As restaurants with sea views go – anywhere in the country – it doesn’t get much better than this. The clue is in the name. It’s the first and last thing that impresses you, although the bit in-between, the actual eating, is pretty good too. It’s a chippy, and a popular one at that – in summer, queues snake along the promenade for a take-out, and day trippers tussle with cheeky, thieving seagulls – but it’s much more than that.
A century and a half ago, Saltburn by the Sea (to give it its Sunday name) was little more than a twinkle in the eye of entrepreneur Henry Pease; all that existed was a tiny cluster of buildings hunkered under the cliffs consisting of the Ship Inn and a row of farmers and fishermen’s cottages. Pease pictured a “celestial city, arising on the cliffe and the quiet unfrequented and sheltered glen turned into a lovely garden”. He was the MP for South Durham, director of the Stockton & Darlington Railway and owned pretty much everything as far as the eye could see, from woollen mills to banks. He had the means, the vision and the brass neck, and he built his dream despite opposition. One board member reckoned it was a very bad speculation as it was “a nasty, cold, bleak place, and the sand is horrid”. Tell it to the surfers who have colonized the golden stretch between Saltburn and Redcar. Today, Saltburn is an attractive, no-frills working town, with proper shops, a hugely successful monthly food market and a palpable sense of civic pride.
If you fancy approaching Seaview the old-fashioned way, park up at the top and take the vintage funicular down to the prom. Skirt the take-out cabin and step inside to a rather glamorous dining room, all cream leather chairs and marble tables – a very pleasant place to have your tea, but I urge you to head upstairs. Nothing can prepare you for the lofty, light modern space with sky blue leather booths and a spectacular, endless view over the monumental Victorian Pier and the sea.
We’d arrived at six, just in time to see the sun hovering over the end of the pier before slipping into the sea. The owner, Glen Pearson, a local lad who escaped the tyranny of a life in IT in London, argued with his architect that it WAS possible to have frameless floor-to-ceiling windows enabling an uninterrupted view to the horizon. It took some doing but his intransigence paid off. It’s a heart-stopping, mind-wiping vista.
But what about the food? There’s a handful of starters, including crab bruschetta, a seafood pancake baked in Thermidor sauce and parmesan and herb crusted cod goujons – the fish flaking nicely under a subtle crust, perfect for dipping in the creamy garlic mayo. Other things? A warm smoked salmon, leek and Gruyère tart has a good short pastry case and a peppery watercress salad; simply executed, it’s a little gem. Three perfectly seared fat scallops arrive on a scattering of buttery savoy cabbage and dotted with sweet chestnuts – a new one on me – and it works beautifully, an earthy roast parsnip cream anchoring it all together.
There’s fish pie, of course, and chowder, but we’re here for fish and chips – well, one of us is, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s an exemplary fish supper; pearly haddock flaking away in a light, ungreasy batter that doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth, and proper chips. A dish of seafood linguine is packed with clams, squid and prawns in a “sinus-clearing” garlic broth. Fillet of sea trout is nicely flash fried and bristling with flavour, the dill and spring onion mash a clever addition along with squeaky green beans. We push the boat out with parmesan truffle fries which are now my new obsession. It’s not a menu for the non-pescatarian, though there’s a roast celeriac and kale pasta dish by way of an afterthought. Elsewhere, there’s peri peri red mullet with chickpeas and roast peppers and something called the Seaview Club Sandwich on focaccia, which I will deffo be back for at lunchtime – but then I spot eggs benedict on the breakfast menu, so it’s a full day then.
Puddings are unnecessary but we have them anyway. There’s a very decent sticky toffee pudding and a decadent warm chocolate brownie sundae which doesn’t last long with three spoons going at it. A bottle of Veltliner is nicely chilled, and there’s a very good espresso to be had. Service is sweet; waitresses buzz about in Breton tops and front of house charms. Fish comes from Hodgsons in Hartlepool, with the occasional offering from Pearson’s bricklayer, who when he isn’t building walls is out landing a catch – crab and lobster find their way on to the menu when he’s had a good day.
It’s a simple, well executed offer: no one’s chasing stars here, it’s food made by a chef who lets the ingredients do the talking and whose chief aim is to send you home happy. That, and the view. Did I mention the view?
* The Seaview Restaurant, Lower Promenade, Saltburn, North Yorkshire TS12 1HQ, tel: 01287 236015, www.theseaviewrestaurant.co.uk. Open Monday to Friday, 11.30am-8pm, Saturday, 9am-9pm, Sunday, 9am-7pm. Three courses for three with wine, £100.