The wee hamlet of Beer is an actual working fishing village where these rather tiny (in my humble opinion) fishing vessels head out in good and not so good conditions to ply the local Lyme Bay waters for fresh fish and crustaceans. And once caught, they are available for purchase at the Wet Fish Fish Shop which is just up from the beach and manned by one of the local fishermen who you will likely catch harvesting fresh crab meat or filleting fish.
Much of the catch stays local too as many of the Beer restaurants, cafes and pubs are well served by the Wet Fish shop. The blackboard offerings are updated daily as the day’s catch comes in and on the day we were there the counter held fresh Sea Bass, Lemon Sole, Flounder, Mackerel, Skate Wings and Scallops (brought in each Monday, Wednesday & Friday mornings). We enjoyed a fresh Lyme Bay crab sandwich at the Dolphin Hotel on our visit (it’s an easy & picture perfect 1/2 hour walk from our Seaton home). If you get motivated to make a trip to Beer the village has some worthwhile distractions that are quite a bit more interesting than usual tacky tourist shops you might often find in seaside towns. Woozies Deli is one of our favourite spots as it is in our top ranks so far for specialty food items. Was impressed to find J LeBlanc vinegar, Principato Di Lucedio Carnaroli risotto rice and the Jose Paez Lobato Sherry Vinegar, all of which (and more) we have struggled to find even in the Big Smoke of Exeter.
Our timing was perfect to coincide with Wednesday’s Scallop catch so a sizeable dozen sweet ones were procured and made into a tasty tea that night – pan seared the scallops & tossed with spaghetti noodles lightly coated in J LeBlanc toasted peanut oil & a sprinkling of fresh mint leaves & peas…this will be made again.
We happened upon the Bridge Inn in Topsham due to, and propelled by, the 2PM pub lunch rule and we were most pleasantly pleased. As the owners aptly describe it – “Not so much a pub, more a museum with beer”. It is the living definition of “higgledy piggledy” with narrow, twisting hallways leading to tiny, crooked doors that lead to rooms on a severe tilt (parts of the building date from the 16th century). The pub has been in the owner Caroline Cheffers-Heard’s family since 1897. Summertime will bode well too as there are plenty of outdoor seats with a view of the river Clyst.
The food is what you’d expect and want from a pub like this – simple, straightforward, fresh and tasty. We each had sandwiches – a home-cooked ham @ £4.70 and a smoked duck @ £5.65 (from local Mike’s Smokehouse) – that hit the exact right spot. Drinks, like the food, are ordered at the door to the back bar – casual as. Savoured a pint of Adnam’s Broadside which was aptly described as a “fusillade of mahogany colour and flavour”. The Bridge Inn was also given a tip of the hat by none other than the Guardian as one of the top 10 best budget eating places in Exeter and Topsham – we concur.
We literally stumbled into the Seaton’s Farmers Market as it happened to be on the day we moved in (Friday the 16th of November, 2012) and we also made it to the one just before Christmas. Here’s the 2013 schedule as far as they have been published: January 18th, February 15th, March 15th, April 19th, May 24th and June 21st with the rest of the year to be announced.
The market is held in the town hall. This provides a great all-weather venue and the building has a nice facade, but it doesn’t have the draw of a good outdoor market, with the advantage of passing trade (not that there is a lot of that in Seaton at this time of year…). There are a few stalls – meat, cheese and a few veggies. It would be good to have some interesting bread, or a brewery represented or some local charcuterie master, but it is nice to have a few local producers, doing good things.
The Somerset brie that we have bought there is likely to be a regular purchase. A buttery yellow, it is rich and well-flavoured. After a few days, it goes to a satisfylngly spreadable consistency, but doesn’t stink out the fridge. Another interesting local cheese is the Devon Oke which is made from a 17th century recipe and is a full fat, hard cheese – yum.
We also ran into a familiar face from the Exeter Farmer’s Market – the wild game man. He’s got an excellent array of game on hand including venison, rabbit, pigeon and pheasant at quite modest prices. We bought 4 pheasant breasts for £4 – a steal in our book – and they were excellent with a dry curry spice rub (and even better the next day in a wrap).
The veggie stand, though acceptably sparse at this time of year, had some top notch offerings of which we were most impressed (an bought) a stalk of brussels sprouts for a mere £2…a far cry better than London’s Borough Market. Hope to see you @ Seaton’s Farmer’s Market come January 18th!