Samphire in East Wittering: Restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 10:06 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:06 27 June 2017
East Wittering restaurant Samphire has a bit of a beachcomber vibe. Jenny Mark-Bell discovers that the kitchen is appropriately skilled at making the most of our local coastal produce
Like its namesake, Samphire packs a flavour punch that belies its unassuming appearance.
Chef/owner Dave Skinner set up shop seven years ago and is also proprietor of The Lamb in West Wittering. There’s a distinct beachcomber vibe to Samphire, with funky chairs in primary colours and tables with the sun-bleached appearance of driftwood. It’s a small (38-cover) place, and easy to miss as you’re sauntering down to the beach. But on a Thursday evening it was well-attended with the diners including a party who clearly knew their way around the menu. Apparently Monday is locals’ night so perhaps they were regulars.
Our friendly waiter confided that they’d had a new INKA charcoal oven installed the day before – and such is the intimacy of the place we were able to peek into the kitchen and see the new toy. Accordingly, I ordered a starter of chargrilled tiger prawns with aioli (£9.50) which showcased its capabilities. They were exquisite – sweet, plump and juicy, the velvety aioli spiked with wild garlic lending piquancy to a simple dish. Another starter of dill and mustard gravadlax (£8) came with a silky rollmop herring and a nicely acidic little picked vegetable salad.
Our mains were of such audacious size that the waiter wished us luck. I suppose the extensive ingredients list of the seafood stew (£19) and seafood medley (£21) might have tipped us off, but the dishes being carried to other tables were similarly mountainous – they included hake with caponata at £18, whole seabass and smoked beef short rib, both £20, and chargrilled pork chop at £18.50.
In the seafood stew, the freshest crustacea, such as king prawns, crayfish, Selsey crab and mussels, were resplendent in an elegant broth with courgette, pepper, carrot and onion, accompanied by a fillet of sea bream, samphire and waxy new potatoes to soak up the juices.
Despite being enough for a family of four it was a light bite in comparison to the seafood medley, which piled mussels and crab claw onto a bed of prawns, battered whitebait and seaweed – and added a portion of chips for good measure.
While both were delicious and showed a sensitive balance of flavours, smaller portions at lower prices would probably satisfy all but the hungriest diners.
And although our own appetites were certainly sated, the restaurant had such a lovely ambience that we wanted to stick around – our fellow diners included a family having a pre-wedding feast. Our meal concluded with a tasty vanilla panna cotta with poached rhubarb, cornflake crumb and toasted pistachios (£6).
If like us you have been meaning to visit this coastal gem since it won a Celebration of Sussex Life Awards two years ago, don’t delay. It’s a wonderful way to spend a summer’s evening.
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