Shelter from the Great British weather in one of Yorkshire's quirky seaside cafes
PUBLISHED: 19:10 11 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:51 20 February 2013
Take shelter from the Great British weather in some of the quirky seaside cafes along the Yorkshire coast. Our food and drink consultant Annie Stirk reports. Photographs by Andy Bulmer
Unlike their posh town and city cousins, seaside cafs are places you can drop in with sandy feet and wearing your swimwear. Not only do they offer beautiful sea views but also delicious cakes, affordable, freshly caught seafood, deep-filled butties and burgers and those always welcome cups of tea.
A simple walk along the beach, finishing with a brew, is a little holiday in itself, says Neil Hodgson, whos been running the Sandside Caf, overlooking Whitbys golden sands, with his sister Karen Mortimer for 14 years. You can get some space, some sand and sea and top that off with a good coffee and cake.
A throwback to the tearooms of the Victorian era, but more like the Formica ice-cream parlours of the 1950s, seaside cafs have come to epitomize the British seaside experience: friendly, quick service and fast food that can be enjoyed on the beach, or snugly (and smugly) looking out through steamed-up windows.
Its of course the location that gives seaside cafs the edge and if theyre not on the beach then they are, quite literally, a stones throw from it, offering food thats very much part of the view. The Sandside was always known as the little caf with the big view, says Neil, who used to visit the original Sandside Caf as a child and rebuilt and reinstated the crumbling caf that stood on the site for more than 100 years. Out of the window you can watch the terns, the seals and the salmon fishing boats, and practically eat their catch the same day.
Indeed, the cafs specialties a Sandside Smokey, a bake of haddock and boiled egg, and its Seafood Special, a granary roll topped with fresh prawns, crab and salmon are all intimately linked with the cafs panorama. They also offer picnic hampers to enjoy on the beach.
Everything we do, particularly the seafood, is served simply, says Neil, a former bus driver whose love of food and baking, inherited from parents and grandparents, led him to set up the caf. When its so fresh, whats the point in messing about with it?
Its that side order of friendliness with your cake thats sets seaside cafs apart. Neil adds: Yorkshire cafs in particular are known for their warmth and openness. cafs are all about embracing the simple things in life; a meeting point for families, where the children can play on the sand while they catch up.
Plenty of fresh air and fresh food, he says. We do this well in Yorkshire.
And theyre not just for tourists. We get people who travel regularly from Leeds and Sheffield, just to come here, its amazing, says Neil. But, above all, its the place where the locals go. Seaside cafs offer a place to chat and time to slow down. Everyone is always going 100 miles-an-hour but here you can catch your breath and gather your thoughts over a warming brew after all, everyone loves a good brew.
The keep-it-simple philosophy is mirrored at Sabina Warrickers Tiffin Caf, in Robin Hoods Bay. With people more likely to have a staycation than a break away these days, theyre looking for lovely, family-friendly places to catch a bite, says 20 year-old Sabina. Good value places with an informal vibe, but quality, homemade and local food. After a year out with A-levels, Sabina returned to her first love of baking. She whipped up a business plan and found a perfect bijous caf to sell classic cakes, bakes and brews.
The Tiffin Caf opened in February last year and is two minutes from the beach. Everything is made on the premises and we do nine different cakes every day. There are all the old favourites including our namesake, the no-bake Tiffin cake, which is our big seller a mix of sultanas, rich tea biscuits, syrup and cocoa powder, drizzled with chocolate and set in the fridge, says Sabina.
The caf has that old-fashion charm, and the care, attention and friendliness to go with it. Were just one big room with kitchen at one end, a counter and four tables, adds Sabina. Its cosy and intimate, and were always chatting. You cant work or sit in here and not meet people.
A slice of a bygone era is also on offer at the Sun Court Caf, based in the unique and historic Scarborough Spa Complex, with its incredible views over the South Bay. Here customers can relax in striped deck chairs and enjoy scones and tea in the vast black and white tiled courtyard complete with bandstand for music and tea dances and simply reminisce.
Its an informal atmosphere, where you can pad in from the beach and enjoy fish and chips, breakfast rolls, jacket potatoes and cakes, says Jo Ager. Above all, people love this place for its memories. So many remember coming here with their granny, and their grandmas have fond memories of the dance hall days. People know what to expect here, they feel comfortable and thats our formula for success.
Seaside cafs are all about accessibility and service with a smile. They are all about uncomplicated food, good value for money and that Yorkshire welcome.
These days, many seaside cafs are more gastro than greasy spoon. Stephen Dinaro and Martyn Hyde have turned the traditional formula a little on its head with their Eat Me Caf, tucked away behind the Stephen Joseph theatre, in Hanover Street, Scarborough. They spent many years running a successful restaurant in Thailand and have brought the flavours of Southeast Asia to their new venture using them as twists on British classics.
Chicken pies are made with sweet potato, nutmeg and cinnamon, and, alongside the hand-cut artisan bread sandwiches and Sloppy Josephs a local take on the American classic there are green and red curries, a ramen noodle broth with fried tofu, Chinese cabbage, pak choi and spring onion, and Satay Hoisin Duck, all made with local ingredients.
Although the emphasis might be slightly different, Eat Me still embodies what a good seaside caf is all about community. The greasy spoon has had to change with the times, because people are after more quality food these days, says Martyn. But, ultimately, were also a community caf. We support local producers and we want to put money back into the community not into our own pockets. Were passionate about the local area.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, agrees and says whatever the weather, seaside cafs are an iconic part of the coastal landscape. Whether its in glorious sunshine or a spot of rain, many of us have fond memories of a trip to a seaside caf, and of grabbing some fish and chips and a cuppa that always seem to taste better outdoors. Our beautiful coastline is the jewel in the crown of Yorkshire and our seaside towns and beaches are home to some great places to tuck in.
Words by Annie Stirk
Photographs by Andy Bulmer
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