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Officially named Dorset Seafood Festival, this Seafood Festival in Weymouth was a first for us in 2021. In fact, the first Seafood Festival full stop. As part of this seafood journey we are on, it was exciting to be a part of it and find some new culinary delights to tickle our tastebuds.
Were we disappointed? In one word, no. But our wallets certainly took a beating, our legs were pretty tired and waiting become a big part of the norm.
What did we expect?
Promoted as the most popular seafood festival in the UK, we were super excited to be fed a feast of local seafood pleasures. With the mission to showcase the quality and diversity of local seafood, it was as much a sensory experience that we were expecting as well as an educational one.
One look at the menu on offer and we were dribbling at the bit. BBQ buffalo oysters, Thai-style mussels, Smoked Brixham Mackeral tacos, Prawn Bombay potatoes, Crab pasties, Fish Tikka wraps, Mixed Seafood pizza, Homemade Portland Crab and Mac… do we need to go on?! Needless to say, we skipped breakfast!
Tickets at £10 each were booked online the day before we went. Just to make sure the weather was ok. There was nothing on the website about the number of tickets left available so we took the risk to leave until the last minute. It also appears to be the first year there was an entry fee due to the change in location to ensure COVID and social distancing restrictions were in place.
The Weymouth Seafood Festival
Wow, there certainly were a lot of people. Surprisingly the event was not sold out but in a way, it may have been better if it was (and providing we had already successfully got tickets!) Arriving at about 1.30pm, the queues for each vendor were seriously long. Long enough that social distancing went out the window, especially as people tried to move through the queues to get to other parts of the festival.
We won’t bang on about the queues as it will just get boring, but let’s just say that everything we purchased took between 20 to 40 minutes – and we strategically chose the shorter queues!
The first stop was a much needed (alcoholic) beverage. Weymouth Cider Company caught our attention. One Dark Fruits. One Monkey Madness. It was a lovely late summers day so a refreshing drink from the walk to the festival (Weymouth is not known for its ease of parking!) would have just hit the spot. Instead, we received a still warm cider, which while both were full of flavour, became hard to tolerate after another 15 minutes or so. Nether less, we’d unexpectedly paid $2 for these reusable cups so there was no way we were putting them down! Whilst we have no problem with this, just don’t tell us as we tap the card on the machine to pay for it!
Next up, the Oyster fix! Oystermen Seafood Bar & Kitchen could be seen busy shucking fresh oysters whilst BBQing with a hint of buffalo to enhance the flavour. A few of the fresh natural Maldon Rocks (Essex) and the spot was hit! £2 each or 6 for £10 which wasn’t bad for the size of them. Add a bit Bonito and Lime, Ponzu and Passion Fruit, Calamansi and Koshu or BBQ Buffalo and these came to £5 for the pair.
It was at this point we realised it was going to be difficult to sit down to eat anywhere. Whilst there was an abundance of picnic tables around, there just weren’t enough for the number of people attending. Each cooking stage was in full flow and all bums were on sits. Plenty of people were standing huddled together, sharing their experiences of the plates they had eagerly waited for.
Now it really is lunch time!
We decided to queue (last time, I promise!) in different queues for lunch to try and save some time. One in Weymouth 51 for their Dorest Crab Linguine. The other at Hatch on the Harbour for their Scallops with Salsa Verde.
Weymouth 51’s display of Artisan Chillies were impressive, with the Rockfish Oyster Drizzle certainly being tempting. It’s a shame these weren’t on offer to try with the Handpicked Dorset Crab Linguine with crab cream sauce, wild rocket and lemon as they would have become great sellers. Instead, their medium chilli sauce was on offer and this was, unfortunately, a bit too hot for us, so the linguine ended up being a bit dry. And a bit flavourless too. Disappointed for £9? A little.
Luke Webster’s The Hatch is a well known local favourite and in the end, the Grilled Lobster won over the Scallops! Purely just from appearance. And what a good choice that was! The lobster was oozing with flavour and for two people who haven’t made this menu choice for a while, there were smiles all round! £14 made sense for the amount of meat, but we were happy to pay this much for the knowledge that both these recipes are available on their website! And lots more. Yum!
We hovered for a while, trying not to drop either delicacy as we picked around with our little wooden forks. Not ideal when you can’t wait to eat this gorgeous lobster quick enough! Luckily space opened up on the sea wall and we were there like a shot. Legs up, forks in and there was little conversation for several minutes!
For the decider between lunch choices at Weymouth Seafood Festival? The Grilled Lobster won hands down! It’s a shame the queue was so long for a second portion!
Exploring the Festival
After a well-earnt sit down, it was time to explore more stands around the festival. It was too soon for some Purbeck Ice Cream and too late for a Dorset Tea but a Pothecary Gin… now we’re talking! We just had to stay away from the few vodka stands, including Black Cow Vodka and Shanty Spirit – Seaweed Botanical Vodka as one of us had to drive and we didn’t want an argument!
Weird Fish nearly got a purchase of a new polo neck if it wasn’t for that umm and err of whether it would actually be worn or not, despite it being good looking on the hanger!
It was great to see organisations such as Blue Marine Foundation, RNLI and The Fishermen’s Mission raising awareness for their well-deserved missions. It’s just a shame that contactless donations haven’t become much of a thing yet as I really doubt there was much cash floating around to hit their donation tins.
There was some great educational information in the Blue Seas Tent with Lyme Bay Research and Seafish – Love Seafood highlighting the importance of sustainability, protecting marine life and how everyone should love Seafood when enjoyed responsibly. We couldn’t agree more!
As the gin continued to go down, we sat down to enjoy the live cooking demonstration from Nigel Bloxham – chef of the award-winning Crab House Cafe. With a whole Monkfish, which isn’t seen very often, Nigel is all about using most of the fish; getting as much value from it as possible which is his latest educational mission. Kidney. Liver. Cheeks. Eyeballs. They are all used and well explained into how to use. This locally caught monster Monkfish was literally hand caught from Chesil Beach by rowers who have become highly sought after with some of the species they are currently catching.
The demonstration was informative, certainly giving us some food for thought. The screens were a bit difficult to see with the sun glaring on them, but we got the gist of what was being said and done. It’s a shame that the disposable cutlery ran out so quick when the food came down for a tasting! It sure looked pretty delicious!
Seafood Festival Wrap Up
All up, this was a great experience and we would both recommend and visit Weymouth Seafood Festival again. There was some feedback from the organisers left on our Google Review and also from their event survey results that they take on board constructively. The stallholders were faced with the never-ending 2021 hospitality staffing issues leading to the queues; also causing some stockouts, and seating will be looked at again in preparation for next year. But overall, there was some impressive feedback and it is definitely worth a trip down to this stunning part of the world.
Did you go this year? Planning on the next one? We’d love to know in the comments below…
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