It is not unknown for friends and colleagues living in more happening, cosmopolitan locations to express concern that I’ve made my home in what they perceive to be deepest, darkest Devon, which must be “hours and hours” from London. “I mean, what do you do for entertainment? Where do you eat?” is one of the more typical remarks.
In fact, there are so many great places to eat down here (“at home” being my favourite) that it is difficult to know where to start when answering the second question. For example, Gidleigh Park – consistently named one of the best hotels in Britain – is well worth the 15-minute drive for the occasional two-Michelin-starred experience; and, from where I’m sitting now, I can actually see the beef that will be served in a few weeks’ time at the nearby Ring of Bells pub in North Bovey. It’s grazing in the next field.
But I have to admit that it takes a full 30-minute journey through rolling countryside to get to my favourite fish restaurant, which is a place so good that I’m more than a little reluctant to expose it to the wider world.
The Crab Shack in Teignmouth’s picturesque old harbour is run by Amanda and Rob Simmonds – or, to be more exact, Amanda runs it and Rob and their son bring home the main ingredients in the handsome fishing boats La Vagabonde Des Mer and TheRoyal Escape, which are moored about 10ft from the restaurant’s front door. You can take it as read, therefore, that everything is so fresh that much of it arrives in the kitchen either flapping or walking sideways.
The restaurant seats 30 at a pinch (crab pun not intended), but, despite its small size, it has a delightfully airy and informal feel, thanks to its marine-themed décor. And while we simple and impecunious Devon folk find the prices more than reasonable, some recent visitors from London were flabbergasted that they could indulge in a crab the size of a small coffee table for less than £15.
Indeed, the place has proved such a hit among locals that it is now open seven days a week and has spawned the equally excellent Crab Shack deli nearby, where you can buy more of the Vagabonde’s daily catch to take away, along with winkles, whelks, mussels and several varieties of fish.
Whether or not any purchases will remain fresh for the duration of a journey back to London is, however, debatable – after all, it is hours and hours away. Thank goodness.