Stuart Forster goes dining at Riley’s Fish Shack in Tynemouth.
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Riley’s Fish Shack is a highly regarded seafood restaurant at King Edward’s Bay in Tynemouth, approximately 10 miles northeast of Newcastle. It’s one of the stars of northeast England’s culinary scene. I’ve long wanted to dine there. On Friday evening I finally took the time to find out whether the food lives up to the hype.
The food served at the beachfront restaurant won glowing praise from the renowned critic Jay Rayner. It has featured on Hidden Restaurants with Michael Roux Jr, a television series broadcast on Channel Four. Riley’s Fish Shack is no longer a place that can be described as ‘a hidden gem’ — it has very much been discovered. Standing in the queue I heard accents from Yorkshire and southeast England. People go out of their way to visit.
This business has operated since 2012. It occupies converted shipping containers overlooking the beach beneath Tynemouth Priory and Castle. Three times previously I’ve stood in the queue to dine at Riley’s Fish Shack but, due to a combination of hunger and lack of patience (okay — hands up — it was mainly the latter), ended up eating elsewhere. Twice I waited for half an hour before heading off, frustrated at my lack of progress in the slow-moving line, failing even to reach the ramp that leads up to the kitchen.
Riley’s Fish Shack in Tynemouth
It’s a place that has managed to generate a buzz. “What? You’ve never eaten there?” was invariably the response if I admitted I hadn’t dined at Riley’s Fish Shack. I could tell that people were looking at me, judging, thinking something along the lines of “you can’t really be from the north-east of England and interested in good food without having been there.”
This time I was determined to wait it out and try the food. Just as well. Despite the line being significantly shorter than on the previous occasions I’d queued, it took 45 minutes just to reach the till and place an order. From the point in time that the order was taken, it was a further 35 minutes before the food was eventually served.
Riley’s Fish Shack menu
The Riley’s Fish Shack menu is presented on a chalkboard in front of the open kitchen. Food was being pulled intermittently from a wood-fired oven as we viewed the menu, which changes frequently to reflect the availability of freshly landed fish and seafood.
It included oysters from Lindisfarne and temptations such as crispy skin halibut with caper butter. Some of the prices shocked me: £38 for the surf and turf option and £32 for the wood roast salmon steak with red halibut sauce and wild samphire. I’d expected the prices to be more modest, particularly given the simplicity of the venue’s décor. I opted for the monkfish kebab, served with potatoes, priced at £17.50.
Seafood in north-east England
While waiting to place my order I watched as dishes were prepared on a countertop just out of arm’s reach. Invariably they looked good. That said, most of the food was served on disposable plates, to be eaten with throw-away wooden knives and forks. Not what I was expecting.
To my disappointment, it appeared that beer was being served in plastic cups (a pet hate — no pun intended). That struck me as incongruous. At a time when there’s so much discussion and awareness about our oceans holding masses of polluting plastic waste, surely a beachfront dining venue specialising in fish and seafood could look for an alternative? From my high horse, I still ordered a pint of coffee stout.
Riley’s Fish Shack clarified that although the cups look like plastic they are, in fact, made from eco-friendly Vegware. None of the packaging used at Tynemouth seafood restaurant is plastic, nor has it been since opening. “We are proud to have played a large part in helping Tynemouth become one of the country’s first plastic-free coastal towns,” commented Riley’s Fish Shack on Twitter. Kudos to them for playing a key role in that initiative.
Monkfish kebab by the beach
By the time my food was served, only the last mouthful of my beer remained. Frankly, I hadn’t been positively impressed, thus far, by my visit to Riley’s Fish Shack. Finally, 80 minutes after joining the back of the queue, the food was served. It was outstanding. Biting into my kebab, I could finally understand why so many people rave about this place and rate it among the best restaurants in north-east England.
The texture of both the monkfish and the flatbread it was on was spot on. Topped with a sprinkling of salad, the dish looked good and was notable for its depth of flavours. Each mouthful seemed to be revealing more. The potatoes were heavily seasoned and very good. The food was a joy to eat.
Big on flavour, the food at Riley’s Fish Shack certainly warrants making a visit. Next time I’ll choose a quieter time to avoid having to wait for so long.
Things to do near Riley’s Fish Shack
Thinking about combining a meal at Riley’s Fish Shack with a day out in Tynemouth?
See the Visit North Tyneside website for information about things to do and see in Tynemouth and the surrounding area. The Visit England website also has information about things to do and see in the region.
If you enjoy history, you may enjoy spending time at Tynemouth Priory and Castle. Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade Museum is also an idea. The Collingwood Memorial, in memory of Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, who served in the Royal Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar, stands a short walk from King Edward’s Bay.
Hotels in Tynemouth
Looking for hotels near Riley’s Fish Shack?
Check out accommodation in Tynemouth via Booking.com:
Parking near Riley’s Fish Shack
There is no dedicated parking for Riley’s Fish Shack but there is plenty of car parking spaces near the venue in Tynemouth.
The closest parking is Sea Banks Car Park, which is located along Sea Banks Road and only a 3-minute walk down to King Edward’s Bay where Riley’s Fish Shack is located.
Location of Riley’s Fish Shack, Tynemouth
Riley’s Fish Shack (King Edward’s Bay, Tynemouth, NE30 4BY) looks out onto the beach at King Edward’s Bay in Tynemouth. The map below show’s its location:
Google Map showing the whereabouts of Riley’s Fish Shack in Tynemouth.
The Riley’s Fish Shack (King Edward’s Bay, Tynemouth, NE30 4BY; tel. 0191 257 1371) website has information about opening times, the restaurant’s suppliers and examples from the menu.
It’s possible to pay by card at Riley’s Fish Shack.
Riley’s Fish Shack is dog-friendly. However, it’s worth remembering that dogs are not permitted onto the beach at King Edward’s Bay from May through September.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning travel and food writer from north-east of England. Please make contact if you want to commission work.
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