You might remember a couple of weeks back we spent a day raving about some of Britain’s Best Beach Cafés. As threatened promised at the time, Mr & Mrs Smith paid a visit to some of them, for – ahem – research purposes (nothing to do with the lure of knickerbocker glories, marshmallow-pink prawns, fresh lobster sandwiches or crumbly wedges of moist sponge cake, then). Here’s what James – aka Mr Smith – had to say after a trip the Hive Beach Café in Dorset with his Mrs Smith, Tamara…
Beach cafés have in the past meant (in my mind at least) soggy fish ‘n’ chips, cappuccinos from milkshake machines and glow-in-the-dark ice cream for pudding. All served up by po-faced temporary staff from local student halls.
So, when we were on a seaside weekend away staying at the Bull Hotel in Bridport with our good friends Kate and Robbie, and Mrs Smith suggested we go for a bracing walk (on what turned out to be a typically miserable wet and windy Spring day) and ‘stop off for a coffee at the Hive Beach Café’, I responded by smiling through my gritted teeth and mumbling ‘sounds like a great idea’. Because kicking back and reading the Sunday papers by a cosy fire with a nice cup of tea wasn’t at all what I had wanted to do. Oh no. Heaven forbid.
In fairness, Hive Beach was beautiful, and the Jurassic coast made a refreshing change from the ‘pretty’ Cornish beaches that I’m more familiar with, and when we did eventually arrive at the Hive Beach Café, I have to confess, I was immediately smitten. Toasty warm inside, a fish-shop-style counter takes centre stage: it’s packed with various catches of the day, and chalk boards explain where everything had been line-caught (you can even look up the name of the local fishermen who’ve caught your fish). Bustling chefs behind the counter added a little seaside theatre to proceedings.
You then walk into the adjacent room, and your eyes become wider as you see the home-made cakes on display – and real ‘grown-up’ coffee-making machines with an impressive array of coffees to choose from. The staff even smile. One guy I talked to had worked there for seven years – which confirmed (in my mind at least) this was indeed a special café.
The guy in question then shouted, ‘Hot scones ready, come and get ’em!’, and as people leapt from their seats to get their sticky mitts on the latest batch, I found myself jostling for pole position. Because (and you might here like to imagine the honeyed tones of Dervla Kirwan) this isn’t just any old beach café; this is the ultimate, gold-star, award-winning, like no other, best beach café in the world. Probably.
So I grab my tray (it’s self-service) and start to pile things on top that I don’t even want, but which look too good to refuse, and after all we were on a mini-break, and of course the rules of the mini-break clearly state that you are allowed to eat as much cake and ice cream as you like. And when it’s this good, it’s even worth the walk….