The best seafood restaurants in Dorset

West Beach restaurant in Bournemouth. Photo: Amit Lennon/Guardi

West Beach restaurant in Bournemouth. Photo: Amit Lennon/Guardi - Credit: Amit Lennon

From shacks on the beach to fancy dining, Sue Quinn shares her favourite Dorset places where you will find the freshest locally caught fish and shellfish in the country.

Crab House Café

If scoffing oysters 30ft from where they’ve been harvested rings your gustatory bell, this shack on the water’s edge overlooking Chesil Beach is for you. The café not only boasts its own oyster farm, it also buys seafood straight off local fishing boats, if it were any fresher it would still be swimming. The menu changes twice daily but always includes a wide range of local fish and shellfish. Flashier dishes might include pan fried scallops with cauliflower puree, black pudding and bacon lardons, or turbot steak poached in saffron cream with mussels, while simpler fare includes whole Lyme Bay crabs to crack. The menu is sophisticated but there’s no pretension – eat indoors or on picnic-style tables outside to make the most of the spectacular views over the Portland coast.

Marlboro Restaurant

Locals are rightly chuffed to have this award-winning, third-generation fish and seafood restaurant on their doorstep. It’s hugely popular and customers are happy to wait for super fresh seafood cooked to order. Regulars rave about the mackerel bap with horseradish sauce, while other unusual chippy fare includes mackerel or sea bass fillets fried in tempura batter. Homemade crab cakes are also a specialty. The restaurant is tucked away in the town centre and you can dine in, but those in the know order their food to go and munch on fish and chips on Weymouth’s harbour wall.

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West Beach

Just a few metres from the golden sands of Bournemouth beach near the Pier, this relaxed and airy dining room, with outside deck, offers sensational sea views and a very tasty choice of fresh seafood. Basics might include excellent beer battered fish and chips with mushy peas, fishcake with salad, or a cracking fish finger sandwich. Fancier fare runs Poole Bay lobster and cracked south coast dressed crab. There is also plenty of choice for non-seafood fans. The menu also features helpful booze suggestions under each dish.

The Jetty

Chef-patron Alex Aitken is a trawler man turned award-winning chef so the seafood here is fantastic. Local fish and shellfish are fresh, fresh, fresh – and a lot of the menu is sourced locally. Mains range from stone bass tapenade, cod and crab minestrone and the Jetty mix fish grill. The views across to Mudeford Harbour are sensational – you can almost dip your toes in the water while you’re dining!

Shell Bay Seafood Restaurant

Even for a county spoiled for choice when it comes to sea views, this National Trust property clinging to the edge of Poole Harbour is hard to beat. The vista takes in Brownsea Island, the Purbeck hills and Sandbanks – and all within striding distance of Studland’s sandy beaches and the chain ferry. The menu is varied and delicious, spanning Poole rock oysters, local seabass fillet, pan fried mackerel, herb crusted hake fillet and more. Well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome.

Hive Beach Café

Take one look at the fish counter as you enter this beachfront café and you know you’re about to sit down to the real seafood deal. This award-winning eatery with incredible views of Lyme Bay and the Jurassic Coast offers an excellent range of seafood, from simply cracking crab sandwiches through to extravagant seafood platters teetering with crab, lobster, prawns, salmon and more. Well behaved dogs and children are welcome and there’s an ice cream parlour in summer.

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Hix Oyster and Fish House

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This glass-walled eyrie is perched above Lyme Regis’ famous Cobb and diners can lose themselves in panoramic views across the Jurassic Coast. The vibe is informal but the food is all class – owner Mark Hix, who is a Dorset boy, has a string of London restaurants but here the focus is on local, seasonal ingredients cooked as simply as possible. Tuck into grilled Lyme Bay cuttlefish with with chervil mayonnaise; steamed Lyme Bay turbot with green or béarnaise sauce and poached Portland Pearl oysters; hake fillet with Aviemore girolles, peas and sea blite; or scrumpy-fried rock oysters with scotch bonnet mayonnaise.

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Urban Reef

This funky beachfront café, restaurant and bar next to Boscombe beach is hugely popular with locals and visitors who love its laid back vibe and excellent food and drink. Sit upstairs and enjoy beautiful views over the bay, or go barefoot on the deck and watch the world go by on the prom. The menu isn’t exclusively seafood, but there’s a great selection. Upstairs in the restaurant you might be offered Cornish mussels, Lymington dressed crab or pan roasted fillet of British haddock. Downstairs the menu includes fish and chips, mussels and Dorset rock oysters.


Best restaurants in Dorset - Whether you’re looking for fine dining, pub food, a romantic meal for 2 or a taste of something from further afield, eating out in Dorset really has something for everyone. Here’s our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

This article was updated by Martha Griffiths in June 2021.