Review: Dungeness Snack Shack, Kent
July 3, 2016
Cunningly secreted fish lovers’ friend in bleak but beautiful Dungeness
Dungeness, on the very tip of the Romney Marsh in Kent, is a desolate expanse of shingle, loomed over by monstrous power stations, dotted with bleached driftwood, fishing nets and lonely cottages.
You can’t get a mobile signal, UKIP flags taunt the liberal London holidaymaker (yes, it seemed like a good idea on the weekend after the referendum delivered a ‘leave’ verdict to visit overwhelmingly Brexiteer Kent), and the only pub is a glum, kid-filled chip factory. It’s the end of the line, ninety minutes out of London, and it feels like the end of the world. But if it’s peace and quiet, glorious skies and sunsets and spanking fresh fish you’re after, you’ve struck gold.
There’s a bustling fishmonger in neighbouring Lydd-on-Sea, M & M Richardson, which oak-smokes its own mackerel, haddock and salmon, makes its own fishcakes and was selling Rye Bay scallops and plaice, cod and skate so local they should have been paying council tax. The Pilot Inn, also in Lydd, is an unpretentious pub that puts the bounty of the sea front and centre of its lunchtime offering.
On the Dungeness estate itself is a modest little shack hung with bunting and supplied with marine goodness by the wet fish hut next door, a family-run enterprise of longstanding local fishermen.
They only sell what they’ve caught that day, so if they’re open, you know the catch was swimming only a few hours earlier. They’ll deliver within twenty miles or will keep their catch on ice for you if you’re travelling down. Its spinoff, the Dungeness Fish Hut Snack Shack is open 11–4, Thursday–Sunday. Don’t be put off by the use of Comic Sans in their signage – they know what they’re doing when it comes to cooking fish simply but superbly.
The fish of the day was plaice – filleted, dredged in flour and briefly fried. This could be enjoyed in a hearty overflowing ‘fisherman’s roll’ (£4.50) or in a flatbread with Mexican coleslaw, lime, chili and sour cream. For the roll, two fillets were laid in a squidgy huffkin (a soft Kentish milk bread with a hole poked in the top) heaped with a lightly dressed red cabbage coleslaw, salad and a dollop of homemade tartare sauce. Simple, tasty and upgraded to first class by being eaten in an old-fashioned deck chair looking out to sea and the container ships moving silently across the horizon towards Europe, as the UK made its decision to move in the other direction. It was a kind of poetic moment, a prayer for the future, eating at this humble little British hut watching the continent recede a little.
Those even more indulgent than me, and with deeper pockets can savour the views with a lobster flatbread with lemon mayonnaise and salad (£9.50) or the same with crab (£6.50). Those who don’t like fish but have inexplicably ended up here can have halloumi salad, Kent crisps or homemade cake, and there’s a coolbox full of Coke and San Pellegrino, which would be improved by a few bottles of beer.
Kent voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union, but Londoners could do no worse than to vote with their feet and leave for Dungeness and this cunningly secreted fisherman’s friend.
Dungeness Fish Hut/Snack Shack
Dungeness TN29 9NE