Saturday 18 April 2009

Crab House Cafe, Portland Road, Wyke Regis, Dorset

The Crab House Cafe is housed in an unpretentious wooden shack with plaster of Paris sculptures of seafood on the walls, belying the quality of the cooking and the premium prices. If you can get a table in the bustling main dining room, you can see the courses prepared and grilled in front of you by pedantic chefs in blue and white fishmonger aprons. The cafe overlooks the bay, but some ugly railings partly obscure the view. In any case, most people come for the food. To start, the Thai fish cakes (about £6) - three ping pong ball-sized morsels with a side salad - are pretty spicy, tangy and tasty. Or you can get half-a-dozen oysters ultra fresh from the farm outside the shack for £8.50. As part of the cover, you'll also get some rubbery snippets of octopus, small chunks of brown bread and some strong olives.

A creative mix of flavours
On a typical day, there is a choice of about ten main course fish dishes ranging from about £14 to £20. Each is accompanied by a couple of new potatoes and some roasted vegetables. The mackerel fillet with cumin and curried apple (£14) is unusual, delicate and has a good mix of flavours, but you'll need to watch out for the many small bones. The grey mullet (£15) is also served with a creative mix of flavours, but the portion can be on the small side. If you order the crab you are given a hammer to bang away at the shell. The healthy white fish in the house kids dish (about £6) comes without any batter, but with chunky and crispy chips and a small salad. Adults can get a large side order of the chips for just £2.50, but a pint of Carlsberg lager will set you back a whopping £4.80. Moreover, the decent ice cream and sorbets are priced at £1.95 for a single scoop. Children might prefer the sickly sweet hot chocolate, nicely presented in a tall glass for a couple of pounds. There is no service charge if your group is smaller than eight, but the chatty, young staff are fast and attentive and you will be inclined to tip. 7/10