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Restaurant review: The Sardine Factory, Looe

Published on March 29, 2019
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Ben Palmer’s new restaurant is somewhere to rock up with a gang (of all ages) for seriously good – yet happily casual – seafood eats, discovers Rosanna Rothery

The Sardine Factory

Expectations for the latest offering from Ben Palmer (chef patron of Plymouth’s The Greedy Goose and exec chef at Glazebrook House) are high, but luckily things are going swimmingly thanks to The Sardine Factory’s harbourside setting and its well-curated menu of spankingly fresh seafood.

Ben and head chef Jack Clayton are attempting the difficult task of straddling two camps – family friendly and pristine piscatorial dining – and they’re excelling on both fronts.

VISIT for strikingly fresh seafood, picked by the chefs each day from the market opposite. Dining by the water, you’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic experience than watching gulls swooping over fishing boats as you devour firm flakes of perfectly cooked hake.

The cooking is deceptively clever and while a starter of scallops might sound like run-of-the-mill coastal fare, when each tender mollusc is teamed with meaty pork belly and the crunchiness of crisp celeriac and apple, you know you’re in good hands.

Equally, a huge main of crab linguine runs the risk of being filling fodder, but when imbued with the zesty flavours of lime, chilli, garlic, ginger and spring onion, you’ll want to slurp and dredge every last mouthful.

Room for pudding? Don’t be fooled by the standard sounding chocolate brownie or sticky toffee pudding: each is a veritable work of art. We’re still fantasising about the decadent creamy upside down cheesecake paired with crunchy crumb clusters, tart rhubarb, and ginger caramel ice cream.

DON’T VISIT if you crave pomp or formality. The waiting staff, decked out in their Sardine Factory T-shirts, set the tone for casual dining and as a result, you’d happily turn up with everyone from toddlers (there’s a little sprats menu) to granny in tow.

WE LIKED the cheerful seaside holiday ambience, especially the shoal of metal fish suspended from the ceiling that magically “swims” in the breeze.

INSIDER’S TIP Pair your pre-dinner cocktail with pickled cockles and smoked cod’s roe.

What we ate (dinner)

Starter Goat’s cheese, truffled honey, beetroot, gingerbread
Main Hake, charred purple sprouting broccoli, haricot bean and chorizo cassoulet
Pud Clotted cream cheesecake, Yorkshire rhubarb, ginger caramel ice cream

3 courses from £25

www.thesardinefactorylooe.com

As featured in food Magazine’s April 2019 issue. 

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