Peter Barron finds a gem of a restaurant where a sea-faring legacy is being kept alive

MY wife and I were enjoying a stress-busting, blissfully sunny couple of days amid the stark beauty of Northumberland.

We stayed in Seahouses where a morning boat trip across to the Farne Islands to see the colony of seals was followed by an afternoon walk up the stunning beach, all the way to Bamburgh, with its magnificently imposing castle.

The day before that, we’d embarked on another breath-taking walk, this time from Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Club, across the dunes and along the clifftop to Craster, passing the ancient castle ruins on the way.

The Jolly Fisherman pub came with a strong reputation so we headed there for a lunchtime pint of real ale and a sandwich, relaxing in the beer garden above the shimmering, blue North Sea.

Across the road from The Jolly Fisherman is The Craster Seafood Restaurant, which overlooks the pretty working harbour. After a quick glance at the menu, we made a decision there and then to return for an evening meal ¬- and what an inspired choice it turned out to be.

The restaurant - quaint, stone-walled, and homely – is attached to the only smokehouse left in Craster. Run by L. Robson and Sons, it is the fourth generation of the family specialising in the traditional method of oak smoking kippers and salmon.

Built in 1856 by the Craster family, the smokehouse was sold to James William Robson at the turn of the century and has been in the family ever since, with Neil Robson now at the helm and his daughter Olivia sharing the passion for the business.

As we arrived for our 7pm booking, the sun had long gone, and the restaurant was shrouded in what we initially thought was mist but turned out to be smoke from the smokehouse, producing a gorgeously enticing smell.

It is an immediately welcoming little place. Our friendly waitress even disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a pair of reading glasses when I explained I’d left mine back at the hotel. How on earth did they know my prescription, I asked.

The walls are adorned with the paintings of local artist Mick Oxley, who captures the light and moods of Northumberland seascapes brilliantly.

After nibbling on home-made bread, I started with the only choice I could realistically make – Craster kipper, smoked on the premises. I’ll be honest – I haven’t had kippers before but they were superb. Our waitress gave me expert instruction in “flipping the kipper” to peel back the skin and the flesh was soft, moist and bursting with subtle smoky flavour. Any kippers I have in the future will have an awful lot to live up to.

My wife opted for a smoked salmon parcel with goats cheese, guacamole, and chives. Another treat in both presentation and taste.

For mains, I went for haddock, smoked on the premises, and served with sautéed spinach and home-made creamy wholegrain mustard sauce. The haddock could not have been fresher if it had just been washed through the door on the high tide, and the sauce complemented it perfectly.

My wife had the pan-grilled salmon darne, served on a bed of roasted Mediterranean vegetables, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Indeed, she was moved to declare that it was among the best meals she could remember.

Completely satisfied with what we’d already eaten, we skipped the desserts, although I have little doubt they would have been excellent too. With a bottle of Chenin Blanc, our bill came to a very reasonable £54.70.

It’s hard to find fault – perhaps, being picky, some cushions on the seats could be added to make it a little more comfortable for those of us who’ve walked miles across Mick Oxley’s dunes and cliffs.

The Robson family are not only keeping the ancient art of oak-smoking alive, but they are doing it to the highest standards. With a drive of an hour and three-quarters from Darlington, we can’t make The Craster Seafood Restaurant a regular haunt but, in one visit, it has become one of our favourite places to eat.

We emerged into the night air, the aromatic mist of tradition wafting around us, and we vowed to return as soon as possible.

Food facts

The Craster Seafood Restaurant, Haven Hill, Craster, Northumberland, NE66 3TR.

Telephone: 01665-576223.


Opening hours: 12-2pm and 6.30pm-8pm Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday.

Food: 5/5

Ambience: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Value for money: 4/5