I take my hat off (or any other seaside-worthy headgear) to Adam Riley and his team at Riley’s Fish Shack, situated in the stunning King Edward’s Bay in Tynemouth. From the kitchen in this little shack (and it is a shack), first-class food is produced and efficiently served to diners sitting on the deck, or in their cosy little huddles directly on the beach. No wonder booking is an absolute must.
My husband and I arrived just before 6pm after a walk in the beautiful evening sunshine and were shown to our seats on the deck. The view could not have been more spectacular. Who wouldn’t want to eat their supper looking out to sea, letting that sense of calm wash over you? The location of Riley’s Fish Shack is absolutely unreal. Flanked by the cliffs and the Priory ruins, I would say it’s worth a visit for the view alone, but once you’ve eaten the food on offer, the experience is complete.
The menu is more extensive than I expected. I couldn’t find it on their website beforehand and after chatting with Simon, our server, I understand why. The fish comes exclusively from North Shields Fish Market (which is a very short hop from King Edward’s Bay), so the menu changes daily, sometimes twice daily, it was explained. The team are always ready to change the dishes, depending on the catch that is available on any particular day. Last night’s offerings included a selection of ‘small plates’ and ‘large plates’, all of which sounded delicious. We debated for a long time before asking advice on the size definition from Simon. After much deliberation (Fishcake or Mussels), bargaining (“I choose this time and I’ll do the washing up for a week?”) and ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ (I always beat him), we opted to share the Chilli Fish Empanada. I plumped for the Salted Cod from the large plates section for my main and my dining date chose Hot Plate Trout. We also ordered a couple of sides – which I now know were unnecessary – but incredibly delicious!
The Chilli Fish Empanada was made from Sourdough and filled with a delicious Fish Chilli of Salt Cod, Kashmiri Chilli and Fennel. It was served with Oak Leaf, Aioli and Green Sauce. We split this to share and I just wish that I’d carried out that sneaky manoeuvre when you pass the smaller portion and keep the big bit for yourself! The ‘Sourdough Parcel’ was definitely full of surprises – packed full of the flavourful fish chilli and when dipped into the aioli: just amazing. Sharing’s good – but how I wish I’d had the whole lot to myself! For me, this was seaside eating at its absolute best.
Our large plates came out at the same time as the Empanada and they both looked beautiful. We were (pleasantly) shocked by the amount of food served. Both mains came with the same accompaniments: a Caperberry Salad, Lime-Pickled Fennel, Hot-Plate Confit Garlic Potatoes, Aioli and Wood-Baked Sourdough. The accompaniments were deliciously fresh and worked perfectly with both the immense portions of the Salted Cod and Trout. The Wood-Baked Sourdough was a favourite of my husbands – and was a treat dipped in the aioli! Our sides of Blackened Hispi Cabbage topped with Salsa Verde, together with the Wood-Baked Carrots with Pomegranate Molasses, Sesame and Feta were both perfect, but sadly too much for either of us to finish. Eyes too big, etc. etc.
The service was discrete but attentive. There was never a moment you felt you had been abandoned and when I had questions for Simon, he was always nearby to help. He was knowledgeable, welcoming and took the time to chat about the provenance of the menu – and the Riley’s ethos. Given the location in the beautiful bay, at the foot of some impressive cliffs, I wondered about access restrictions for would-be diners with mobility issues (because the stairs are so steep) – but the Riley’s Fish Shack team will do anything they can for their visitors – and a vehicle can be reversed down to the restaurant if needed. Do give the team a call if you have any access needs. Based on our experience last night, I’m sure they will help as much as they can.
Overall, I would give this experience an 8.5 out of 10. I cannot fault the location, the food, the team or the price – the bill was £90 including a 12.5% service charge. It’s not a cheap eat, but the quality of the ingredients and the unique location justifies the premium.
The lost points is as a result of feeling I was juggling my food and drinks so they didn’t blow away. It would have been helpful if the empty glasses had been cleared away or a drinks holder was installed. Obviously we were enjoying a wonderful experience on the breezy North-East coast, but this did detract ever-so-slightly from the evening’s enjoyment. My only other (very slight) gripe would be the wooden cutlery. It’s clearly top-marks for sustainability, but not great for plate to mouth transportation. These are really minor things, but I think if tackled – it would be difficult to feel you’d had anything other than a ten-out-of-ten moment in Tynemouth. We both left a little disappointed that we hadn’t room for the Wood-Fired Rum Pineapple dessert, but a return visit is already pencilled-in for this! .
Thanks to the team at Riley’s Fish Shack.