Cool coastal seafood
Family-run restaurant Crabshack near Worthing Pier is a great spot summer or winter, serving up quality seafood on a wooden deck or in a cosy cabin-like interior.
“I like everything on the menu,” I declared for perhaps the first time ever when I finally got a chance to try Crabshack, just opposite Worthing seafront and close to the pier.
I love seafood and this top spot for it, with its spacious sundeck, has drawn many a wistful look from me as I’ve cycled by on a coastal jaunt.
Scoff and quaff
The menu is relatively simple, concentrating on doing a few things very well (always a good sign) but still caused me much deliberating and in the end, as I was fortunate to hit a fabulously sunny day in early October, I settled on the dressed crab.
My friend went for my runner-up choice of fish stew, which proved deceptively filling, so I got my own try of her prawns and mussels in a rich tomato sauce.
My crab tasted super fresh and was divided up so mainly white meat was left in the shell while the brown meat was used as a side attraction on spicy crostini. This all came with the lightest of fries, salad leaves and some brown bread I didn’t even get onto.
We did however just about find room to share a dessert – a sticky polenta and almond number with ice cream that went down a treat.
Among other options on the menu you can graze on the likes of cockle popcorn, moules mariniere, or crispy squid with garlic chips and, when the weather’s miserable, try the ultimate comfort food – a Sussex Smokie featuring haddock in a creamy, cheesy sauce with dunking ciabatta.
Can’t decide? Tackle the fish plate for two – currently featuring fritto misto, Sussex smokie, South Downs smoked salmon, dressed crab, prawn cocktail and steamed mussels. There are also daily specials depending on what’s been landed locally.
The restaurant, opened in 2015, is a family affair and they are fussy about their suppliers – the crab, for instance, comes from a certain catch in Cornwall that topped their own taste test.
The ingredients may be top notch but the feel is casual and there’s a sense of fun about the decor. A mirror ball was catching the sun on the large deck outside, while inside I found neon crabs and lobster claws on the walls and a crustacean-themed chandelier.
Even the name above the door is in jolly Sixties-style bubble writing. There are also trendy industrial-style chairs and sections of exposed brickwork.
At a glance and perhaps with the ‘shack’ name, you may think, as I did, there’s little seating inside but in fact there’s plenty. The restaurant recently expanded into the next-door premises and now incorporates a building that is reputed to be the site where Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest.
The wooden cladding in much of the interior gives it a cabin feel so it works just as well for winter months. Though if the weather’s in-betweeny you can grab a blanket on the sundeck.
There’s a small bar just inside the entrance serving up Sussex sparkling wine, cocktails and more and it’s good to know that you can get a nightcap here even when the kitchen is closed.
In the area
Crabshack is close to Worthing Pier and on National Cycle Path 2, a Muddy favourite coastal route. From here you can bike to Brighton and beyond to Rottingdean along the seafront most of the way, with just a short detour round Shoreham Harbour. See my post about the route with points of interest here. A train line links many places along the coast west of Brighton so you could do part by rail. In winter, think chowder or fish stew at Crabshack and a trip to the lovely retro cinema or the theatre nearby.
I’m sure my recent visit will be the first of many to Crabshack. The restaurant serves really excellent, smartly presented and reasonably priced seafood in a non-pretentious setting and in the event of imminent world destruction I reckon I’d hole up here devouring everything in sight like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Seafood lovers. Dining alfresco in summer. Combining with a cycle ride or a trip to the nearby Pavilion Theatre. A fun vibe that would suit a celebration meal. Treating visitors who don’t live on the coast. Challenging people who still think Worthing doesn’t have any cool spots (looking at you Mr Muddy). Well behaved kids and dogs welcome.
Not so good for: Well, obviously, if you don’t like seafood or the smell of fish this is not the place for you, though there is a vegetarian tacos option. If you like your oysters and fizz in posh surrounds you’ll probably find the vibe too casual. Spur of the moment dining on the deck in summer or on weekends may prove tricky – it’s best to book ahead.
The damage: Prices hover around the £13 to £19 Bracket for mains. Oysters are £12 for half a dozen but 24 hours notice is required to get them ordered in.
Crabshack, 2 Marine Parade, Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 3PN, 01903 215070 crabshackworthing.co.uk Closed Mondays.