WHAT to do with a few days off in mid-September, without heading for the airport or a hotel? A couple of walks with the dog seemed the best idea, so the time was right to check out one of the most talked about restaurants in the North-East too.

If you have never heard of Riley’s Fish Shack in Tynemouth then you can’t be taking much interest in trying new places. Having been told about it by many, read plenty of rave reviews and threatened to go numerous times before, this was the week to try it.

The Shack, or Riley’s as it has become known locally, is situated in King Edward's Bay, in a little cove just short of and beneath Tynemouth Castle. It sells local, seasonal fish and seafood. As well as the seats, stools and benches, there are deckchairs on the beach to provide a completely different experience.

Even with plenty of research beforehand, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect, so to make a day of it we decided to head north on the morning and take in lunch, hopefully making it easier to be served at a place which has proven extremely popular.

With a little Shih Apso in tow, what better way to warm up for some food than to work up an appetite? A Google search informed us of numerous walks, and Whitley Bay to Tynemouth was as good as any.

Three miles of coastal beauty, taking in nice beaches, bays and cliffs. It took us from Whitley Sands, south to Cullercoats Bay and the beach at Long Sands. Whitley Bay lighthouse was the starting point, passing the Spanish City dome along the way.

There are two ways of doing the walk, sticking to the promenade along the top or regularly dropping down the stairs and banks to often walk along sand. Either way some of the scenery is stunning, none more so than the one that greets you at King Edward's Bay.

As you walk from the promenade you can see a little shack nestled in the cove, with a backdrop of Tynemouth Castle above. The fascinating castle includes moated towers, a gatehouse and the ruins of a Benedictine priory dating back from the 13-14th century.

This was not the day to be paying the fee to English Heritage to explore the grounds, that can wait. This was a day for stopping just short of that fantastic setting and dropping down into the cove for Riley’s.

Let’s make this clear. Riley’s is not for everyone. It is very much for the seafood lover and for those who enjoy pushing their tastebuds to the limits.

Stocks are limited, so when it has gone it has gone having sourced it from local day boats, meaning the menu is seasonal and where possible sustainable. The food is cooked and served from two converted shipping containers that have been custom designed and installed.

The venue successfully achieves an aim to be rustic and honest, delivering an Aussie-like surfer feel, mainly through the food being cooked simply over a real charcoal barbecue fire and has national food critics even labelling it the “eating experience of the year.”

One of Riley’s biggest and most successful dishes is the chargrilled seasonal fish wraps, served in a handmade wood fired flatbread with signature vinaigrette salads and Hepplewhite’s Chipotle Chilli Relish alongside some hot-plate garlic potatoes.

Riley’s deals directly with Caley Fisheries, Blyth Fisheries, South Harbour import dock and North Shields Market to supply their food. And the taste doesn’t disappoint either.

The menu might put some off if you are not braced for restaurant prices, given that you could end up eating on a deckchair without a table – albeit with a beautiful view of a cliff and the North Sea.

The portions aren’t small either, which is a bonus even if it was impossible for us to eat the two courses when our eyes were bigger than our bellies, with both dishes brought out together on cardboard plates and boxes.

The Empanadas were enough on their own at that time of the day. We got three for £15 (or available at £4.80 each), and two of those were chilli fish and the other a curried cauliflower and paneer crammed inside big parcels.

My better half said her Chilli Squid (£18) had been cooked to perfection, with the ideal combination of zesty lemon, chilli and coriander, served with some beautiful garlic potatoes and sourdough salad.

We had the Bang Bang Monkfish Kebab too, which had caught my eye on the fire as we walked past the kitchen instantly. It was deliciously cooked, with chilli and coriander, and was served on an ideal piece of flatbread. Sublime.

After a plastic glass of delightful fizz that we rested on the sand, it was time to walk off the fantastic food and head back to Whitley Bay with a nice cappuccino in Valerie's Tearoom on the way. Well worth a day out, and the chances are we will be back.


Riley’s Fish Shack, King Edward’s Bay, Tynemouth, NE30 4BY

Tel: 0191 257 1371 Web: rileysfishshack.com

Food served from: Monday 930am-10pm; Tuesday 12pm-10pm; Wednesday and Thursday 930am-10pm; Friday and Saturday 930-am-10pm; Sunday 930am-530pm

Breakfast served on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Seafood and locally served fish

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 9, service 7, surroundings 9, value 7