School House

by Melissa Stewart

06 October 2017

Scrummy seafood and seaside views are worth going back to school for....

This summer, The Times food critic Giles Coren whipped up something of a storm when he was less than kind about the residents of Plymouth. Naturally nosey, we had to search out his full article. And, while his perception of our Plymouth friends was unwarranted, he was much more glowing about the restaurant he and his family chose to dine at during their Devon stay – School House in Mothecombe.

Situated, funnily enough, in an old village schoolhouse, with majestic views over Mothecombe Beach, it was opened earlier this summer as a new venture by Tamara Costin. Tamara operates the popular Beachhouse at South Milton Sands, as well as the Whitehouse, a boutique B&B
in Kingsbridge. Now she’s brought her creative flair and charm to this quaint little seaside gem. Rolling up at the end of September we fully expected howling gales and rain, but were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by warm sunshine, meaning we could dine al fresco. (Note: we were so warm we didn’t even have to wear a jacket. Result!)

We were immediately taken by the eclectic charm of the décor. Befitting its schoolhouse setting, there are vintage desks, lampshades and wallpaper evoking natural science lessons, maps of the world, and even skipping ropes to flush the loos. Nice touch.

The menu, presented on a blackboard in white chalk (obvs), offers a good selection. Breakfast options for early beach walkers include a full English (£8.50) and bacon ciabattas (£5.50) and, for veggies, eggs, spinach and avocado on sourdough (£8.50). The lunch menu includes a nice variety of sandwiches, such as the Po Boy – crispy kimchi prawn, fennel pickles, celeriac slaw and lemon miso dressing, served in a brioche bun (£10.50).

We decided to choose from the main menu, starting with a selection of antipasti. Mistakenly we ordered two boards rather than one, resulting in rather a lot of food, but it did not disappoint. Highlights included an Ottolenghi-inspired dukkha, adding a fragrant, nutty twist to proceedings. Delicious when mopped up with bread and oil. We were also taken with a crunchy celeriac remoulade paired, naturally, with charcuterie meat.

Seafood is the star of the show on the mains menu, with a scallop gratin with coriander and hazelnut butter (£12.50) and Scottish langoustines (£16) catching the eye. We plumped for the day’s special – a curried seafood chowder, incorporating prawns, clams and trout served in a laksa- style broth. The seafood couldn’t be faulted, and was so fresh it evoked memories of dining on freshly-landed fish in Croatia, earlier this summer. The prawns were sweet and juicy, while the wild sea trout was delicately pink and meaty. The only gripe was that the sauce lacked a bit of heat, understandable if it is to have wide appeal. Across the table, grilled prawns with a fennel salsa was the order of the day. Again, the prawns were fabulous. The downside was the seasoning, with added salt tending to overwhelm the sweetness of the prawns and the fragrant fennel salsa.

After a plethora of antipasti, plus two very generously portioned mains, we were too full for pud, but the options were certainly fitting for the seaside locale. Salcombe Dairy ice cream, affocato, and meringue were on all offer, as well as a selection of homemade cakes and a rather tempting cheeseboard.

School House is open for lunch and dinner, with opening times varying depending on the time of year, so check the website to avoid disappointment. It’s also open for private event hire too, comfortably seating 35 people indoors. As it was an unexpectedly busy day thanks to the appearance of the sun, service was slightly chaotic – our mains arriving while we were still eating our starters – but the politeness and attentiveness of the service staff could not be faulted. The quality of the seafood really is top- notch, and on that alone this place is worth a visit. Add to that the stunning views of the sea and the creative and quirky setting, and we will most definitely be back.

School House , Mothecombe, Holbeton PL8 1LB