Special Dispatch: Seaview Diner, Teignmouth (4/5)


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Eating Exeter likes to push boundaries sometimes, and we really have this time.  We’ve been to Teignmouth.  The heart of the bit between Torquay and Exeter.

Due to failing finances and the urge to get out of Exeter we ran away for an afternoon by the seaside in order to inhale some sea air and go for a bit of a walk to observe the tracksuit clad wildlife and to watch trains roll by as they traverse the sea wall, before diving into the first of five tunnels that Brunel built when he constructed the Great Western back in ’em Victorian times.

Teignmouth is a small town with a port and a lovely Georgian seafront.  It has a train station, a port and it was officially the last place in England that was invaded.  During the 1600s some French troops whilst moored in Torbay sailed up the coast and had a bit of fun by plundering, looting, vandalising and generally causing mayhem.  Eager to find out more about Teignmouth’s history we headed straight for the museum  which was shut.  In fact a lot of Teignmouth seemed to be shut, which was odd for a Saturday.

And so we plodded along the seafront and plodded back, by which time it was time for my obligatory afternoon cup of tea.  Phased by the sheer number of choices that we had for a place to grab a cuppa, we ended up in SE4 Lite Bites just next to Courtenays Theatre.  Perfect Clipper Tea and lovely coffee was the order of the day here, and I will write a separate little review for this cafe itself as it was truly a delight to dip in to.  Friendly service, great value with a quirkyness all of its own.
After feeling thoroughly revived with went to peer at the Estuary and soon enough we were hungry.  Earlier in the day I had set out with the need to eat Fish and Chips, so it had to be one of Teignmouth’s many Fish n Chip shops which would satisfy the gaping hole in my stomach this time.

Central Fish Cafe seemed the first place we were drawn to, adorned with Pukka Pie adverts and a nice smell from outside we wanted to eat inside.  The welcome from the staff was subdued to say the least and the cafe was dark and completely empty.  The smell, the feeling and the whole atmosphere led us to quickly run away and instead we ended up in the originally titled Seaview Diner.

Seaview Diner

The Seaview Diner has no website or twitter account, and like many of these small places there doesn’t seem to be any back history to when it was started and who owns it now.  But what I can say is that the current owners are friendly, Chinese and have a good idea on how to run a restaurant.  Give the diners an incredibly cheap menu which caters to a large variety of tastes, put them in small seats designed for Chinese proportioned people and watch the diners come.
When we walked past earlier in the day, we had earmarked it as a potential place to return to as it was full to the brim with people.  Even when we were running away from the Central Fish Cafe the cafe was still quite busy.

Online the diner has only got three reviews on Google and Qype, and they are all five stars.  This diner has a charm to it, which must be the same sort of charm that 6 All Day has and I can’t quite place it.   So what adds to this charm, what exactly is its attraction?

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I have made this pretty clear.  The prices are incredible.  Yes yes, I know its a small cafe in a small town but it is still something you don’t see very often.  Certainly not in the sprawling metropolis of Exeter.

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The most expensive thing on the menu was the Mixed Grill at £8.90, it would be easy to come in here and have a lunch for two with drinks for under a £10.  And I nearly did, but I wanted Fish and Chips, I was at the seaside and you cannot come to the seaside without having Fish and Chips as it is quite literally the law.

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And this is what appeared. With a mug of tea as well, a very filling meal for under £6.  The surprising thing was that you also got a salad AND peas, in many cafe’s it would be one or the other.  The portion size for the price paid was incredible value for money, given this whole plate cost just over £5.

The fish was clearly over-cooked but it was not dry as such, it looked very much like a frozen bit of fish you’d get from a supermarket but it was very tasty.  Although it was cooked to an inch of its life, it crumbled and melted beautifully.  The chips were freshly cooked and although the peas were hard (across the table her peas were lovely, typical), the whole thing was incredibly satisfying.

The decor of the place was an interesting one as the walls are adorned with the menu, but no prices.  Just empty pound signs.  Apart from that the entire cafe is surrounded by windows which means maximum light and ideal for watching the world go by.  It was the standard ‘Fish and Chip Cafe Blue’ which never gets boring.  There were a few standard sea ornaments and the usual sort of thing adorning the wall, shells etc.

The service was pretty non-existent however, being served by what seemed like a sullen Chinese teenager who didn’t say anything apart from the necessary statements of  ‘can I help you?’ and ‘is that everything?’ after we had ordered our food.  When she brought out the food it was quite literally plonked in front of us without even telling us where the knives or forks were.
The feeling of powerful resentment against being made to work on a Saturday seemed to ooze from her, and unfortunately this really ruined the general ‘experience’ of our visit. But it was salvaged by the friendly chef who upon clearing away our plates accidentally cleared away a half finished can of coke.  When we realised I headed to the counter to retrieve it.
Peering down the long corridor to the back office, I spied an elderly Chinese gentleman who clearly couldn’t speak any English.  He beckoned the young man to come out front, and when he appeared and I told him he had cleared away the can he gladly gave us another one for free and off we toddled on our way, feeling quite satisfied.

I shall return to this place of wonder and delight, only hoping that the waitress is having a better day and that I have lost enough weight to sit at the seats without wearing the table.

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