Cleaving to the coasts of Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, the new South West 660 route is made for lovers of good food. Michelin-starred chef Paul Ainsworth shares his favourite places to eat along the way
WORDS PAUL AINSWORTH
With the spectre of travel chaos still lurking now’s as good a time as any to take a British staycation. The South West is beautiful all year round and Dorset, Devon and Cornwall offer some of the finest food and drink locations in the country, from casual lunch spots by the beach to fine dining restaurants in smart coastal towns – in my eyes, an important factor in creating an enjoyable holiday. One of the experiences on my bucket list is to take a culinary tour on the new South West 660 (southwest660.com).
The 660-mile route follows a careful selection of smaller roads that hug the coastline from Poole in Dorset to Watchet in Somerset. While the journey provides some of the best ocean views in Britain, the food options are equally as good, with a focus on hyper-seasonality and local produce. If this trip sounds like heaven on a plate, here are some of my favourite foodie pit-stops to discover as you travel.
Award-winning chef Paul Ainsworth is proprietor of Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth at No6 in Padstow, Caffè Rojano and Padstow Townhouse, and The Mariners pub in Rock, which offers an all-day menu. To find out more and to book, go to paul-ainsworth.co.uk.
The Oyster & Fish House, Lyme Regis
Arguably the most picturesque spot in Dorset, chef legend Mark Hix’s Oyster & Fish House restaurant has built itself on personal relationships with local fishermen to ensure the finest quality produce is delivered every day. The menu spans everything from Jersey rock oysters to the famous prawn burger. It’s the perfect way to kick start this culinary adventure (01297 446910, theoysterandfishhouse.co.uk).
The Seahorse, Dartmouth
Sticking to the theme of beautifully prepared and presented seafood, The Seahorse offers fresh local fish in dishes devised with a nod to Italy. This small, cosy space is brilliant for a family meal and offers private dining with an exclusive chef if you’d like to take the experience one step further. My must-have is Tartare di Triglia, which is diced, raw, red mullet with capers, shallots and tarragon – a great alternative to beef tartare, of which I’m also very fond. If you’re heading west from the River Dart’s harbour, I’d suggest popping down to Salcombe Gin Distillery for a taster session too (01803 835147, seahorserestaurant.co.uk).
The Elephant, Torquay
Proprietor Simon Hulstone and I have been great friends for many years now and he is a fantastic chef. The Elephant is a family-run restaurant and still to this day is Torquay’s only Michelin-starred establishment. The food is uncomplicated but brilliantly presented and offers one of the best value Michelin star meals in the country. Torquay really is one of my personal favourites and I am in awe of what Simon and his wife Katy have created here. They even have their own farm in Brixham, which grows some of their produce (01803 200044, elephantrestaurant.co.uk).
Restaurant Emily Scott, Newquay
Having been in Cornwall for the last 14 years, I have seen restaurants thrive in what is one of the best-known culinary locations in the UK. The strong focus on local produce, both from a seafood and farming front, places the county at the forefront. One chef who has excelled and made Cornwall her own is Emily Scott. Her latest restaurant, which opened last year in Watergate Bay, is fast becoming Newquay’s go-to spot. Emily continues to fly the Cornish flag, which is a pleasure to see (01637 818184, emilyscottfood.com or watergatebay.co.uk)