant at Hotel Rustico Puerto Arnela in Camariñas gets its provisions fresh from the harbour just over the road. And when you’re full to the gills, you can walk it off along the promenade skirting the perfect crescent harbour.
• Hotel Rustico Puerto Arnela, Plaza del Carmen 20, hotelpuertoarnela.com