IT seemed like everything was happening at once, writes Mark Tallentire.

In Durham, it was the 134th Durham Miners Gala, with Jeremy Corbyn the star attraction.

Fourteen miles north-east in Sunderland, the Tall Ships Races were reaching their climax.

So, we thought we would go for a day out to Seaham beach, assuming we would find the town deserted. Wrong: it was also Seaham Carnival weekend.

As we arrived, at about 1pm, hundreds of people were sitting on the green watching Mary Poppins on a big screen.

Trying to buy off our eldest child, whose eye had been turned by the endless food vans selling candy floss, ice creams and the like, we promised her an ice cream later, hurried out to Harbour Marina and chose The Lookout café as our lunch destination.

The Harbour was done up at considerable cost five years or so back, with the result a two-storey parade of cafés and shops and a new home for the George Elmy Lifeboat, which capsized during a North Sea rescue in November 1962 with the loss of five volunteer crew members and four fishermen.

It is a very pleasant area indeed.

On a day like ours, with the July heatwave in full throes, one could almost believe it to be a Mediterranean-type beachfront offer. Sure, I wouldn’t wish to go strolling in February. Perhaps that was Jet2 Holidays’ thought when they decided to open a booking centre here. But let’s focus on the positives. We had just enjoyed a very sunny few days camping in North Yorkshire, and were wearing our staycation ethos with patriotic pride.

The Lookout occupies the first floor at the far end of the parade with, as the name suggests, a splendid view out across the beach to the north, pier to the east and marina to the south.

As we manoeuvred our buggy out of the much-appreciated lift, we found a table outdoors, but in the shade. Those inside were empty, those outside in the heat – fully occupied. It was that kind of day.

The Lookout sells itself as: Great Coffee, Great Food, Great Views. I could almost stop the review at that. I’d agree. It does exactly what it says on the tin. But allow me to elaborate.

The coffee is, apparently, specially sourced and then worked by trained Baristas to produce a “full range of hot beverages from cappuccino to hot chocolate and tea”. I tried an Americano and was very satisfied. My wife’s pot of tea, I’m told, was pleasantly strong.

The food menu extends to breakfasts, sandwiches and paninis, jacket potatoes, scones and cakes. Sarah and I, ordering at the counter separately so that one of us could mind the kids outside, to my surprise both chose a mozzarella, sundried tomato and jalapeno panini (£4.99 each), with a side of chips to share (£1).

The paninis were excellent – piping hot, crunchy, attractively spiced; and the chips were chunky and crisp as we like them and served, as seems compulsory at the moment, in a camping mug.

The little ones were happy too – tucking into their children’s lunch boxes, which we considered to be good value at £4 for a sandwich, a drink, a packet of crisps, a yoghurt and a piece of fruit.

So far, so good. But it’s clearly at the dessert end of dinner that The Lookout really shines.

There were so many mouth-watering cakes and sweets on display we struggled to choose. Finally, we decided to share a fruit scone with jam and cream and a slice (make that a chunk) of carrot and walnut cake.

Both were delicious. The scone was just the right firmness – not too heavy, not too crumbly. The cake was similarly baked to perfection, with a healthy (no, not healthy, but you get the gist) smothering of icing.

Sarah and I could have happily sat and watched the sea come and go all day. But child #1 had been promised the beach and the sea, and she’d had enough of waiting. So, it was time to pack up, get back in the lift and brave the waves.

The service had been friendly and efficient, the surroundings – again, if you hit the right weather – are not to be beaten, the food is very good and it’s all at a good price.

So, I urge you: before the weather changes and the summer sunshine disappears: make sure you make a date to visit the Marina, and treat yourself at The Lookout.

Food Facts

The Lookout, Waterside, Seaham Harbour Marina, Seaham, SR7 7EE Telephone: 0191-581-4087;


Food is served Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm; Sunday, 10am to 5pm

Food quality 8

Surroundings 8

Service 7

Value 8