An idyllic fishing village ensconced in a deep, dreamy cove; fishing vessels fetchingly bobbing in the harbour as evening steals over the sea and you start to contemplate dinner… the next image in this sequence, you would think, would be devouring a hearty portion of fresh-off-the-boat seafood. But no, not that often, not in the UK in spite of its culinary advancements, not unless you want it battered with chips. Which is why Mrs Will the Fish in Solva on the Pembrokeshire coast is so special.
It’s true that Lower Solva (the old part of town hugging the harbour) offers a trio of pubs close to the water’s edge, any of which are great for a drink. But if the charming maritime vibe has got you hankering after fresh fish, and you want the pretty fishing village, the boats and the fresh seafood, then cast away thoughts of filling up at the pubs and venture up into Upper Solva for a fishy feast that beats these more obvious (and more touristy) venues hands down.
Why we love it
It’s fresh seafood, straight off the boat from its fishing stint that day, as tenderly prepared as if you’d come down to see your aunt for a weekend getaway on the coast and she’d rustled up a special surprise meal ready for your arrival. And there’s no nonsense here, no sitting around clocking up a bill or waiting hours for service. Simply order by telephone in advance to check what’s available, collect, chat awhile with Mrs Will and back off to your chosen hilltop, cove, spot of harbourfront or holiday accommodation to indulge!
Delightfully idiosyncratic, because you’re basically going to knock on Mrs Will’s own back door for this, enhancing the feel that you’re getting an ‘only-in-Solva’ experience. On the wall of the room where the seafood exchange is made are photos of the business back over the years (and it’s been going plenty): originally the business was called Will the Fish, after Mrs Will’s late husband who went out and caught the catch in his boat The Vital Spark for Mrs Will to sell, and the pictures reflect the story of what has become a Solva institution.
Mrs Will will greet you and have a chat about fish, life, the universe and everything, but won’t detain you if you’re desperate to tuck in to that seafood.
Down to the serious seafood stuff, and perhaps the most common thing to order is the seafood platter to share: a silver foil platter laden with crevettes, prawns, dressed crab and lobster. It’s designed to be sufficient for two people, and we can testify to the fact that it is! The dressed crab especially is a real treat: succulent brown and white meat packed with flavour and crumbling out of the shell in inviting chunks. The crevettes, fat and rosy, deserve another mention too. You can get bigger quantities of any of the above on their own, if there is the availability. Many people do turn up to see what’s what but phoning in advance means you know what you’re going to be able to get as Mrs Will does sell out often! Grab a lemon, some homemade bread and some wine in the Bayview Store just up the road to beef out the banquet.
At a glance
Welcome: 8. Mrs Will is very friendly and your smile will split your face as you catch sight of the seafood platter she’s prepared for you.
Food: 9 Fresh seafood to take away to wherever you want to munch it: how much better can it get on the coast?
Location: 6 Not really relevant as it’s takeaway, but centrally located.
Cost: Medium. A lot of work has gone into catching what’s on your platter, so it’s really reasonable at £20 for two (and it’s a full meal in itself).
Opening hours: 9am-6pm Mon-Sat, 1-6pm Sun (summer), to 4:30pm in winter
Address/telephone number: Parc Benny, Solva SA626TN; 01437-721571