Crab House Cafe, Dorset

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LivingCheapinLondon gave us a great tip from recent post about a fine source of modest decadence, and Mrs Ermine was on it immediately. We were going to dine at the Crab House cafe, where Chesil beach starts to leave the mainland at the southern end. This took place is the sort of intermediate phase of the coronavirus pandemic loosening up, where you could eat out, as long as outside meant outside, which is a little bit on the brass monkeys side in late April, even on the south coast.

The Hellstone via Dorchester

To work up an appetite we took a look at the Hellstone dolmen, I have been coming to Dorset regulars with some old college pals ever since one of them had a camper van in the late 1980s. I last saw this some time in the late 1980s or early 1990s, when one of our party who shall remain nameless managed to get an impressive thump followed by outpouring of blood as he made the mistake of standing up in the Hellstone. You don’t want to do that because the headspace is about 5ft 4in, enough to get a good heft because the irresistible force loses out to the immovable object. There’s a reason the AONB booklet calls this land of bone and stone

We hustled him back town the track to the Hardy monument, and figured we really ought to take him to A&E at Dorchester General after deploying the first aid kit in the camper van. Fortunately it wasn’t concussion and he only needed a tetanus jab, but that site had been crossed off the list for ever afterwards and this is the first time I’d been in the area without him in the party.

I regaled Mrs Ermine with this story, and fortunately the imp of the perverse did not prevail. Peace has been made with this fine site.

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which is a short hike from the Hardy monument. For some reason Mrs Ermine took objection to this object, because I had said it was to commemorate Thomas Hardy, for the last two decades I assumed this was Thomas Hardy the author, he of Tess of the d’Urbervilles etc. The trail to the dolmen starts from the Hardy monument, and the National Trust educated me that this was Thomas Hardy, the naval fellow to whom the dying Lord Nelson was reputed to have said “Kiss me, Hardy”

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The Hardy monument. That’ll be Vice Admiral Thomas Hardy, not the author Thomas Hardy. Hardy commanded HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar.

A welcome al fresco coffee in Dorchester

Ordinarily an Ermine is snooty about paying for coffee served in a cardboard cup, but after a year of lockdown I will lower my standards, and Mrs Ermine is partial to one of those foul American concoctions, the latte. We stopped off in Dorchester to pick up some fancy cheese from Waitrose next to the municipal car park and ventured into town for a coffee.

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Coffee. In a cardbaord cup, FFS. Well, needs must, eh?

I was intrigued to see if the hollowing out of the High Street had affected Dorchester, but I’d say that it didn’t seem to tbe the case. I’ve seen more shuttered shops in the high Street in the 1990s recession

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Although I wouldn’t say the place was jumping, it didn’t seem like hope can come there to die at all.

Portland Bill via the Codfather

We made the mistake of coming through Weymouth from Dorchester, in our view there was too much of Weymouth, and it looked pretty tired. We got a laugh out of a chippy called the Codfather, I’m not sure I want the association of getting my fish and chips from the sort of people that arrange for you to wake up next to a severed horse’s head, but each to their own. We passed on the delights of the codfather and headed for Portland Bill. Cynical bastards that we are, we figured the Bill itself would have some overpriced car park, so we stopped a little way short of that, overlooking the sea

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Portland Bill, on the left at the end

and knocking back a couple of bottles of Doom Bar 0%, which is quite serviceable for a low-alcohol beer and had been on offer in Dorchester.

Chesil Beach and the Crab House Cafe

You have to book a few days ahead at the Crab House, though if it is chucking it down you are at least spared from the rain by some basic cover, though the cold will still get you. You look over Chesil beach

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with a view of some sort of crabbing gubbins.

Lobster was on offer, but since this is the Crab House cafe we went for spider crab

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and very good it was too. One of the joys of eating out is the background presence of other people, well as long as there aren’t screaming children, but midweek lunchtime at this price point meant it was all adults. We were treated to the entertainment of the business meeting next to us where a young chap who was standing in for his Dad’s business was doing his best to give it the gift of the gab pitching for a contract with the Portland Harbour authority. I think he probably got the work, but it gave us a chuckle recalling what it was like to be so eager to please and so unsure of oneself 😉

Behind us there was a young 30 something  American with his girlfriend. The dude was clearly worth a bob or two, slightly puzzled me, y’know, coronavirus and travel and all that, but whatever. Now I know that Americans can be brash compared to British reserve, but clearly in his case breeding didn’t come with money. He was so keen to show off that he caused a minor ruckus at the end of the meal whingeing that somehow the herbs weren’t in keeping with the main part of the meal. The discomfited waitress hopefully decided to treat the observation with the contempt it deserved – our crab was fine as were the herbs, which were fresh and almost up to the taste of Mrs Ermine’s harvest from the garden. I’m sure somewhere I read some guidance to prospective dates to observe how your date treats the waiting staff, if they treat ‘em like shit then there’s a good chance they may treat you like shit further down the line.

As he got up to go having paid and moaned he turned to the business meeting table, and observing the hi-viz on some of them said “I appreciate your public service” which may well be cool over the Pond but made him sound like a right berk. We all got a laugh from that performance once he’d gone. You’re trying too hard, mate. Not the Middle Way in Snog, Marry, Avoid, that one IMO.

As we looked over Chesil beach fortunately we couldn’t see the darkening sky. The little book of walks in Purbeck that was in the place we stayed claimed that the extension to Portland Bill nudges some of the weather patterns coming in from the southwest away from the part of Dorset to the northeast of Dorchester. We had taken our walk along the beach before tackling the crab, so we avoided the incoming rain. Tough walking on Chesil beach, though the pebbles are magnificent in their variety of colours

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and it’s a fine view to the heights of Portland Bill

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Testing the microclimate theory on the way to Knowlton Henge

Knowlton Henge is an egregious case of a prehistoric monument being Christianised to prevent the heathens venerating their ancient shrines, although I would say that the passage of Time has been kinder on the prehistoric site than the Christian Johnny-come-lately.

Knowlton Henge

Knowlton church and henge.

We appreciated Portland Bill deflecting the rain off into the English Channel so we could enjoy the site in the sunshine.

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Devotion to the Old Ways seems strong here, and the cans show that youths will be youths, with devotion to the deity of C2H5OH and its altered states of consciousness. If it’s so good then we’ll have what they’re having , though with a bit more class and comfort. It was time to return to and settle in at the Oak at Dewlish where we were staying. It always makes getting home easier when you stay at the pub.

However, the trouble with this outside malarkey is that is does get parky as time wears on. It probably doesn’t do to think too hard about what you are actually trying to do with a thing like this.

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Wait but what? Heat up the Whole World? With fossil fuels? Oh, all right then if it means we can keep on doing this

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although it does lose the fight in the end

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which is probably just as well. As I said last time, with hedonism it’s best not all the time, and not all the same thing.

The Crab House Cafe

The Oak at Dewlish


12 thoughts on “Crab House Cafe, Dorset”

  1. Very nice – and glad you were able to recover the data too.
    From cafe opening hours, and your text, I guess you were there Wednesday/Thursday or just possibly Friday. In days of old – listen to me – Portland Bill was a great place to observe goings on known as the “Thursday War”, see Depending on your bent – and patience – this was a good way to while away many an hour behind a pair of binoculars. And, when finally any action did kick off, often better IMO than many related movie sequences.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Ermine.

    Glad you like the Crab Shack Cafe 🙂

    I’m coming to the Jurassic coast myself for 2 weeks in August – I need to remember to get my booking in well ahead of time.

    Looks like I have a new set of stones to visit too with the Hellstone Dolmen. You may remember from prior comments over the years that we’re both partial to prehistoric stones.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, thanks muchly for the tip!

      > Looks like I have a new set of stones to visit too with the Hellstone Dolmen.

      There’s also Kingston Russell, Grey Mare and Hampton Down, though apparently the latter takes some finding!


  3. There is something of a plethora of Hardy(e)s in Dorset, so a little confusion is understandable. Rather a long time ago I was banged up for a few years in Hardye’s Grammar in Dorchester, a blood and guts establishment of the old type, named after yet another Thomas. To add to the confusion, the last upper school building was opened by Hardy the writer in the late 1920s. All now bulldozed and the land – of course – filled with housing.

    There is a similar site to Knowlton Henge in Aberdeenshire, Midmar Kirk, which I visited a few years ago. A very striking circle of the recumbent type found up there. The church was built adjacent to it and the graveyard around. I do remember reading a long time ago that one of the early popes (Gregory the nth?) iirc in about the 6th century specifically ordered that churches be built on neolithic sites where feasible to facilitate the conversion of the “heathen”…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Ermine,

    Just a quick note to say we made it to the Hellstone Dolmen today. We basically walked through a cloud to get there from the Hardy Memorial Carpark on the upper ridge.

    I loved it. Very enigmatic in the most despite getting wet feet, and a couple of deer bounced off through the long grass in front of the stones as we arrived.

    We’d already got back to the Crab House earlier in the trip.

    Take care, LCIL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice one, looking at the weather today isn’t the day to take in Kingston Russell and Grey Mare, which are in the region – maybe next time? The AONB leafletis worth a gander. I haven’t seen the modern circle at Black Down yet. Glad you liked the Hell Stone, and managed to avoid standing up in it 😉


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