Tuesday, 6 July 2010

On Weymouth Harbour

The moon has already taken centre stage in the sky as we round the corner from the Pavilion. Twilight has fallen, and the last of the evening light swathes the harbour in a spectrum of tranquil blues.

We make our way past piles of lobster pots and tethered fishing boats as their reflections slow dance on the water alongside us. It's well passed tea time, and after having walked the length of the beach, we've worked up something of an appetite.

Neon lettering calls out in garish red and green, as a photocopied sign below exclaims “AS SEEN ON ITV HOLIDAY PROGRAM AND CBBC”, complete with double underlining, and a few smudged greasy finger marks. Still, we don't need Judith Chalmer's endorsements to come to Bennett’s on the Waterfront... The smell alone is enough to make you swim across the harbour. The warm, nutty scent of freshly fried potatoes, and crispy beer batter fills the street as grinning punters emerge from the wood-paneled shop front, clutching steaming paper parcels. It's like a belisha beacon, calling out across the water. And I'm utterly mesmerised.

Inside it couldn't be more traditional. The d├ęcor consists of a few straggly pot plants, and a row of fizzy pop bottles on a shelf. If you're not sat at one of the Formica-topped booths, then your attention is automatically diverted to the counter. Two women in hair nets stand behind it, gossiping over local affairs as they lift fillet after mouthwatering fillet of fried fish onto the hot plate. I must have been in this chip shop fifty times or more, and still as I wait for the chips to be scooped out onto the paper in front of me, I can barely contain my excitement.

The chips are crunchy, browned along the ridges, but soft, light and floury in the middle, so hot and fresh they burn the roof of my mouth as I eat them. But there's no point in me even trying to stop myself. The flesh of the fish is firm, flakey, delicate; pure, brilliant white. The batter is golden, bubbled all over, and as crisp as conceivably possible. It’s heaven in fried food form. Sent from the Gods. Inevitably, I ditch my wooden fork and break inch-long chunks of fish off with my fingers, eager to feel the varying textures crumble into my mouth, all soused in plenty of salt and vinegar, plus the occasional dab of Heinz tomato ketchup.

We sit and munch our supper, sitting side by side on the bench that overlooks the launch of the mackerel fishing boat. I find it nearly impossible to say anything but “mmmmm” throughout.

And then up the hill to The Boot, where an odd ball assortment of characters spend their drinking hours, night and day. I come here for their perfectly-poured pints of Thatcher’s Gold, but today the Meat Raffle catches my eye first. It's almost enough to make me hang around until the weekend.

We share a table and a drink with very personable chap, who's so merry on the Cheddar Valley cider, he bursts into a fit of giggles with every sentence he attempts to spit out. “It's the worm wood barrels, you see...” I overhear at the bar, “it gives it a hallucinogenic quality.”

Maybe so, or maybe he's just enjoying his night on Weymouth harbour... Either way, who could blame him. Time for another round?

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