I don’t have many things in common with Homer Simpson. However, there is one similarity I do have with the head of America’s most dysfunctional family – we both love seafood.
Unlike Homer, I’m happy to report that I’ve never been dragged kicking and screaming from an all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant (“That man ate our shrimp! And two plastic lobsters…!”). But, I’ll often opt for something fishy if it’s on the menu in a pub or restaurant, especially if we’re by the sea. I have a particular weakness for shellfish – eating cockles and prawns from the quayside stalls you find in places like Mudeford, Swanage and Lyme Regis is a favourite pastime of mine.
Tiff knows my love of seafood all too well. So, she treated me to an anniversary lunch one Friday at Salty’s restaurant in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
We headed over to the Island on the ferry from Lymington. Before we ate, we spent some time wandering around Yarmouth. We also took a stroll along the coast to Fort Victoria Country Park and spent some time relaxing on a small shingle beach while Tilly played in the sea. To avoid a long walk around the harbour on our return, we hailed the water taxi at the end of the spit and shared it with another group who were also heading to Salty’s for lunch. We picked them up direct from their yacht moored in the quay – how the other half live, eh?
Salty’s is practically next door to the ferry terminal and a few steps from the quay. It’s in a narrow, long building that backs onto Yarmouth Castle. It faces the street. But you can see the water from the front of the building and feel the breeze from the Solent.
Tiff had booked a table in upstairs restaurant rather than the bar. We made our way up the narrow staircase on arrival, and took our seats at a secluded round table in the corner of the room by some French doors that opened onto a quaint balcony that overhangs the street. Tilly, exhausted from her earlier exploits on the beach, plonked herself up against the wall and promptly went to sleep with her head resting on our rucksack.
Reassuringly, the decor in the restaurant is nautically themed with lots of distressed wood panelling and different shades of blue throughout. The assortment of knick knacks on the ceiling will keep you entertained while you wait for your food – lobster pots, buoys, a large wooden canoe and fishing lamps hang from the beams alongside the chairs that Princes William and Harry sat on when they visited Salty’s in 2008 (they both had fish and chips). Apparently, Chris Evans is a fan of the restaurant too – but don’t let that put you off.
The service we received was perfect for the setting – friendly and professional but not overly official. We awarded some extra brownie points to the waiter for offering a bowl of water to Tilly while he took our drinks order. I made do with water too as I was driving later. Tiff went for a glass of rose wine.
Salty’s doesn’t have daily specials, preferring instead to vary the menu regularly. As a shared starter, we ordered some bread and olive oil dip (£4) to go with seared scallops, chorizo and hummus (£10.50). The bread was perfect – fluffy on the inside and a perfect crustiness on the outside. It was a decent accompaniment to the scallops, which tasted amazing alongside the smoky, rich flavours of the chorizo. We used the last chunks of bread to soak up the hummus, which was made with red peppers and butter beans rather than chickpeas.
The average cost of the dishes on the menu was more than what we’d usually spend. But it was a special occasion (plus, Tiff was paying). Anyway, the portions for the mains were massive – I regretted ordering the bread when my skate arrived.
I’d never had skate before and I was impressed with how meaty it was. I enjoyed the fish itself, but I did find the dish on the whole a bit too salty and a bit too oily. Even my side dish of roasted new potatoes was drenched in oil. This didn’t stop me polishing it off, mind.
Tiff had no such qualms about her mussels. Cooked to perfection in a tasty, creamy wine-based sauce, I couldn’t help but nick a few when she was catching a glimpse of the water through the balcony door. She enjoyed the large portion of sweet potato fries that were on the side, too.
We decided against a dessert with the aim of finding ourselves a little ice cream shop in the town. We woke Tilly from her slumber, settled our bill and headed back out onto the Yarmouth sunshine.
Overall, we really enjoyed our visit to Salty’s. I’d like to think we’ll return next time we’re on the island – we just need another excuse to treat ourselves. And no, unlike Homer, we didn’t eat any plastic lobsters – there was no need with the overly generous portions on offer here.
Info: Salty’s in on Quay Street in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight. Opening hours and days vary depending on the time of year. Phone 01983 761550.