REVIEW: The Lobster Pod Bistro in Hope Cove
PUBLISHED: 12:32 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:19 31 July 2020
For quirky dining with fantastic sea views whatever that weather, the Pods at Hope Cove are a must. ANNE BRUNNER-ELLIS takes a look
Hope Cove - sheltered by the headland of Bolt Tail and a mix of two sand and rocky beaches - is one of those wonderful family spots. You can spend many a happy hour there - rock pooling, swimming, paddle boarding and more.
Tourism is now the village mainstay, but it was once a thriving fishing community. Whilst the larger fishing boats operate from Brixham and Plymouth, the cove is still a good source of crab and lobster. Last year a new venture launched from the Cottage Hotel, boosted both the fishing and tourist trades.
Set above the bay, the hotel, constructed from an original Cottage Hotel dating back to 1890, prides itself on being a family run enterprise.
"You are not just another number here, you are a name, and a name we often welcome back year after year," says William Ireland, second generation son and director.
With 80% repeat custom, they must be doing something right. But any business, especially a small family enterprise, cannot stand still.
"Without new ideas we will not survive," explains William.
Last August he launched a small seafood bistro in the hotel grounds utilising an underused store shed situated in a prime location overlooking the bay.
"My aim was to develop a bistro that could help sustain the local fishing industry," he explains. "We were determined to open during the summer season and we did it - thanks to the staff who turned their hand to whatever needed to be done."
The bistro, aptly named the 'Lobster Pod", is not just a restaurant - local fishermen use the lobster storage tank to store their live lobsters. These are then sold direct to their customers and of course the bistro.
It was also important for William to ensure that staff were not simply a seasonal workforce. "We pride ourselves in the quality of our staff," he explains.
"We take time to train them for their role, and they become part of the hotel family. It is all about year-round employment."
However, a small bistro shed seating 14, is not sustainable all year. To counter this William came up with a solution that both makes economic sense and gives diners something a little bit special.
"I grew up in Hope Cove and my view has always been the expanse of the bay. I love it whatever the weather - the calm and blue skies of the summer, the glorious sunsets, as well as the more dramatic skies of winter," he enthuses.
"We had recently been to John Lewis and had seen glass Pods as garden rooms. However, I realised these would make a wonderful dining experience as part of the bistro."
Immediately above the South West Coast Path, William has installed four extremely comfortable pods.
Accommodating up to 11 people, each enjoys 180 degree views across Harbour beach and out to Bigbury Bay. All are heated - essential in winter - as well as having Bluetooth connection for personal choice of music and a telephone to order more drinks!
Pods are bookable in advance and you can reserve the whole one if you are a party of four or more.
But the Pod would be nothing without the food. It is not high dining, but it specialises in locally caught sustainable seafood with minimal food miles. And with no hint of deep frying.
The lobster is caught literally just off to sea from Hope Cove, or Salcombe during the winter. Other fish comes from the fish market in Plymouth - again caught locally.
The sharing platters, both seafood and vegetarian options, seems to add to the cosy atmosphere. They also offer a range of pizzas, light bites, soups and chowders.
William is particularly hot on allergens and the menu includes clear allergen icons.
"I wish more restaurants would do this," commented one lady. "It would make my life very much easier."
Now in its second year, the Pods are going from strength to strength. Takeaway food, served in biodegradable, boxes is available, as is fresh fish from the fishmonger.
"It seems to be working," says William. As one diner exclaimed, "This spot is incredible - the food was amazing - we didn't want to leave."
You cannot get better that than that for a review.