I can’t even remember how long I’ve been promising myself that I’ll try out the food at Riley’s Fish Shack in Tynemouth… too long that’s for sure. I did join the queue one Saturday afternoon last year but got impatient and went to the chippy instead (there can be quite a long wait for food in the height of summer). I missed out massively and will not be making that mistake again because the fresh fish from Riley’s is quite simply some of the tastiest I have EVER had ANYWHERE and the setting is second to none!
I finally experienced it for myself last week, my boyfriend and I had both had a busy day at work and decided that some sea air and fresh food would do us both the world of good so we made the short drive from Newcastle to the North Tyneside coast and soon felt our stresses slip away.
We parked at the free car park on Pier Road in Tynemouth village (it’s just down the bank from Front Street near the sailing club). The weather was quite mild so we enjoyed a lovely walk along the seafront.
Riley’s Fish Shack has one of the most enviable locations on the planet, on the beautiful beach of King Edward’s Bay, overlooked by the historic remains of Tynemouth Castle and Priory that stand on the rugged cliffs sheltering the bay.
As we descended the many steps down to the beach I could see smoke coming from the fire pits in front of the restaurant (Can I call it a restaurant? If I’m judging it by the standard of the food I think I can!) and even though it was past 6pm on a Thursday in the middle of May, there was quite a few diners there tucking in to their fish suppers!
The menu was much more extensive than I expected for somewhere with such a small kitchen and I changed my mind several times before finally settling on ‘Crispy Skin Halibut served with Potatoes, Signature Salads, Sourdough and Sauces’. Oh. My. Days. It was simply divine. The skin was perfectly crisp and the white fish had quite a meaty texture, it was plump and delicious, covered in capers and so moorish, it took all my strength to let James have some!
The salad was also a surprise hit, it was so fresh and dressed in a vinaigrette that complemented the fish beautifully. As if that wasn’t enough, the fish was served on a bed of mouth-watering garlic potatoes that had little crispy bits on them adding another wonderful texture to the cardboard box of foodie dreams!
My only minor little grumble was the wooden cutlery, I just couldn’t get enough on my fork and because we’d chosen to sit on the terrace overlooking the sea, my food soon got a bit cold. I’ll just have to take my own knife and fork next time, ha ha!
It was also a bit disappointing to see the use of single use plastic cups for the drinks at the bar. The folk behind Riley’s clearly care about the environment as they regularly organise beach clean-ups but they could go a step further by ditching the plastic cups. I’m sure diners wouldn’t mind leaving a deposit for the use of a Riley’s tankard or mug… just an idea. (Update – I have been reliably informed that the cups are bio-plastic and are therefore biodegradable, that sounds more like it!)
Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you what James had, he went for the ‘Chargrilled Mackerel Wrap’, which was served deconstructed and was a much bigger dish than expected. James said it was just as tasty as it looked.
The prices at Riley’s Fish Shack are pretty high but now that I’ve eaten there I can honestly say you get what you pay for; It really is a very special place with food to rival any fancy restaurant. Don’t just take my word for it though, this is what Jay Rayner, restaurant critic for The Guardian newspaper had to say about the place…
“Call off the search. Close down the web browser and put away the guide books. I have found the eating experience of the year”
High praise indeed and well deserved! Riley’s Fish Shack has also featured on Channel 4’s ‘Hidden Restaurants’ with talented chef Michel Roux Jr who was just as impressed as I was.
I’m planning on making my next visit an early morning one so I can sample the unique breakfast menu at Riley’s, Craster kippers? Yes please!
Have you had the pleasure of eating at Riley’s Fish Shack? If so what did you have? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Or maybe I’ve tempted you to check it our for yourself? If you want to learn more, visit the website or check out the Shack Life Instagram page.